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Simpsons has been on a tear the past few weeks, with its jaw-dropping Banksy opening, ribbing departing NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker and back-to-back jokes about Fox’s corporate cousin Fox News.
Below, executive producer Al Jean answers some burning questions about what’s going on this season and whether producers are getting all-caps emails from Rupert Murdoch…
THR: So why isn’t Sunday night’s Fox News gag online? Some have conspirary theories…
Jean: It was inserted late because we did the first joke last week and Bill O’Reilly got upset and called [the characters] “pinheads.” If you’re calling cartoon characters “pinheads,” what does that make you? [Simpsons creator] Matt Groening wanted to do a response to O’Reilly so we slipped this in just for U.S. version. We didn’t pay to put it into every edition, which saves the company money that can be funneled back to Fox News and O’Reilly.
THR: What kind of reaction have you received from Fox, or from NewsCorp, about the jokes?
Jean: We did a parody of the Fox News crawl about eight years ago and we talked to the guy he does the crawls and he said he loved it, so they do have a sense of humor about themselves.* We’re shooting for two different audiences. Our audience was definitely pleased with the Fox News jokes.
THR: Will there be a third chopper gag?
Jean: I think at that point you’re becoming stale. I believe that something is only funny twice. Next week, the show is so long we don’t even have a couch gag.
THR: Did you hear any reaction from Jeff Zucker over the previous week’s joke?
Jean: No. They designed [the character] to look like him. But we understand he’s on his way out and we actually took a Zucker joke out of the show, figuring, “What’s the point?.” But the way that [character] looked, he was just perfect for NBC.
THR: With the Banksy couch gag, and the Fox News jokes, is it just us or has The Simpsons been a bit more edgy this season?
Jean: If you think that, that’s great. I was amazed — in a good way — by the reaction to the Banksy couch gag. We’ve always just tried to do satirical shows about a family.
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