'Simpons' co-creator meets grim outlook with humor
"Some people just want a million dollars. Or help with college tuition.
And the rest have business propositions," he said with a laugh. "Like that should be my legacy: to lose money on your movie or your moisturizer line.
He flashes a piano-keys grin. Then he gets serious.
"I'm supporting the charities that I supported during my lifetime," he said, "and I want to continue to do that." With every cent of his fortune.
Simon, 58, presented himself, sporty in sweater and slacks, to meet with a reporter in the guest house of his swank estate in Pacific Palisades.
He fires up a robust Cuban cigar, then alternately sits and reclines on a banquette that looks out on his lawn of statuary, including one of the original casts of Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker."
Fitting. Sam Simon has had much to think about since his advanced colon cancer was diagnosed in November.
Having defied that diagnosis' original death sentence -- he was given three to six months to live -- Simon continues to push ahead with no whiff of "Why me?"
"Instead, I think, 'What else can I do to get out of it?"'
What he's doing right now is mobilizing a dozen lines of attack, some traditional, some wacky.
Pick your poison. Simon is living the nightmare, but seems to frame it mostly with a laugh or a shrug.
Maybe that befits a world-class wag who has long thumbed his nose at authority and with humor for an audience of millions, and been richly rewarded for his labors.
Simon first turned his drawing talent into a job at an animation studio. He submitted a script, on spec, to the glorious ABC comedy "Taxi."
His script was bought and produced, and Simon, in his 20s, was hired as a staff writer and soon rose to be the show runner.
From there he joined a new NBC sitcom called "Cheers."
In 1987 he became a writer and executive producer on the Fox comedy series "The Tracey Ullman Show," teamed alongside James L. Brooks and cartoonist Matt Groening.
They became the founding fathers of "The Simpsons."
Simon was named creative supervisor, and he hired the first writing staff as well as creating several Springfield citizens, including Mr. Burns, the cadaverous industrialist, and Dr. Hibbert, the buffoonish physician.
Although Simon remained the least-known of the three creators, by many accounts he was the most hands-on.
"With 'The Simpsons,' people didn't know what they were gonna see," Simon said. "They didn't have a clue." The show was given time and free reign to flourish by the fledgling Fox network.
Simon left "The Simpsons" after its fourth season in 1994 owing to a strained relationship with Groening.
But it was a lucrative departure. His exit deal entitled him to royalties from "The Simpsons" that, as it enters its 25th season this fall, annually pad Simon's wallet by tens of millions of dollars.
This sweet annuity has bankrolled the causes and alternative lifestyle he increasingly came to embrace: the Sam Simon Foundation, which rescues dogs from animal shelters and trains them to assist disabled veterans and the hard-of-hearing; the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society; and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Simon's largesse carries over to humans, too, including a Los Angeles food bank feeding 200 families each day in Simon style: with a vegan menu.
Meanwhile, he keeps his hand in the comedy world, consulting a half-day each week on the FX comedy "Anger Management."
He says death doesn't scare him, however unpleasant getting there may be.
"I'm not sad," he declares with a wave of his cigar. "I'm happy. I don't feel angry and bitter. I want to do whatever I can to survive."
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.