US writer / producer Sam Simon, best known as one of three co-creators of The Simpsons, has died, aged 59.
He died on Sunday at his home in California after a very public battle with cancer, first diagnosed in 2012.
His foundation made the announcement on Facebook: “It is with much sadness that we must let you know that Sam Simon has passed over. We all miss him, and in his honor, we will continue bringing his vision to light through our work at The Sam Simon Foundation. We take comfort in knowing how many greetings he is receiving across that Rainbow Bridge.”
Simon co-created The Simpsons with Matt Groening and James L. Brooks in 1989, as vignettes on The Tracey Ullman Show before FOX ordered it to series. He left the show in 1993 but struck a deal to retain an Executive Producer credit. He is credited with assembling the show’s elite writing team that included Jean, George Meyer, John Swartzwelder, Mike Reiss, Jon Vitti and Conan O’Brien.
Simon amassed 9 Emmys during his career, including 8 for The Simpsons. He also scored writing Emmy noms for Taxi, Cheers and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show in the 1980s. Other credits included The George Carlin Show, The Drew Carey Show, Z Rock, Barney Miller and Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids. Most recently, Simon was a consultant on the Charlie Sheen series Anger Management.
“Today in writers rooms on sitcoms, they require three jokes per page; they have checkmarks on the pages of how many jokes there are,” Simon told the Archive of American Television in 2013. “I don’t buy it. I don’t think the audience cares about it, and I don’t think it’s good writing. (Cheers‘) Sam and Diane going at it for three pages where it’s subtext and the audience knows there’s going to be a payoff is great TV, but no one does it anymore.”
Simon also became a vocal activist for animal rights, and founded The Sam Simon Foundation: Feeding Families, a mobile vegan food bank that currently feeds 400 unemployed families in the US each day. He gave away most of his fortune to save animals from harmful and abusive situations worldwide.
Longtime Simpsons exec producer Al Jean said today in a statement: “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.”
Matt Groening added, “We will miss Sam’s phenomenal talents, sharp intelligence, and sly sense of humor. He is gone from our industry too soon.”