Judd Apatow: Simpsons Episode Table Read Was ‘One of the Greatest Days of My Life’

The Simpsons
The Simpsons

If at first you don’t succeed, wait 25 years and try again. Comedy auteur Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) wrote the January 11 episode of Fox’s The Simpsons (“Bart’s New Friend”) way back in 1990, mere weeks after the series debuted. Why did his work take so long to hit the air? Apatow gave us the d’oh-down.

Jennifer Graylock

What made you write this thing? I was 22, a huge fan of The Simpsons, and hoping for a TV writing career. I did a spec script where Homer gets hypnotized and thinks he’s a 10-year-old. He has such a great time being Bart’s friend that he doesn’t want to become an adult again. I sent it in and got no job offers. Then, all these years later, [Simpsons executive producer] Al Jean calls and says, “Hey, we’ll make it now!”
Hindsight being 20/20, were you any good back then? It’s a pretty rough script—when I reread it, I wasn’t exactly glowing with pride—but Al and the staff did their Simpsons magic on it. The whole process blew my mind. Sitting at the table read, listening to Dan Castellaneta [Homer], Julie Kavner [Marge], Nancy Cartwright [Bart], and Yeardley Smith [Lisa] putting their brilliant spin on something I wrote back when I was a dreamer was one of the greatest days of my life.
How would your career have been different if they’d bought this script when they first had the chance? I’d have worked my way into a staff position—if they’d have had me—and would have never left. Seriously, I’d still be there! And I would be a very happy man.