David X. Cohen spent five years as a writer on The Simpsons
and is currently executive producer on Futurama. Sci-Fi
Online recently discovered what it takes to be the creative
talents behind two of the funniest animated shows...
with the "X" in your name?
X. Cohen: Are you implying that the "X" isn't cool? 'Cause
I'll have you beat up! Actually, the truth is that I am unable
to use my real middle initial, "S", because the Writer's Guild
(the TV writers union) will not let any two members use the
same name. I had used the "S" on The Simpsons because
we weren't in the union at that time. But when Futurama
started, we joined the union and I found out that some other
David S. Cohen had the nerve to join before me. How rude!
I had to change to something, so I picked "X" because is seemed
to go well with the sci-fi nature of Futurama. As you
know, aliens' names always start with "X" or "Z".
What was your largest contribution to The Simpsons?
An episode I wrote called Lisa the Vegetarian, in which,
as you might guess, Lisa becomes a vegetarian. That had the
most influence of anything I wrote there, because it led to
a permanent change in a character - something that seldom
happens on The Simpsons.
What sort of training did you undertake before working on
I was a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley studying theoretical
computer science. Toward the end of that time, I also wrote
a couple of episodes of Beavis & Butthead - quite possibly
the furthest conceivable activity from studying theoretical
computer science. I
actually remember the first joke I ever made at age 3 or so.
My father had just grown a beard, and we were at a family
get-together. A relative asked me if I thought the beard made
him look more "distinguished". I said yes. Then they asked
me if I knew what 'distinguished" meant, and I replied, "ugly".
I got a big laugh (much bigger than most I have gotten since),
and my comedy career was underway.
in the years that followed I have been influenced by a great
many sources. Some that spring to mind are: the late Don Martin
of Mad Magazine ("poit!"), Steve Martin and his album, A
Wild and Crazy Guy, and the comedy/sci-fi writer Stanislaw
Whose the funniest person you know?
George Meyer, a great writer at The Simpsons who has
and continues to be a major influence on the show.
there ever a moment when you felt like giving up on writing?
Yes. A few months into the production of Futurama,
I got so exhausted that I couldn't do the job anymore and
I actually quit.for about 4 days.
So since you have been working in entertainment who would
has completely awed and humbled you?
Al Gore. Last spring, Matt Groening and I went to the Vice
Presidential residence in Washington, D.C. to record him for
his appearance on Futurama. As you can imagine, it
was completely surreal to see the Vice President of the United
States screaming about the universe collapsing - especially
since he really got into his performance, and was throwing
himself down on the couch as he acted out his desperate lines.
Luckily, he was a great sport about the whole thing and made
us feel very much at ease.otherwise, it would have been overwhelming.
Futurama is still fairly young, but so far, what would
you say was your fondest memory from working on the series?
When I literally cried with laughter while watching the rough
version of the episode in which Dr. Zoidberg goes back to
his home planet for the mating season. It reminded me of how
lucky I am to be working on a show I truly love. But, you
are right Futurama is still in its infancy.
We would eat our shorts to be on a timeslot better than our
current one, Sunday at 7 PM (or worse, 6 PM in some parts
Which is your favorite Futurama character?
Bender. Because when he wants to do something, he does it,
without hesitation, worry, or guilt. I aspire to be more like
him, with the exception of the crime sprees. Or maybe just
the occasional spree.
Who would you go on a date with? Leela or Amy?
One of my favorite quotes is, "These is no excellent beauty
that hath not some strangeness in the proportion." (written
by Francis Bacon in 1625, according to my dictionary of quotations.)
If you had the chance, would you be cryogenically frozen so
you could wake up in the year 3000?
No. I'm too chicken to get laser eye surgery, let alone undergo
full-body cryogenic freezing. If
I did get the nerve to be frozen, the main thing I'd like
to see when I awoke is that the world, and humanity, had managed
to survive that long. Also, no 30-foot spiders with gorilla
an unsung hero of Futurama's success.
Calder, our editor. Viewers would be amazed at the sort of
things he can do. As an example, we often change dialogue
lines in an episode at the very last minute, close to when
it will go on the air. Paul can cut up the characters' mouths
and paste them back together to make the lip-sync for the
new words. And he can do this by eye, without referring to
any sort of chart or breakdown of the syllables, as would
normally be required. And he can do it FAST - as in, a minute
or two. It's a truly amazing thing to watch. We would not
have nearly the flexibility to improve the show right up until
the last minute were it not for him.
When did you realise that you were somebody?
When Lucy Liu recognized me at a movie. Woo-hoo!
Thanks for your time.
thanks to Louise at DSA
one of Futurama is available on DVD and video from
20th Century Fox