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`Simpsons' writer on the show's best guests

July 26, 2007|Geoff Boucher | Times Staff Writer

Springfield gets more celebrity visitors than rehab. Al Jean, a key creator on both "The Simpsons" show and film, said there were some especially memorable guest stars.

Jerry Lewis

"Hank Azaria's John Frank character, the nutty professor, is based on Jerry Lewis, and Hank came to us once and asked if we could get Jerry. Jerry was in his 70s then and he was really, really funny. His health wasn't well but he was hysterical. We talked about Dean Martin and his career. It was one of the best days of my career. I got to direct him and then we even got in a minor argument -- and actually he had a point -- but he still had to do it my way."

Mr. T

"He told us about 'Rocky III' being the story of the rise and fall of Clubber Lang, like the whole movie was from Mr. T's perspective! It was really funny. It was a day you just did not want to end."

Johnny Carson

"I used to work as a joke writer for 'The Tonight Show' from 1984 through 1986, when Carson was still host....It was like working for JFK. He was extremely charismatic. But I actually didn't see a lot of him in that year-and-a-half. So we told all the writers here that he was a little aloof and not to expect to see him much. Then he came in and was the warmest, most engaging person. So everyone looked at us like we were crazy."

Elizabeth Taylor

"She had one line, she was the voice of Maggie talking for the first time. It was a real Hollywood experience. She brought a dog. She had a huge ring. I never dreamed in my life I would be directing Elizabeth Taylor."

Michael Jackson

"The strange thing was he didn't do the singing in the episode. He did it in the table reading but then a sound-alike did the singing for the episode. It was a joke or something he was playing on somebody. So he only did the spoken part. He came in dressed rock-star casual, not too crazy. He was taller than I thought."

Tony Blair

"I was in the U.K. with my wife promoting the 300th episode of 'The Simpsons.' We had been negotiating for a while to get the prime minister on the show. We got a call: 'If you come over to 10 Downing Street right now you can get him.' This was the week that Saddam's statue fell in Baghdad. We went to the war cabinet room with a British sound engineer and we recorded five takes of his line. He's got a great career in voice-over if he wants."

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