Simpsons writer remembers his roots in Huron County

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It’s a long way from Exeter to Hollywood, but Simpsons writer and producer Tim Long hasn’t forgotten his roots in Huron County.

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“I miss Exeter every day,” he said on June 29 from Los Angeles.

Long has been with The Simpsons for over 20 years. Prior to joining what is now America’s longest-running prime-time television series in history, Long worked in the 1990s on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect and was chief writer for The Late Show with David Letterman. .

He said working on The Simpsons is beyond his dream job, as his role on the show has surpassed anything he thought he could happen in his career, which included several Emmy wins.

Long will soon be adding another achievement to his resume – his film The Exchange, directed by Borat’s Dan Mazer, will be released on July 30. Shot in the Ottawa area and set in a fictional city, the film is at least in part based on Long’s Childhood in Exeter, and the main character is called Tim Long. In The Exchange, Tim Long’s character family hosts an exchange student, which happened to Long when he was a grade 13 student at South Huron District High School.

“It was really an eye-opening experience, and it’s something I’ve always thought about,” he said.

“I’ve always told stories about my experiences and having an exchange student, and basically there are a lot of stories where the joke is kind of on me, because I was a lot more naive and innocent than I thought. “

Eventually, an agent encouraged Long to turn the stories into a movie, which he did. After a few drafts, the film was finally picked up and was shot in the Ottawa area in the spring of 2019.

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While there are obviously real inspirations for the film, Long said, “I didn’t want anyone to think I was talking about Exeter or anyone in Exeter, but I felt like the only character who The most like a the real person, that was me, so I decided, “Damn, I’m just going to call him Tim Long.”

Although the city in the film is very different from Exeter, there are some similarities, including what Long describes as the city’s “sweetness” as well as the sense of community.

And there are white squirrels.

“There’s a pretty big white squirrel element in there,” Long said, which should appeal to Exeterites.

In another nod to his old playgrounds, Long said, “The whole time I was writing this movie, I thought, ‘I have to get this movie at Shipka’s drive-in. I thought if there was a place where I could show the film, it would be there, ”he said.

Although it was shot and based in Canada, the film has US and UK producer funding, and Long said he wrote much of the script in England.

De Mazer, who has worked on several projects with Sacha Baron Cohen, Long said: “I knew right away that he was the right guy to lead him, because he’s just awesome.”

The film was shot before COVID, but the pandemic ended up delaying the film’s release by about a year.

“The movie industry is so on hold,” Long said.

Long’s road to Hollywood has been gradual, he said, adding, “I’m as surprised as anyone that I’ve lived here for 20 years now.”

Growing up he always loved to write and said he was encouraged by some of his teachers in Exeter. He also watched everything he could on television, including Saturday Night Live, Late Night with David Letterman, Happy Days, and Canadian shows such as SCTV and Kids in the Hall.

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“I’ve always been keenly aware that Canada was more than its weight in TV comedy, so it was always exciting for me.”

Long was an avid reader growing up, and remembers reading a story in Rolling Stone magazine about the Letterman editorial staff, “and they seemed to be the funniest people.”

Ten years later, Long was working on the series, which included time as the lead writer.

“I just couldn’t believe my luck,” he said, describing his time on the show as “an incredible experience”.

Long doesn’t hesitate to thank his parents Earl and Dorothy, who now live in London, for supporting him.

After attending the University of Toronto, he finally decided to move to New York where his job included writing for Spy magazine. It was also a time when many late night TV shows were starting and writers were needed. A friend recommended Long to write for Bill Maher, and he eventually got a 10-week essay on the show.

“I was working so hard and would write so much material. And I think a lot of things weren’t great back then, but just in terms of pure numbers, I managed to get enough of them to survive my try.

Of Maher and Letterman, Long said, “These guys are super smart, and they’re super funny, and they just have a very sharp mind. Some people go to school for creative writing, and I feel like I went to school but got paid for it.

Long has now been a part of The Simpsons for over 20 years and recently made headlines when an episode he wrote, Panic on the Streets of Springfield, angered singer Morrissey. In the episode, Lisa has an imaginary friend named Quilloughby, who is a depressed singer from the 1980s.

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Long admits the character was inspired in part by Morrissey and remembers going to see Morrissey with his band The Smiths at Centennial Hall in London in the 1980s. Long has been a fan ever since, but Morrissey has become a controversial figure these days. years for various political comments he made in the press.

“As a fan, I don’t like the idea of ​​him being mad at me,” Long said of Morrissey, but at the same time he thinks “if you’re famous, actually laughing at me. part, and the smart thing to do is just let it slide.

But Morrissey didn’t let it slip and blasted the episode on his website.

Long said he was very proud of the episode, describing it as one of his favorites. Benedict Cumberbatch did the voice of Quilloughby, and Long worked with him on Zoom.

“He was so good,” Long said of Cumberbatch, adding of the episode, “The bottom line is it’s good to have a big reaction, and I was really proud of it. the episode.”

In addition to this episode, another of Long’s favorites is the first episode he wrote for The Simpsons, called Skinner’s Sense of Snow, which sees children trapped at school after a blizzard, based on the childhood of Long to Exeter.

Long is working on episodes for The Simpsons next season, which will be the series’ 33rd season. He says much of the show’s credit goes to creator Matt Groening, and also attributes its longevity to the show’s relativity.

“We’ve all had parents who drive us crazy, and all parents have had kids who drive them crazy, so nobody can watch this show and think, ‘I don’t understand what’s going on here. I think the dilemmas are very relevant.

Long remembers when the show first came out and thought, “This is the funniest show, then he thought it was just for me because the jokes were so funny.”

When asked who his favorite character was to write for, Long replied, “It’s hard to argue with Homer. He’s so funny. He’s an ordinary man… He’s got such a good heart, but he’s an idiot.

Long said he was very happy with The Simpsons, and also said he hopes there will be more cinematic work in his future. He said he has fond memories of growing up in Exeter and once the pandemic is over he looks forward to a visit.

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