What has The Simpsons got to do with open source?

Good question, and one that Simpsons writer Joel Cohen sort of answered during his speech at Red Hat's user conference in Boston last week which...
Written by Andrew Donoghue, Contributor on

Good question, and one that Simpsons writer Joel Cohen sort of answered during his speech at Red Hat's user conference in Boston last week which was littered with brilliant one-liners as you'd expect from one of the writers of the best TV show ever made:

"We had one episode set in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, and while they were there we portrayed Rio as the home of kidnappers, pickpockets, shanty town slums, crippling poverty, rats and wild monkeys, and the tourism board of Brazil were furious with us claiming, "There are no wild monkeys in Brazil"

The main reason for him being there was the fact that Red Hat technology was used in the creation of the recent Simpsons movie:

"The show is all hand-drawn and digitally animated, and the movie was too. However, because we were writing and re-writing the movie at such a furious pace, the scenes we would write needed to be seen and approved or revised (or often rejected) before they committed to the very labor-intensive process of hand drawing the cels."

"For that purpose, crudely animated scenes were produced with Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Linux animation technology, so our animators were able to show us these scenes incredibly quickly. Once a scene or piece of a scene was approved, it would begin the more traditional animation route; however, the volume and speed of material that was created for the movie could never have been done without that Red Hat-fueled system."

(These quotes were given to Red Hat's official magazine - hence they are a bit self-serving - and I can't help thinking that Cohen must have nearly busted something trying to avoid making any gags about the company's very silly name... I mean Red Hat, come on, why not call it Blue Shoe, at least that rhymes)

Cohen was also there to point how the team behind the Simpsons are at their core a group of creative people – a community – and tried to draw some parallels with the open source specialists in the audience. "We are this creative enterprise and hopefully there is a way to look inside that and see how we go about our business and maybe that applies itself to how you run your businesses," he said.

Cohen also pointed out the importance of standing up to The Man, when it comes to creativity:

"Jim Brooks [Simpsons producer] made sure that there was no involvement from Fox, The only involvement Fox has in the show is through their censor. We have this freedom and the censor is an occasional presence – mostly we just ignore what they tell us."

And also drew some parallels between creativity in jokes and innovation:

"Jokes are pretty good template for innovation. The way most jokes work is that the set-up for the joke is a very understandable situation and the reason we laugh at the punch-line is the twist on the usual. We are surprised – most of our laugh is based on a pleasant surprise. That is the same basis as a good innovation, it is something people are comfortable with and yet it improves on it in a surprising way for a pleasing result."

But the main reason why Cohen kept the audience interested wasn't down to his management analogies, but his undeniable gag skills - and here's a selection:

"Most people think the Segway scooter was an incredibly innovative creative product, however it didn't meet an audience. They said it would eliminate walking and was incredibly fool-proof, we quickly learned it wasn't entirely fool-proof when George Bush tried to ride one."

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"Maggie has never spoken apart from one time when she said one word and that word was Daddy but that one word was voiced by Elizabeth Taylor – the Elizabeth Taylor. She didn't ask for any money she did on the condition that she could marry two of the writers and a handy man who lived in his car on the lot. We miss him terribly."

"Matt Groening doesn't have a family member named Bart, but came up with the name from an anagram of Brat. It's early in the morning so I have created a slide to help you through that."

"In 1999 the BBC ran an online poll to name the greatest American and Homer Simpson won. Second place was Abraham Lincoln. If you think about it all Lincoln did was freed the slaves, Homer has been to space, has jammed with the rolling stones, and once had a kind of weird sexual encounter with a Panda."

"Coming on when it did the show is often referred to the show that built the entire Fox network – and for that we apologise."

"We do not air in Japan as our characters only have five fingers and in Japan if you only have five fingers it suggest you are a member of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia, which also explains why it's so difficult to sit through a Yakuza piano recital."

"All told the Simpsons has generated over $5bn dollars in revenue, if anyone is here from Europe, that's almost 300 Euros."

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