Michael L. Reiss (born September 15, 1959) is an American television comedy writer and author. He served as a show-runner, writer and producer for the animated series The Simpsons and co-created the animated series The Critic. He created and wrote the webtoon Queer Duck and has also worked on screenplays including: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, The Simpsons Movie and My Life in Ruins.
|Born||September 15, 1959|
Bristol, Connecticut, U.S.
|Occupation||Television and film writer|
|Residence||New York City, New York, U.S.|
Reiss was born to a Jewish family in Bristol, Connecticut, United States. The middle child of five, his mother was a local journalist and his father was a doctor. He attended Memorial Boulevard Public School, Thomas Patterson School and Bristol Eastern High School and has stated that he felt like an "outsider" in these places.
Reiss studied at Harvard University. Reiss has stated that, as an institution, he hates Harvard, explaining that "I had an epiphany on my third day there: This place would be just as good as a summer camp where you met other people, networked, and learned from them. I feel the education I got there was distant and useless and uncaring. I feel they sort of squandered my youth and my father’s savings." Reiss studied English, but disliked the course and was rejected from a creative writing class. Reiss focused his attention on comedy, performing in talent shows and writing. In Holworthy Hall at Harvard, Reiss met fellow freshman Al Jean; they befriended one another and collaborated their writing efforts for the humor publication Harvard Lampoon. Reiss became co-president of the Harvard Lampoon, alongside Jon Vitti. Jeff Martin, another writer for the Lampoon, said Reiss and Jean "definitely loomed large around the magazine. They were very funny guys and unusually polished comedy writers for that age. We were never surprised that they went on to success." Jean has also stated that the duo spent most of their time at the Lampoon, adding that "it was practically my second dorm room."
The humor magazine National Lampoon hired Jean and Reiss after they graduated in 1981. In the 1980s, the duo began collaborating on various television projects. During this period Reiss and Jean worked as writers and producers on television shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1984–1986), ALF, Sledge Hammer! and It's Garry Shandling's Show.
In 1989, Reiss was hired along with Jean as the first members of the original writing staff of the Fox network animated series The Simpsons. He worked on the thirteen episodes of the show's first season (1989). They became executive producers and show runners of The Simpsons at the start of the third season (1991). A show runner has the ultimate responsibility of all the processes that an episode goes through before completion, including the writing, the animation, the voice acting, and the music. The first episode Jean and Reiss produced was "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington" (aired September 19, 1991), and they felt a lot of pressure on them to make it good. They were so pressured that they did six to seven rewrites of the script to make it funnier. Jean said "one reason for doing all these rewrites is because I kept thinking 'It's not good enough. It's not good enough." Reiss added that "we were definitely scared. We had never run anything before, and they dumped us on this." Jean and Reiss served as show runners until the end of the fourth season (1993). Since the show had already established itself in the first two seasons, they were able to give it more depth during their tenure. Jean believes this is one of the reasons that many fans regard season three and four as the best seasons of The Simpsons. Sam Simon has stated "The Simpsons wouldn't have been The Simpsons without [Reiss]." Reiss has won four Primetime Emmy Awards for his work on the show.
They left after season four to create The Critic, an animated show about film critic Jay Sherman (voiced by Jon Lovitz); the show was executive produced by The Simpsons co-developer James L. Brooks. It was first broadcast on ABC in January 1994 and was well received by critics, but did not catch on with viewers and was put on hiatus after six weeks. It returned in June 1994 and completed airing its initial production run. For the second season of The Critic, Brooks cut a deal with the Fox network to have the series switch over.
Brooks wanted to have Sherman crossover on to The Simpsons, as a way to promote The Critic's move to Fox. Sherman appeared in the episode "A Star Is Burns", which Reiss and Jean returned to produce. The Simpsons' creator Matt Groening was not fond of the crossover and complained publicly that it was just a thirty-minute advertisement for The Critic. Brooks said, "for years, Al and Mike were two guys who worked their hearts out on this show, staying up until 4 in the morning to get it right. The point is, Matt's name has been on Mike's and Al's scripts and he has taken plenty of credit for a lot of their great work. In fact, he is the direct beneficiary of their work. The Critic is their shot and he should be giving them his support." Reiss stated that he was a "little upset" by Groening's actions and that "this taints everything at the last minute. [...] This episode doesn't say 'Watch The Critic' all over it." Jean added "What bothers me about all of this, is that now people may get the impression that this Simpsons episode is less than good. It stands on its own even if 'The Critic' never existed." On Fox, The Critic was again short-lived, broadcasting ten episodes before its cancellation. A total of 23 episodes were produced, and it returned briefly in 2000 with a series of ten internet broadcast webisodes. The series has since developed a cult following thanks to reruns on Comedy Central and its complete series release on DVD.
In 1994, Reiss and Jean signed a three-year deal with The Walt Disney Company to produce other TV shows for ABC. The duo created and executive produced Teen Angel, which was canceled in its first season in 1997. Reiss said "It was so compromised and overworked. I had 11 executives full-time telling me how to do my job." This was the only project created under their contract which was broadcast.
The pair periodically returned to work on The Simpsons. In addition to "A Star Is Burns", they produced "'Round Springfield" for season six; both episodes were written with the aid of their fellow writers from The Critic. While under contract at Disney they produced two episodes of season eight: "The Springfield Files" and "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious", and two of season nine: "Lisa's Sax" and "Simpson Tide". When Jean returned to The Simpsons permanently as showrunner from season thirteen, Reiss returned part-time as a consultant and producer, flying to Los Angeles one day a week to attend story meetings and contribute to the writing process. He also co-wrote the screenplay for The Simpsons Movie in 2007.
Along with director Xeth Feinberg, in 2000 Reiss independently produced Hard Drinkin' Lincoln, a series of 16 flash animation cartoons for Icebox.com. Reiss collaborated with Feinberg again to independently produce a short internet cartoon series entitled Queer Duck for Icebox.com. In 2002, the series was picked up by Showtime, where it aired as a supporting feature to Queer as Folk. Queer Duck: the Movie was released on DVD in 2006. Reiss has stated that Queer Duck is "the thing I'm most excited about in my entire life. I don’t like how gay people are treated in comedy. Gay people are nothing besides their gayness. So I created a cartoon that was pro-gay and featured gay animals."
Reiss has contributed to numerous film screenplays. He wrote several jokes for the film Ice Age after The Simpsons colleague David Silverman asked him and Jon Vitti to help out with the film's story issues. He later wrote a number of screenplays including Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Horton Hears a Who!. The first live-action film he wrote was 2009's My Life in Ruins, starring Nia Vardalos. Reiss initially wrote the film, which was based on his experience on holiday bus tours of Mexico and Greece, as a short story. After it was rejected by 37 publishers he rewrote it as a screenplay and sent it to Vardalos who "snatched it right up". The film garnered a negative critical response with Roger Ebert, for example, stating "there is, in short, nothing I liked about My Life in Ruins, except some of the ruins" and calling Reiss' script "lousy". Reiss defended the film: "My Life in Ruins really makes people happy. It's a relentlessly sweet movie about the basic decency of humanity. Its happy ending kicks in around the 30-minute mark and continues for the next hour. I know those [critics at the Tribeca Film Festival] were sitting there in that audience. They were sitting there going, 'These 1,498 people were wrong and the two of us are correct.' It makes me a little nuts."
Co-authored by Mathew Klickstein, his memoir, Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons, was published by Dey Street, an imprint of Harper Collins, in June 2018.
Reiss' first play, "I'm Connecticut" set box-office records at Connecticut Repertory Theatre in December 2011. The Hartford Courant called the romantic comedy "hysterically funny" and named it one of the top ten productions of the year. It was named Best Play of 2012 by Broadway World Connecticut.
The following is a list of episodes of The Simpsons Reiss has written with Al Jean:
He co-wrote the following episodes with Al Jean:
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|deadurl=(help) On the main page, click on "About the DVD" then on "Production Notes".
"'Round Springfield" is the 22nd episode of The Simpsons' sixth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on April 30, 1995. In the episode, Bart is rushed to the hospital after eating a jagged metal Krusty-O and decides to sue Krusty the Clown. Whilst visiting Bart, Lisa discovered her old mentor, jazz musician Bleeding Gums Murphy, is also in the hospital. He encourages her ahead of a school recital, but the next day, she finds he died overnight, and resolves to honor his memory. Steve Allen (as himself) and Ron Taylor (as Bleeding Gums Murphy) guest star, each in their second appearance on the show. Dan Higgins also returns as the writer and performer of all of Lisa and Bleeding Gums' saxophone solos.
It was written by Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia, based on a story idea by Al Jean and Mike Reiss and was the first episode directed by Steven Dean Moore. Jean and Reiss, who were previously the series' showrunners, returned to produce this episode (as well as "A Star Is Burns") in order to lessen the workload of the show's regular staff. They worked on it alongside the staff of The Critic, the series they had left The Simpsons to create. The episode marks the first time in which a recurring character was killed off in the show, something the staff had considered for a while. The episode features numerous cultural references, including Carole King's song "Jazzman", the actor James Earl Jones and the Kimba the White Lion/The Lion King controversy.
The episode also features the phrase "cheese-eating surrender monkeys", used by Groundskeeper Willie to describe the French. The phrase has since entered the public lexicon. It has been used and referenced by journalists and academics; it appears in two Oxford quotation dictionaries.A Star Is Burns
"A Star Is Burns" is the eighteenth episode of The Simpsons' sixth season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on March 5, 1995. In the episode, Springfield decides to hold a film festival, and famed critic Jay Sherman is invited to be a judge.
The story involves a crossover with the animated series The Critic. Jay Sherman was the main character on the show. The Critic was created by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who had previously written for The Simpsons but left following the fourth season, and produced by James L. Brooks, who was also a producer for The Simpsons. The show had premiered on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) network in January 1994 but was canceled despite positive critical reception. The series was switched over to Fox, and put in the timeslot directly after The Simpsons. Brooks pitched a crossover episode as a way to promote The Critic and decided that a film festival would be a good way to introduce Sherman.
Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons has heavily criticized this episode, feeling that it was just an advertisement for The Critic, and that people would incorrectly associate the show with him. When he was unsuccessful in getting the program pulled, he had his name removed from the credits and went public with his concerns, openly criticizing James L. Brooks.
The episode was directed by Susie Dietter and was the first episode to be written by Ken Keeler. Jon Lovitz, the star of The Critic, guest stars as Jay Sherman, while Maurice LaMarche (who was also a regular on The Critic) has a few minor roles. The episode received mixed reviews from critics, many of whom felt the crossover was out of place on the show, although Barney's film festival entry was well received.Al Jean
Alfred Ernest Jean III (born January 9, 1961) is an American screenwriter and producer. Jean is well known for his work on The Simpsons. He was born and raised near Detroit, Michigan, and graduated from Harvard University in 1981. Jean began his writing career in the 1980s with fellow Harvard alum Mike Reiss. Together, they worked as writers and producers on television shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, ALF and It's Garry Shandling's Show.
Jean was offered a job as a writer on the animated sitcom The Simpsons in 1989, alongside Reiss, and together they became the first members of the original writing staff of the show. They served as showrunners during the show's third (1991) and fourth (1992) seasons, though they left The Simpsons after season four to create The Critic, an animated show about film critic Jay Sherman. It was first broadcast on ABC in January 1994 (then aired its second season on Fox in March 1995) and was well received by critics, but did not catch on with viewers and only lasted for two seasons.
In 1994, Jean and Reiss signed a three-year deal with The Walt Disney Company to produce other television shows for ABC, and the duo created and executive-produced Teen Angel, which was canceled in its first season. Jean returned full-time to The Simpsons during the tenth season (1998). He became showrunner again with the start of the thirteenth season in 2001, without Reiss, and has held that position since. Jean was also one of the writers and producers who worked on The Simpsons Movie, a feature-length film based on the series, released in 2007.How Murray Saved Christmas
How Murray Saved Christmas is a 2014 animated musical television special, directed by Peter Avanzino and written by Mike Reiss. The voice actors include Jerry Stiller, Sean Hayes, Kevin Michael Richardson, Jason Alexander, John Ratzenberger and Dennis Haysbert.
Reiss, a writer and producer of The Simpsons who sought to bring a "Simpsons sensibility to Christmas specials," adapted the script from his 2000 children's book of the same name and its 2002 sequel Santa Claustrophobia, which were both illustrated by David Catrow. The special premiered on December 5, 2014, on NBC. It was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics.Jonathan Collier
Jonathan Collier is an American television writer, best known for his work on The Simpsons, Monk, and King of the Hill. He worked as an executive producer on Mike Reiss' DVD movie, Queer Duck: The Movie. He attended and graduated from Harvard University. He is arguably best known for his work on Bones, especially in the later seasons.Lisa's Pony
"Lisa's Pony" is the eighth episode in the third season of the American animated television series The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 7, 1991. In this episode, Homer goes drinking at Moe's Tavern instead of buying a new reed for Lisa's saxophone, resulting in her flopping at the school talent show. Desperate to win back his daughter's love, Homer gives Lisa the one thing she has always wanted: a pony. Homer struggles with two jobs to cover the cost of sheltering and feeding the pony. Lisa, upon seeing what Homer must go through to pay for the pony, decides to give it away.
The episode was written by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, and directed by Carlos Baeza. Lunchlady Doris, a recurring character on The Simpsons, made her first appearance on the show in this episode. "Lisa's Pony" features cultural references to films such as The Godfather and 2001: A Space Odyssey and the comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland. Since airing, the episode has received positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 13.8 and was the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.Lisa's Sax
"Lisa's Sax" is the third episode of The Simpsons' ninth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 19, 1997, to overwhelmingly positive reviews. In the series' sixth flashback episode, it is explained how Lisa got her saxophone. The episode was executive produced by Al Jean and Mike Reiss and was the first episode Jean wrote by himself as all of his previous writing credits had been shared with Reiss. It was directed by Dominic Polcino and guest starred Fyvush Finkel, who appeared as himself portraying Krusty in a film.Lisa's Substitute
"Lisa's Substitute" is the nineteenth episode of The Simpsons' second season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on April 25, 1991. In the episode, Lisa's teacher Miss Hoover takes medical leave due to what she thinks is Lyme disease, so substitute teacher Mr. Bergstrom takes over the class. Lisa finds Mr. Bergstrom's teaching methods inspiring and discovers an entirely new love for learning. When Miss Hoover returns to class, Lisa is devastated to lose her most positive adult role model. Eventually, she realizes that while Mr. Bergstrom was one of a kind, she can find role models in other people, including her father Homer. Meanwhile, Bart runs for class president against Martin.
Jon Vitti wrote the episode and Rich Moore directed it. It is the first episode of the show to have the opening sequence start at the driveway scene. Dustin Hoffman—using the pseudonym Sam Etic—guest-starred in it as Mr. Bergstrom, who was modeled on the physical appearance of Mike Reiss, a longtime writer and producer on the show. The episode features cultural references to Mike Nichols's film The Graduate, which starred Hoffman, and the novel Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. Since airing, the episode has received extremely positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen Rating of 11.1, and was the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.Moaning Lisa
"Moaning Lisa" is the sixth episode of The Simpsons' first season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 11, 1990. The episode was written by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, and was directed by Wes Archer. Ron Taylor guest stars in the episode as Bleeding Gums Murphy. The episode deals with Lisa's depression and her attempts to sublimate it by playing her saxophone.
It received positive reviews from television critics.Simpson Tide
"Simpson Tide" is the nineteenth episode of The Simpsons' ninth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on March 29, 1998. After being fired from the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Homer decides to join the United States Navy Reserve. The episode was the second and last to be written by Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia and was the final episode directed by Milton Gray.
It guest starred Rod Steiger as Captain Tenille and Bob Denver as himself, with one-time The Simpsons writer Michael Carrington making an appearance as the Drill Sergeant. This was the last episode Al Jean and Mike Reiss executive produced together, although Jean became show runner again in season 13.Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious
"Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious", also known as "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpialad'ohcious" is the thirteenth episode of The Simpsons' eighth season that originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 7, 1997. When Marge becomes stressed, the Simpsons hire a nanny, a Mary Poppins parody named Shary Bobbins (voiced by Maggie Roswell). The episode was directed by Chuck Sheetz and written and executive produced by Al Jean and Mike Reiss. It was the last episode for which Reiss received a writing credit. In 2014, Jean selected it as one of five essential episodes in the show's history.Stark Raving Dad
"Stark Raving Dad" is the first episode of the third season of the American animated television series The Simpsons. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on September 19, 1991. In the episode, Homer Simpson is mistaken for an anarchist and sent to a mental institution, where he shares a room with a man who claims to be pop star Michael Jackson. Meanwhile, Bart promises his sister Lisa that he will get her the best birthday present ever.
The episode was written by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, and directed by Rich Moore. Jackson guest-starred as Leon Kompowsky, but went uncredited for contractual reasons; his role was not confirmed until later. Jackson was a fan of the show and called creator Matt Groening offering to do a guest spot. Jackson pitched several story ideas and wrote the song "Happy Birthday Lisa" for the episode. The character's singing voice was performed by a soundalike, Kipp Lennon, due to contractual obligations Jackson had with his record company. The episode references Jackson's career, with Kompowsky singing portions of the songs "Billie Jean" and "Ben".
"Stark Raving Dad" received generally positive reviews, particularly for its writing and Jackson's performance. A sequel in which Kompowsky would be voiced by Prince was canceled after Prince refused the script. A 1992 rerun featured an alternate opening in response to a speech by President George H. W. Bush, in which he said Americans needed to be "a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons". In March 2019, following renewed allegations against Jackson of sexual abuse, the episode was pulled from circulation.Teen Angel (1997 TV series)
Teen Angel is an American fantasy sitcom that aired as part of ABC's TGIF Friday night lineup from September 26, 1997 to February 13, 1998. It stars Corbin Allred as a high school student whose recently deceased best friend, played by Mike Damus, returns to earth as his guardian angel. The series was created by Al Jean and Mike Reiss.The Critic
The Critic is an American prime time animated series revolving around the life of New York film critic Jay Sherman, voiced by actor Jon Lovitz. It was created by writing partners Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who had previously worked as writers and showrunners (seasons 3 and 4) on The Simpsons. The Critic had 23 episodes produced, first broadcast on ABC in 1994, and finishing its original run on Fox in 1995. According to PopMatters, "the creators [said] they intended the series as their 'love letter to New York.'"Episodes featured movie parodies with notable examples including a musical version of Apocalypse Now; Howard Stern's End (Howards End); Honey, I Ate the Kids (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids/The Silence of the Lambs); The Cockroach King (The Lion King); Abe Lincoln: Pet Detective (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective); and Scent of a Jackass and Scent of a Wolfman (Scent of a Woman). The show often referenced popular movies such as Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and The Godfather, and routinely lampooned actor Marlon Brando and actor/director Orson Welles. They also spoofed Dudley Moore, usually as his character Arthur Bach from the 1981 film Arthur.
Despite the ratings improving, The Critic was cancelled after two seasons. It continued to air through reruns on Comedy Central and then on Locomotion. From February 1, 2000, to 2001, ten webisodes were later produced using Adobe Shockwave, and were broadcast on AtomFilms.com and Shockwave.com.
In the late 2000s, reruns of the show aired again on ReelzChannel in the US and on Teletoon's programming block Teletoon at Night in Canada. As of 2016, the first season can be viewed for free on Crackle.The Simpsons (season 3)
The Simpsons' third season originally aired on the Fox network between September 19, 1991 and August 27, 1992. The showrunners for the third production season were Al Jean and Mike Reiss who executive produced 22 episodes for the season, while two other episodes were produced by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Sam Simon. An additional episode, "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?", aired on August 27, 1992 after the official end of the third season and is included on the Season 3 DVD set. Season three won six Primetime Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Voice-Over Performance" and also received a nomination for "Outstanding Animated Program" for the episode "Radio Bart". The complete season was released on DVD in Region 1 on August 26, 2003, Region 2 on October 6, 2003, and in Region 4 on October 22, 2003.The Springfield Files
"The Springfield Files" is the tenth episode of The Simpsons' eighth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 12, 1997. In the episode, Homer believes he has discovered an alien in Springfield. It was written by Reid Harrison and directed by Steven Dean Moore. Leonard Nimoy guest stars as himself and David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson guest star as agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, their characters on The X-Files. The episode serves as a crossover with The X-Files and features numerous references to the series. The story came from former showrunners Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who returned to produce this episode while under contract with The Walt Disney Company. It received mostly positive reviews from critics; Jean and Reiss won an Annie Award for producing it.The Telltale Head
"The Telltale Head" is the eighth episode of The Simpsons' first season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 25, 1990. It was written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Sam Simon and Matt Groening, and directed by Rich Moore. In the episode, Bart cuts the head off the statue of Jebediah Springfield in the center of town to impress Jimbo, Kearney and Dolph, three older kids he admires. The town's residents, including the three boys, are horrified and Bart regrets his actions. After telling Lisa and Marge, Homer and Bart head to the center of town, where they are met by an angry mob. After Bart tells the mob the boys has made a mistake, the townspeople forgive Bart and the boy places the head back on the statue. The episode's title is a reference to the short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe.The Way We Was
"The Way We Was" is the twelfth episode of The Simpsons' second season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 31, 1991. In the episode, Marge tells the story of how she and Homer first met and fell in love. Flashing back to 1974, we see how Homer falls in love with Marge in high school and tries to get close to her by enlisting her as his French tutor. After several hours of verb conjugation, Marge falls for Homer too, only to become enraged when he admits that he is not a French student. Marge rejects Homer's invitation to the prom and goes with Artie Ziff. Artie turns out to be a terrible date and Marge realizes that it is Homer she really wants.
The episode was written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss, and Sam Simon, and directed by David Silverman. It was the first flashback episode of The Simpsons. Jon Lovitz guest-starred in it as Artie Ziff. The episode features cultural references to songs such as "The Joker" and "(They Long to Be) Close to You", and the television series Siskel & Ebert & the Movies. Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 15.6, and was the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.Treehouse of Horror III
"Treehouse of Horror III" is the fifth episode of The Simpsons' fourth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 29, 1992. In the third annual Treehouse of Horror episode, Homer buys Bart an evil talking Krusty doll, King Homer is captured by Mr. Burns, and Bart and Lisa inadvertently cause zombies to attack Springfield. The episode was written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jay Kogen, Wallace Wolodarsky, Sam Simon, and Jon Vitti, and directed by Carlos Baeza.