- For the character, see Matt Groening (character).
Matthew Abraham Groening (pronounced GREY-ning) is the creator of the comic strip Life in Hell and television series The Simpsons and Futurama. Groening made his first professional cartoon sale of Life in Hell to the avant-garde Wet magazine in 1978. The cartoon is still carried in 250 weekly newspapers. The Simpsons is his most successful subject.
Life in Hell caught the attention of James L. Brooks. In 1985, Brooks contacted Groening with the proposition of working in animation for the FOX variety show The Tracey Ullman Show. Originally, Brooks wanted Groening to adapt his Life in Hell characters for the show. Fearing the loss of ownership rights, Groening decided to create something new and came up with a cartoon family, the Simpsons, and named the members after his own parents and sisters — while Bart was an anagram of the word brat. The shorts would be spun off into their own series: The Simpsons, which has since aired over 600 episodes in 29 seasons. In 1997, Groening got together with David X. Cohen and developed Futurama, an animated series about life in the year 3000, which premiered in 1999. After four years on the air, the show was canceled by Fox in 2003, but Comedy Central commissioned 16 new episodes from four direct-to-DVD movies. In June 2009, Comedy Central ordered 26 new episodes of Futurama, to be aired over 2 seasons. His advice to beginning cartoonists is to not care about what other people think and just try to make yourself laugh. He said that if he did not think up The Simpsons, he would probably be in a tire shop, drawing doodles of his boss on the break room wall.
Groening has won 11 Primetime Emmy Awards, ten for The Simpsons and one for Futurama as well as a British Comedy Award for "outstanding contribution to comedy" in 2004. In 2002, he won the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award for his work on Life in Hell. In Some Simpsons Comics, he gives himself a fake title, like Big Daddy (Taming Your Wild Child), Cartoonist Gone Wild (Bart's Beard), and Former Heartthrob (Faking the Band).
Groening was born Matthew Abraham Groening on February 15, 1954 in Portland, Oregon. He grew up in Portland, and attended Ainsworth Elementary School, and Lincoln High School. He was the middle child of 5 children. His Norwegian-American mother, Margaret Wiggum, was once a teacher, and his German-Canadian father, Homer Philip Groening, was a filmmaker, advertiser, writer and cartoonist. Homer, born in Main Centre, Saskatchewan, Canada, grew up in a Mennonite, Plautdietsch-speaking family. Matt's grandfather Abram Groening was a professor at Tabor College, a Mennonite Brethren liberal arts college in Hillsborough, Kansas before moving to Albany College (now known as Lewis and Clark College) in Oregon in 1930.
From 1972 to 1977, Groening attended the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, a liberal school which he described as "a hippie college, with no grades or required classes, that drew every weirdo in the Northwest." He served as the editor of the campus newspaper, The Cooper Point Journal, for which he also wrote articles and drew cartoons. He befriended fellow cartoonist Lynda Barry after discovering that she had written a fan letter to Joseph Heller, one of Groening's favorite authors, and had gotten a reply back. Groening has credited Barry with being "probably [his] biggest inspiration." He has also cited the Disney animated film One Hundred and One Dalmatians as what got him interested in cartoons.
After spending a few years researching science fiction, Groening got together with Simpsons writer/producer David X. Cohen (still known as David S. Cohen at the time) in 1997 and developed Futurama, an animated series about life in the year 3000. By the time they pitched the series to Fox in April 1998, Groening and Cohen had composed many characters and storylines; Groening claimed they had gone "overboard" in their discussions. Groening described trying to get the show on the air as "by far the worst experience of [his] grown-up life." The show premiered on March 28, 1999. Groening's sole writing credit for the show was the premiere episode, "Space Pilot 3000", co-written with Cohen.
After four years on the air, the show was cancelled by Fox. In a similar situation as Family Guy, however, strong DVD sales and very stable ratings on Cartoon Network brought Futurama back to life. When Comedy Central began negotiating for the rights to air Futurama reruns, Fox suggested that there was a possibility of also creating new episodes. When Comedy Central committed to sixteen new episodes, it was decided that four straight-to-DVD films—Bender's Big Score (2007), The Beast with a Billion Backs (2008), Bender's Game (2008) and Into the Wild Green Yonder (2009)—would be produced. Since no new Futurama projects were in production, the movie Into the Wild Green Yonder was designed to stand as the Futurama series finale. However, Groening had expressed a desire to continue the Futurama franchise in some form, including as a theatrical film. In an interview with CNN, Groening said that "we have a great relationship with Comedy Central and we would love to do more episodes for them, but I don't know...We're having discussions and there is some enthusiasm but I can't tell if it's just me."
On June 9, 2009, it was confirmed that Comedy Central had picked up the show for 26 new episodes that aired in 2010. However, on September 4, 2013, the show was cancelled once again.
Awards and nominations
Groening has been nominated for 26 Emmy awards and has won eleven: ten for The Simpsons and one for Futurama in the "Outstanding Animated Program (for programming one hour or less)" category.
Groening received the 2002 National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award, and had been nominated for the same award in 2000. He received a British Comedy Award for "outstanding contribution to comedy" in 2004.
On February 14, 2012, Groening received the 2,459th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star is located at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.
Groening is said to be a fan of Doctor Who and shows a preference for the Fourth Doctor, as that is the only incarnation of the Doctor that ever appears in his work.
Matt Groening is seen as the bad guy in the Simpsons game. He nearly destroys the game engine and leaves, but before he does, he signs his name - Matt Groening. He makes his final appearance in Game Over, where The Simpsons win a dance off with God and destroy the Hii.