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‘Simpsons’ co-creator finds the funny in cancer
Sam Simon is in the last stages of colon cancer and is dispersing his fortune to causes he supports, such as homeless animals. And he frames his mortality with a laugh or a shrug — appropriate for the man who brought you Bart Simpson.
The Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES — Since word got out about Sam Simon’s cancer, this co-creator of “The Simpsons” and fervent philanthropist has heard from many people online asking to help rid him of his sizable wealth.
“Some people just want a million dollars. Or help with college tuition. And the rest have business propositions,” he chortles. “Like that should be my legacy: to lose money on your movie or your moisturizer line.
“I’m bedridden,” says Simon, milking the scenario for all its tragicomic worth, “weighing whether to dole my money to people lined up outside the house!”
He laughs, flashing a piano-keys grin. Then he gets serious.
“I’m supporting the charities that I supported during my lifetime,” he states, “and I want to continue to do that.” With every cent of his fortune.
Simon, 58, isn’t exactly bedridden. For this recent interview he has presented himself, sporty in sweater and slacks, to meet with a reporter in the guesthouse of his estate in Pacific Palisades.
Simon has had much to think about since his advanced colon cancer was diagnosed last November after a year of inconclusive tests and mysterious discomfort.
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, ‘This is a really bad situation — and what else can I do to get out of it?’”
Simon grew up comfortably in Beverly Hills, but his father was in the garment industry, not show biz.
After turning his drawing talent into a job at an animation studio that made cartoons for kids, Simon 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 showrunner.
From there he joined a new NBC sitcom called “Cheers,” where he was staff writer for its ascendant first three seasons.
In 1987 he became a writer and executive producer on the Fox comedy series “The Tracey Ullman Show,” teamed alongside James L. Brooks, the comedy legend with whom he had worked on “Cheers” and “Taxi,” and, of course, cartoonist Matt Groening. They became the founding fathers of “The Simpsons.”
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.
He has played no role on the show in nearly 20 years (not even watching it, he says), even as his name remains in the weekly credits along with Groening’s and Brooks’ — and his checks roll in.
Among his charitable efforts, he established the Sam Simon Foundation, which rescues dogs from animal shelters and trains them to assist disabled veterans and the hard-of-hearing.
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.