Q & A With Simpsons Exec Producer Matt Selman: The Food Wife, Food Blogging + Dining at Jitlada With Matt Groening
Just a few weeks ago Fox Studios and the voice actors and producers of Simpsons were engaged in a financial tug-of-war that threatened the existence of the long-running animated series. If you need to remind yourself why we should celebrate the resolution (two more years!), watch The Food Wife this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. on Fox.
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Early in the episode, Marge, Bart and Lisa start a food blog called The Three Mouthketeers, an act then followed by a culinary reference tornado that is so unrelenting that to catch them all requires DVR slow-mo or, barring that, multiple viewings. If neither are possible, pay very close attention when Marge, Lisa and Bart's blog profiles are revealed -- (on Bart's list of grossest foods eaten? "Blood Cheese") -- and for fleeting cameos by every food world celebrity from Paul Prud'homme to The Muppets' Swedish chef as well as a pointed reference to our own Jonathan Gold's Essential 99 L.A. restaurants.
If you want to sing along with the foodie rap belted out by Amuse Bruce and Fois Garth (Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of Tim and Eric's Awesome Show, Great Job), it is printed in its entirety on Grub Street. If you'd like to read our conversation with the writer of The Food Wife, Simpsons executive producer and food blog scourer Matt Selman, turn the page.Squid Ink: Food blogs take many forms - the eating diary blog, the recipe blog, the restaurant gossip blog, the "I'm-in-it-for-the-free-food" blog... What category does The Three Mouthketeers fall into?
Matt Selman: The kind where people take pictures of everything and write non-professional reviews. But the show isn't really about the content of the blog. It's more about how Marge uses it as a way to bond with the kids emotionally. It's more like a new activity for them to share and how Homer is excluded. For Homer, blogging about food is pointless because you've already eaten it and you're full.
SI: What do Marge, Bart and Lisa find appealing about exotic food?
MS: Bart likes it because it's weird, has squid tentacles and is super spicy. Lisa likes it because it's global and interesting and multicultural. Marge likes it because it's fancy and a bit interesting. Marge has a little bit of social insecurity and it makes her feel like she's smart. Homer, the most famous glutton in the universe, is actually the one against it.
SI: Is that how you pitched the episode? Did you say, "Marge, Bart and Lisa start a food blog. Homer thinks it is dumb."?
MS: I just said to everyone, "Wouldn't it be cool to do a show about this world that's so interesting and funny?" One of the strengths of the show is that you can say to your creative partners, "Here's a cool idea: Let's figure this out." The big realization was that we shouldn't make Homer the foodie because it's the obvious way to go. We decided, "Let's keep Homer this classic, regular blue-collar guy." Homer loves food and is greedy, but he's more about eating bad food and being full all the time. You know that thing where you eat as much as you can really fast before your brain sends a signal that you're full? There was actually a scene that we wrote where we tried to show that but it was cut. Homer thinks that being a foodie is lame and would rather stuff his face with a Krusty burger and pizza.
SI: What food blogs do you follow?
MS: I like Squid Ink, of course. I read Grub Street and Eater for up to date gossip and information. Jonathan Gold is still my hero.
SI: Before every Simpsons episode, the actors get together and do a table read. It is almost like a stage play with guests in attendance. What got the biggest laugh of your episode?
MS: There's a really cool story turn at the end. I don't want to spoil it so I'm not going to tell you. But when people realized what the big twist at the end was, that was the biggest moment of the read.
SI: We get it, no spoilers. What was the second biggest laugh?
MS: Homer's regular-guy rants against foodie-ism. People really liked Homer saying, "Guess what? My kids don't eat pine needle sorbet. They eat sherbet and pronounce it sherbert and wish it were ice cream." When Homer rants in a way that is easy to relate to, that's something people always think is really funny. They secretly agree with him.
SI: When it comes to the world of foodies, what do you consider comedy gold?
MS: The idea of taking something like food and making it competitive, something you can brag about. Like, "I ate there first..." or "I was the one who discovered this..."
SI: ..."You ate the beef roll at Noodles 101 in Culver City? I suggest you try the branch in Irvine."
MS: ...[in a sniffy voice] "You still think salted caramel is cool? That is so three years ago." The idea of taking foodie minutiae and trying to one up each other? That's funny. It's funny when people take something fun and make it petty. [laughs]
SI: How is this addressed in "The Food Wife"?