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November152007

Fondly Remembered Army Man Is Newly Coveted

Filed under: The Squib Report   Tagged: , , , , ,

It is unfortunate that circumstances have forced the Writers Guild of America to go on strike, but one beneficial by-product has been the unforeseeable outpouring of approbation for David Owen’s March 13, 2000, profile of George Meyer. (Witness the requisite evidence that said outpouring has occurred.) And not only that, but this outpouring has spawned a kind of sub-outpouring directed at New Yorker mainstay Ian Frazier, whose September 2004 interview in The Believer is cited in most of the same places. I’m not sure, but I think the comedy blog Dead Frog started it all.

So what’s it all about? Army Man, man.

Long story short, the WGA went on strike in 1988, and George Meyer happened to have a little zine going, called Army Man, and it was really funny. He ended up being a very important writer at The Simpsons. Check out the links above for the mining of strike-relevant meaning, it’s all stimulating stuff.

The two things that stuck in my mind from when I first read that Meyer profile in 2000 were the story about the arm and the sandwich and Meyer’s spiel about Country Crock. I think two salient, entirely intact bits after seven years is pretty darn good, David Owen.

To a semipro scrutinizer of The New Yorker like me, it’s not every day that I stumble upon such a phenomenon: people, unprovably regular people out there, cherishing a New Yorker profile with such ardency. Check out the start of Ed Page’s post over at Maud Newton lo these four years ago:
I’ve read this New Yorker Profile of George Meyer about a gazillion times. I love it so much I cuddle with it at night. When I’m feeling blue, I sing to it. Sometimes, when no one is looking, I lick it.
Now that’s some approbation! As well as a nice rebuke to the whole stupid “New Yorker appeals only to snobbish monocle wearers” contingent. —Martin Schneider

Comments

Great profile. I must have read it at the time, since I love both Owen’s writing and The Simpsons (and knew someone at around that time who was associated with the show), but I’d forgotten the details.

What happened to George Meyer after that, Simpsonsophiles? I was unable to find the Dennis the Menace Mad joke Meyer mentions (in my very quick search), but I did find Food Repairman. Heh.

I liked this passage in Owen’s piece; any errors are in the original, but bless Richard Riegler at the Simpsons Archive for typing it out; Blake and Matt, seems like a good candidate for full-text status since it remains such a popular profile.
[Growing up in the early ’60s, Meyer says,] “I just watched everything,” he told me, “and always with the same slack expression on my face. I watched so much and from such an early age, in fact, that I didn’t understand what TV was for. I say this to people and they think I’m kidding, but I didn’t realize that ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ was supposed to be funny I thought you just watched it. The people said things, and they moved around, and you just waited till you saw the kid-you know, you liked to see Richie. My brothers and sisters and I rarely laughed at anything we watched. We watched more to learn what the world was like and how adults interacted, and what a cocktail party was, what a night club was, what you did on a sea cruise — although I did like shows where the joke would be that somebody got shot or fell out of a window. When you’re a kid, you like to see adults getting away with stuff; because you hope to join them one day in anarchy and mayhem.”
and this one:
The show’s characters are the key to its appeal. There are now several hundred of them, and the best have come to seem more real, and more complex, than the characters in many live-action programs. Because they are drawings, they can change and grow while remaining frozen in time. Homer still has the same few hairs on his head, but over the years he has evolved from a surly authoritarian into a dreamy dumbbell and surely one of TV’s most original and memorable comic creations. Lisa has become ever more wise and precocious — “I don’t think real checks have exclamation points,” she tells Homer, who believes that a sweepstakes promotion he has received in the mail is really worth a million dollars — and has developed an inner life that in some ways probably comes closer to Meyer’s than does that of any other character on the show “Marge hasn’t changed too much,” Meyer says. “The problem with writing Marge is that you can’t have her do stupid or kooky things, because people think that’s woman-bashing. And yet you can’t make her a totally PC. superwoman, because it has to be semi-plausible that she loves this man and willingly bore his children. It becomes kind of tragic.”
…in particular.

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