Wednesday, March 11, 2015
In 1985 David Isaacs and I created a series for Mary Tyler Moore. For reasons I won’t go into here, it was a nightmare. We knew Sam Simon from our time on CHEERS. He graciously agreed to join the staff and help on this Mary project. As things went from bad to worse to the brink of thermonuclear war, Sam stood by us. Most of the other writers bolted. Not Sam. He steadfastly hung in there with us. Honestly, we could not have done it without Sam. For that and that alone I have always loved Sam Simon. He could do no wrong in my book.
Others did not feel that way. Again -- total honesty -- Sam could rub people the wrong way. And he'd be the first to admit that. Social skills were not his strong suit. He had this knack, especially during rewrite nights, of pissing people off. But it was never intentional. And Sam was always apologetic and surprised the next day when it was brought to his attention.
He was always the smartest and funniest person in the room (which he had to be considering his interactions with people).
Part of the problem, I think, is that things came very easily for Sam. They always did. He was blessed with extraordinary talent – in numerous areas. He dabbled with cartooning and sold a comic strip to King Syndicate. That’s impossible. He wrote a spec script for TAXI and they bought it. That’s beyond impossible. He was hired on TAXI and rose quickly to become quite possibly the youngest showrunner in history. In his spare time he wrote a screenplay – that got made. As another sidelight he became an accomplished sitcom director.
He was the true voice of THE SIMPSONS (and he helped designed several characters). There is no joy in Springfield tonight.
So I could see where it might have been difficult to process that the rest of us couldn’t keep up. Such is the price of brilliance and being oblivious.
Sam was certainly uh… colorful. For reasons known only to him, he went through a period where he walked around with his chin tucked into his shoulder. He managed boxers. There was a night when commentator Larry Merchant chewed him out live on HBO for celebrating too loud after his boxer had won. (That was surreal.) He was a regular contributor to Howard Stern’s show. He created a series for George Carlin. There was a 60 MINUTES profile on him. He played high-stakes poker. He played football at Stanford.
And his love of animals and their protection was genuine and deep rooted.
I worked with Sam on seven series and pilots. He attended family seders, special occasions, and he spoke at my SITCOM ROOM seminar (telling students that sitcoms were dead – thanks for that). He had a wicked sense of humor, even during his recent suffering. A few months ago, when PBS aired the Roger Ebert documentary he was tweeting “get to the cancer already.”
I will miss his humor, friendship, tweets, and (most of all) his loyalty. Sam Simon was a remarkable person. I am blessed that he was in my life. We are all blessed that his contributions to humanity will continue for years and maybe generations to come. I still can’t believe he managed prize fighters.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM