Cartoonist Matt Groening is 70

In Hell

Before I ever saw The Simpsons segments on The Tracy Ullman Show, I was following the work of Matt Groening. I don’t know how I came across the Life In Hell strips, but I do know that I bought Love is Hell, “a series of relationship-themed Life in Hell strips, in book form,” early in 1985, probably from FantaCo, the comic book store where I worked.

This description from Amazon will suffice: “Love Is Hell is the answer to all your Quandaries de l’Amour, or, as we say in American, Love Quandaries. Inside, you’ll find handy tips on everything from Getting the Love You Deserve to Getting Your Heart Broken into Millions of Tiny Pieces.” I related heavily to this book because love is complicated.  

The description of the author from Love Is Hell suggests the Portland, OR-born artist spent his childhood… “swimming in the grizzly bear pool at the abandoned zoo.” He kept drawing “despite the rapping of his knuckles and the confiscation of his cartoons at school.”

I also bought other In Hell books like School Is Hell, Work Is Hell, Childhood Is Hell, and Akbar and Jeff’s Guide to Life. Doesn’t the cover of School Is Hell look… familiar?


Wikipedia notes: “Life in Hell caught the attention of Hollywood writer-director-producer and Gracie Films founder James L. Brooks… In 1985, Brooks contacted Groening with the proposition of working in animation… which would turn out to be developing a series of short animated skits… for the Fox variety show The Tracey Ullman Show.

The Simpsons!

“Originally, Brooks wanted Groening to adapt his Life in Hell characters for the show. Groening feared that he would have to give up his ownership rights and that the show would fail and take down his comic strip… Groening conceived of the idea for the Simpsons in the lobby of… Brooks’s office and hurriedly sketched out his version of a dysfunctional family.”

In case you wondered, as I did, why the Ullman version of The Simpsons was so crudely drawn, “Groening had submitted basic sketches to the animators, assuming they would clean them up; instead, they just traced over his drawings.” While the characters were named after his family members, except Bart, who was an anagram of Brat, the cartoon does not reflect his relationship with them.

I watched The Simpsons religiously from 1989 to 1999. The DVD of the first glorious season is in my collection. The Simpsons CD called Songs In The Key of Springfield is terrific, including hits such as In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Jazzman, Baby On Board, and several variations on the ending theme. Somehow, the show fell off my radar in the 21st century, although I did see the 2007 Simpsons movie, which was… okay. Even without my viewership, The Simpsons has become the longest-running U.S. primetime animated series and sitcom. 

I’ve not embraced Futurama in the same way. But because of In Hell and The Simpsons, I want to thank Matt Groening as he hits three scores and ten.

Favorite animated television show?

moose and squirrel

That Greg Burgas fellow has done it again, compelling me to think on one of his damn Questions of the Week. “What’s your favorite animated television show?”

Initially, I was thinking about programs I grew up with that had two or three segments, such as Rocky and Bullwinkle, which featured Fractured Fairy Tales and Mr. Peabody. A great show, BTW.

Or the various Warner Brothers packages featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the like, which among other things, were early lessons in classical music. I was a sucker for the Popeye the Sailor cartoons from Fleischer Studios, less so the later ones.

Or all of the Hanna-Barbera shows such as Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, and my favorite, Top Cat, whose close friends got to call him TC. When I was five and a half, I had an uncontrollable bloody nose and went to the hospital for two or three days. The positives were ice cream and H-B cartoons.

Animated shows that took the full half-hour were rare early on. The Flintstones (1960-1966) was the first prime-time TV animated series, a Big Deal in the day.


Like many people, I watched The Simpsons regularly and enthusiastically early on. I even have three or four DVD sets, but none are after season eight. It’s now on season 73; Nah, it started in 1989. Incidentally, D’oh is a sound mark registered by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The registration is similar to Darth Vader’s breathing noise and the Law and Order “Chung Chung” sound effect.

To the degree I appreciate SpongeBob SquarePants, I blame Fred Hembeck. His enthusiasm for the show in the early 2010s was infectious. I have a soundtrack that is modeled after The Who Sell Out album.

My daughter watched Peppa Pig, which I found baffling at first but grew to at least tolerate. She also watched The Loud House and Kim Possible, among others, which were OK. But Teen Titans Go got on my nerves.

On my own, I tried Bojack Horseman, Pinky and the Brain, Family Guy, Futurama, and American Dad, which were fine, but they didn’t STICK. The Boondocks I watched a bit longer.

The winners

But if I were to pick three shows, they would be:

3. King Of The Hill – I found Hank, the “straight-laced propane salesman in Arlen, Texas,” oddly relatable. At some level, though, I WAS the kid, Bobby Hill. Tom Petty voiced the character Lucky in 24 episodes.

2. Phineus and Ferb – Greg said, “the jokes are stupendous, the special episodes are a ton of fun… and the songs are just brilliant.”

1.  Gravity Falls – My daughter was singing “We’ll Meet Again,” and I wondered why. Now I know. I’ve seen every episode of the show. “Twin siblings Dipper and Mabel Pines spend the summer at their great-uncle’s tourist trap in the enigmatic Gravity Falls, Oregon.” Like Greg, I love the voice actors Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal, and Linda Cardellini as Wendy.

Greg said Phineas and Ferb could be repetitious, but I’ve seen six episodes in a row without going crazy. Conversely, I was on a bus heading for Indiana, helping to chaperone a church group, when someone showed a half dozen episodes of Scooby Doo, Where Are You! Talk about the same plot over and over! Painful.

Nov. rambling: the Opposite of Déjà Vu

The djt library

Permanent link to this comic: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.
This means you’re free to copy and share these comics (but not to sell them).

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Wendy Carlos doesn’t need THIS biography


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this is not a drill
Stolen from HERE and HERE
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Cromulent, embiggen, vellichor, jouska

Jouska is a hypothetical conversation that you repeat again and again in your head.

dictionary of obscure sorrowsMy friend Dan happened upon the word cromulent and a whole bunch of other unfamiliar terms. I suggested – not that he listens – that he ought to write a blog post about words. “Nah. I do Albany along with rants about politics… Words are your thing.”

From an article by Merriam-Webster: “It is safe to say that The Simpsons has contributed a great deal to the English language. One famous example is cromulent, which was coined specifically for the 1996 episode ‘Lisa the Iconoclast.’ In reference to one character’s questioning of the use of embiggen, another says ‘it’s a perfectly cromulent word.'”

Somehow I didn’t remember cromulent, although I was still watching The Simpsons regularly at the time. However, embiggen is another story. I don’t know where I heard it but I HAVE used the word, colloquially to be sure, but still.

Dan put the word “cromulent” into Google and kept clicking on definitions on the page. His spellchecker liked none of them; after this post goes live, my Grammarly score is really going to sink.

Vellichor is the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago.”

Somehow this reminds me of that 1959 Twilight Zone episode Time Enough at Last with Burgess Meredith.

Jouska is a hypothetical conversation that you repeat again and again in your head. For example, replaying an argument in your head where you say all the right things and ‘win’ the argument.” I used to do it frequently.

Also check out chrysalism, occhiolism, and kairosclerosis. All of them, plus vellichor and jouska, appear in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

What the heck is THAT? It is a Tumblr and YouTube channel that give us words that don’t exist in the English language but definitely should.

“The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig. Each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language—to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for.

“The author’s mission is to capture the aches, demons, vibes, joys and urges that roam the wilderness of the psychological interior. Then release them gently back into the subconscious.”

Going to the site, I’m informed that an actual book will soon exist, from Simon & Schuster, and I may very well have to buy it.

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