In the Limelight: John Swartzwelder
Who in the world is John Swartzwelder? Trust me, if you watch The Simpsons, you know who John Swartzwelder is. He has been a writer for the show since the first season, and has penned more episodes than anyone else. You know all those references to old time America and obscure, antiquated sayings? You can blame Swartzwelder for at least part of that.
Swartzwelder came to The Simpsons from Army Man magazine, a comedy publication from another Simpsons writer, George Meyer, that ran for only three issues. The magazine, while short-lived, also featured the writing of another Simpsons scribe, Ian Maxtone-Graham, as well as contributions from Bob Odenkirk and SNL writer Jack Handey.
Swartzwelder has also authored two books, The Time Machine Did It (2004) and Double Wonderful (2005). It was after reading The Time Machine Did It that I began to look into the man's career much deeper. The book is, by far, one of the most hysterical things I've ever read. Jokes are piled upon jokes to the point where if you try to skim even a small paragraph, you'll miss about ten funny moments. The plot focuses on a detective who seems to be a cross between Homer Simpson and the Naked Gun's Frank Drebin. Actually, there's not much "plot" to the book, it's more like a guided tour through Swartzwelder's warped sense of humor. My favorite part occurs when the protagonist, Detective Frank Burley, ends up in 1941. He knows it's 1941 because a "Calendar Boy" is standing on the street corner handing out current calendars.
Despite the title of this post, I actually admire Swartzwelder for staying out of the limelight. If you listen to any of the audio commentaries on The Simpsons DVDs, his fellow writers heap praise on him like no one else. Still, he refuses to appear on any of the commentaries. There's nothing I like more than an artist who puts his or her stuff out there and then steps away from it, letting it live or die on its own. As long as he keeps penning some of the best episodes of the series and writing truly gut-busting works of fiction, he can stay out of the limelight all he wants.