Sam Simon, the nine-time Emmy Award-winning comedy writer and producer who helped develop The Simpsons, made millions after leaving the show in 1993 and then donated his riches to charity, has died, his foundation announced on Monday. He was 59.
“He was a genius and a great humanitarian in ways public and private. I personally owe him more than can be repaid, but I will do my best to help every animal I can in his memory,” said Simpsons executive producer Al Jean in a statement.
Simon, who died Sunday evening at his home in the Pacific Palisades, was diagnosed in February 2013 with terminal colon cancer. Through it all, he tried to remain upbeat and keep his sense of humor.
A cartoonist and Stanford graduate, Simon developed The Simpsons with Matt Groening (who came up with the characters based on his family) and producer James L. Brooks. All three had worked on The Tracey Ullman Show, where Bart Simpson and his family got their start as animated sketches shown before and after commercials.
The Simpsons, centering on TV’s “first fully self-aware dysfunctional family,” as Simon put it, debuted on Fox on Dec. 17, 1989, and is now the longest-running primetime series in American history.
Ken Levine, an Emmy winner who has written for The Simpsons and other sitcoms, described Simon’s contribution to the show during a 2009 interview published in Stanford Magazine.
“Sam brought a level of honesty to the characters,” Levine said. “Is it too bizarre to say he made cartoon characters three-dimensional? His comedy is all about character, not just a string of gags. In The Simpsons, the characters are motivated by their emotions and their foibles. ‘What are they thinking?’— that is Sam’s contribution. The stories come from the characters.”
From The Hollywood Reporter.