I recently conducted a phone interview with Matt Groening for an upcoming MSN feature. He was a pretty cool guy and I lived for a time in his home town of Springfield, Oregon (though long after he had left), so we reminisced about the town and talked movies and DVDs and TV and such. And then, as we talked blogs and newspapers and such, he asked about my blog, and then realized that he’d found it. Here’s the excerpt of the original interview where, in the midst of drifting off into all sorts of detours, Matt Groening gave me my first celebrity endorsement!
Thursday, February 19, 2009, phone interview.
I lived in Eugene, OR, for years and worked in Eugene even when I lived in Springfield, and I read “Life in Hell” in the local art weekly. I moved to Seattle 14 years ago and none of the papers – neither the two dailies nor either of the two alternative weekly papers – carry “Life in Hell.”
Yeah, I got kicked out of whatever paper I was in up there. I think Seattle Weekly was a little too yuppy for my stuff. I’ll tell you something, the alternative newsweekly community is a real heartbreaker if you’re a cartoonist because times are tough for newspapers and alternative newsweeklies in particular. They’re running out of money and it’s really sad. In fact, next week is my final week in my local paper, the LA Weekly. They’re dropping all the cartoonists, they can’t afford them. And who knows, maybe they’ll bounce back, but I don’t know.
I’m a freelance critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and it will likely be shut down in a month.
Oh, my God. Is the Seattle Times still around?
Yes. They are, however, deeply in debt.
God, it’s so crazy.
It’s hard times for everyone. San Francisco is down to one daily paper and it is losing money. How can a newspaper monopoly in San Francisco not turn a profit?
Well, the Los Angeles Times is having problems. It’s amazing.
And now with the economy slump and companies cutting back on advertising, it’s like cutting off the blood supply to a hemorrhaging patient.
Yes, yes. Well, what are you going to do?
Luckily I do a lot of work for MSN Entertainment and I have some other online work.
Do you have a blog?
I do have a blog.
It’s not the “What’s in your DVD player?” Do you have another one?
I have my own site at www.seanax.com.
Wait a second, wait a second… Did I look at this yesterday? Was it a TCM thing that you did?
Very likely. I write film features for Turner Classic Movies as well. My review of the Gumshoe DVD just went up.
Yes! I was on your blog yesterday, I discovered your blog yesterday. So… yeah. But I have no connection right now, I can’t seem to log on. But how strange, how funny.
You talk about a small world. That’s amazing.
I was just on TCM last year. They let me pick some movies and I got to be interviewed by Robert Osborne and chatter about some movies.
What movies did you pick?
I picked The Circus by Charlie Chaplin, I Am A Fugitive From the Chain Gang, Way Out West, the Laurel and Hardy film, and the obscurity for me was Blues in the Night by Anatole Litvak, which is the fastest paced film from… is it 1941?
That was back when Elia Kazan was an actor.
Yeah, he had a bit part in it! I got home from work late one night and turned on TCM and I caught the middle of this movie and it took my breath away because it was so fast-paced.
It just came out DVD last year.
Oh my God, it’s out on DVD?
It came out from Warner in a collection with a blues/jazz theme.
I have to get that.
Pete Kelly’s Blues also came out in the same collection, the Jack Webb film. It’s pretty cool, it’s Webb not being so hard-boiled.
Jack Webb is a very interesting case. I have to study him more, because I looked at some of those old Dragnet episodes. Dragnet went through so many incarnations, it was amazing. It seemed like he had to have known it was funny. It was pretty absurd.
My introduction to Dragnet was hearing Stan Freberg’s parody “Dragonet” as a kid.
Yes, yes. His “Day-oh” parody, the calypso song, I heard that way before I heard the Harry Belafonte original and I can’t not hear the Freberg song when I hear Belafonte. Freberg was a genius. He is a genius, he’s still around. We’ve got to get him on The Simpsons one of these days, he’s so good.
I’ve been going through the Looney Tunes box sets that Warner has been putting out and every once in a while you find a cartoon that Freberg was involved in.
I went to a tribute to Chuck Jones, when he was still alive, and Stan Freberg was there and told me that he was the voice of the Baby Bear in those Three Bears shorts, that giant-sized Baby Bear. I had no idea.
Whenever they went out of their comfort zone and tries to do something contemporary or high concept or something with beatniks, you could count on Freberg to be the voice of the beatnik.
One of the most important albums of my childhood was “The Best of the Stan Freberg Show,” his radio show, which came out on CD in complete form. And then there was that great box from Rhino that collected a lot of his work. I think it came out with an old VHS tape. That should come out on DVD.
Yeah, yeah, that tape featured a bunch of his TV commercials, including The Great American Soup with Ann Miller doing a song and dance and an ad for prunes with Ray Bradbury.
(typing in the background on his computer keyboard) This is great. I’m going to bookmark your blog.
Wow. Thank you. I can now advertise: “As bookmarked by Matt Groening.”
Yes, feel free.
[The more focused parts of the interview will be on MSN sometime in the next few weeks.]