So does that make you the number-one fool?
(Laughs) No, I wouldn’t say that. There are plenty of fools. I just admit it.
How typical is the Simpsons’ home of an American home? How has it changed?
I think what’s different is that Marge doesn’t work. She’s a stay-at-home mother and housewife, and for the most parts these days both parents work. So I think that’s a little bit of a throwback. Very early on we had the Simpsons always struggling for money, and as the show has gone on over the years we’ve tried to come up with more surprising and inventive plots. We’ve pretty much lost that struggling for money that we started with just in order to do whatever crazy high jinks we could think of. I kind of miss that.
You’ve spoken of the “the contradictions not acknowledged” in the sitcoms you watched as a kid. What were those contradictions between TV life and life under your roof?
In TV in the ’50s and ’60s everyone seemed very repressed. Children were unnaturally polite. My favorite character was Eddie Haskell in “Leave It to Beaver. He was so polite but blatantly false in his pretending to be nice to adults—that appealed to me. In the ’70s, and from then on, sitcom banter got so mean and sour that I was baffled. I always thought that half the time someone would say something in a sitcom, and it seemed like the spouse’s response should be, “I want a divorce.” That was the logical reply.
But no one got a divorce back then.
I’m just saying I didn’t like the bland dialogue of most of the ’50s and ’60s, and I also didn’t like the sour arguing that passed for comedy in the ’70s and ’80s. So “The Simpsons” is sort of somewhere in between.
Beyond the topography of Portland and the names of your family members, did you borrow the sensibility of your hometown or your coming-of-age years for The Simpsons?
People in Portland, and generally in the Northwest, think of themselves as independent. Oregon has no sales tax, no major military installations. Portland has turned into an incredibly friendly community with great food, great architecture, great city planning and a lot of beauty. The biggest park in the United States within the city limits is in Portland.
Have you seen “Portlandia”? What do you think of it?
If you would have told me back when I was growing up that there would be a hip comedy show based on hipster life in Portland Oregon, I wouldn’t have believed it. I think it’s a very funny show. It’s very sweet.
How often do you go back to Portland?
I go back to Portland a few times a year. My first stop is always Powell’s Books. It’s the biggest bookstore that I know of. And then I visit my family.