May 2, 2021

"Perelman crammed every joke he could think of into every sentence and polished his pieces relentlessly until they couldn’t get any crazier."

"There’s a story that a friend called him up while he was writing something, and Perelman said, 'I’ll call you back when I finish this sentence.' He called back the next day and said, 'O.K., what do you want?' When I first read Perelman, it was completely over my head. Half the words he was using didn’t exist in the real world, as far as I knew—and I was twelve, I’d been around. I figured one of us was nuts. Later on, when I had started writing for a living and picked up a few more multisyllable words, I checked him out again. I’ve been a fan ever since."

 From "John Swartzwelder, Sage of 'The Simpsons'/The first major interview with one of the most revered comedy writers of all time" (The New Yorker).

There's a lot about "The Simpsons" in there too. For example, the key to writing Homer Simpson is to think of him as "a big talking dog":

One moment he’s the saddest man in the world, because he’s just lost his job, or dropped his sandwich, or accidentally killed his family. Then, the next moment, he’s the happiest man in the world, because he’s just found a penny—maybe under one of his dead family members. He’s not actually a dog, of course—he’s smarter than that—but if you write him as a dog you’ll never go wrong.

FROM THE EMAIL: Sean writes:

Hey Althouse, thanks for that link to the interview with John Swartzwelder, of whom I had never heard before. After reading that interview, I immediately bought his self-published novel The Time Machine Did It (Kindle edition), and am thoroughly enjoying it. Up to chapter 17 already, just put it down long enough to say thanks to you.