From busing tables to animation maestro: How 'Disenchantment' creator Matt Groening came to have his D'Oh moment

'Disenchantment,' a Matt Groening and Josh Weinstein creation, starring Abbi Jacobson, Nat Faxon, and Eric André, will premiere on Netflix this August 17.


                            From busing tables to animation maestro: How 'Disenchantment' creator Matt Groening came to have his D'Oh moment

World - brace yourselves to be enchanted by a world of magic, royalty, and action like never seen before - for 'Disenchantment' is almost here and saying that it's going to blow your minds would be a gross understatement of sorts. For anybody questioning this blatant gushing, two words: Matt Groening. That's right - Disenchantment comes from the brains of the man who blessed us with iconic household names like 'The Simpsons', and of course, who could ever forget 'Futurama'. And while you're trying to wonder if this show will be exactly like the stellar comedies Groening has gifted us with before, just know that it is that, and so much more.

Disenchantment is feminism served in a dish raw and fresh out of the freezer, with a side of social satire like you've never seen before. But it doesn't really come off as surprising considering it is Groening and Josh Weinstein's brainchild. The name Groening is a brand now - you know you're in for a bumpy joyride the moment you start watching a show created by him.

The bumps along the ride being the splits of laughter you break into once you've finally grasped the underlying layers of the intelligent comedy his creations brim with. And as it turns out - Groening has been a wizard at that right from the very beginning. 

Matt Groening speaks onstage at 'The Simpsons' Panel during Comic-Con International 2018 at San Diego Convention Center on July 21, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Matt Groening speaks onstage at 'The Simpsons' Panel during Comic-Con International 2018 at San Diego Convention Center on July 21, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

The 64-year-old has quite the wild assortment of titles to his name when it comes to what he does professionally. He's a cartoonist, writer, producer, animator, and voice actor who gave us the longest running animated show of all times, aka The Simpsons. And considering the popularity of the show, we all know that it's a cult classic. You haven't really lived a life until and unless you've watched the show. 

Which is exactly why saying that Groening has a foresight into the future is not entirely wrong because countless memes and pop culture references have already established that The Simpsons predicted the current political scenario of the US at a time when neither Obama was ruling, nor Trump. So back in the early 2000s, Groening made fun of the contemporary world.

He took it a notch higher by making fun of a prospective dystopian word of the future in his next show, Futurama. And now, he's attempting at making fun of the medieval times through his upcoming show Disenchantment, where you have your protagonist as a dysfunctional princess. But her knights in shining armor are an elf and a personal demon.

So who exactly is Groening, when he's not shifting the patriarchal paradigm of mainstream TV shows and gifting us with social satire that can be deemed relatable at any given point in time? He's the same man who had moved to Los Angeles at the age of 23 to become a writer, but then had had to resort to "a series of lousy jobs." These jobs included almost everything from being an extra in the television movie 'When Every Day Was the Fourth of July', to busing tables.

He even washed dishes at a nursing home and clerked at the Hollywood Licorice Pizza record store. Landscaping in a sewage treatment plant or chauffeuring and ghostwriting for a retired Western director - just name it and Groening has been there and done that to achieve the status he holds today.

But within a year, he made his debut as a cartoonist in 'Life in Hell' - which was a series of comic strips that he had sold to the Wet magazine in 1978. That earned him the attention of James L. Brooks, who contacted him about seven years later with the proposal of working in the animated Fox show, The Tracey Ullman Show.

And that's when Groening played his cards exceptionally well. Brooks wanted to adapt Groening's characters of Life in Hell into the show, but Groening - out of a fear of loss of ownership rights - decided to create a new show entirely, and thus was born The Simpsons. It was a simple technique he applied, using his own family members' names for the main characters and playing a cheeky little anagram on the word brat, to give rise to Bart Simpson and the family that went on to air for over 639 episodes.

Next up was Futurama - created by him and former Simpsons writer David Cohen - which showed life in the year 3000, and ran for four years on Fox and later got picked up by Comedy Central for additional seasons. And now, on the verge of releasing his latest creation, Disenchantment, Groening is the proud owner of 12 Primetime Emmy Awards.

Ten out of those Emmys are for The Simpsons alone, and two for Futurama. He also won a British Comedy Award for "outstanding contribution to comedy" in 2004, just two years after winning the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award in 2002, for his work on Life in Hell. But it gets even better, as recognizing him for the master of animation that he is, on February 14, 2012, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Groening - the middle child of a family of five kids - was born in Portland, Oregon. He attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and describes the liberal arts school as "a hippie college, with no grades or required classes, that drew every weirdo in the Northwest."

Serving as the editor for the campus newspaper, where his job was to write and draw cartoons, Groening's biggest inspiration arrived in the form of fellow cartoonist Lynda Barry - whom he had befriended upon discovering that she had written to and received a reply from Joseph Heller - one of Groening's favorite authors.

His stepping stones towards being so hooked on animation was also the Disney animated film One Hundred and One Dalmatians. But even strip comedies like Peanuts and its creator Charles M. Schulz have been his inspirations in the past. 

Matt Groening poses for a photo with characters from the film during the hometown premiere of 'The Simpsons Movie' on July 21, 2007 in Springfield, Vermont. (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images for 20th Century Fox)
Matt Groening poses for a photo with characters from the film during the hometown premiere of 'The Simpsons Movie' on July 21, 2007 in Springfield, Vermont. (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images for 20th Century Fox)

Married twice, the father of three is said to have a very distinct laughter, as his colleague Maurice LaMarche shared with us. Speaking about Groening's involvement with every project he undertakes, LaMarche spilled: "Matt is in the room at all time, he's got so many brilliant ideas and it's so funny because if I can make him laugh - and he's got a quiet laugh but his shoulders shake - so I always look over to see if Matt's shoulders are shaking, and that's how I know I did it."

And looks like after countless years in mainstream TV network, his genius has finally been recognized by the streaming giant Netflix who are creating Disenchantment because they chose to give absolute freedom to flow with whatever he believes is best.

"They really have figured out a good tide here, because when they're just clear that okay, we want Matt Groening - it's like Matt Groening, you do your Matt Groening," says David Herman, voice actor and cast member of most of Groening's creations, including the upcoming show. "They don't interfere very much with the train of the process. They are just like - we got this guy and we'll let him do what he does."

So it's clear - with Netflix being Netflix, and them letting Groening work his quintessential Groening magic - loyal fans and followers of the master of animation are clearly in for a gala once Disenchantment releases this August 17. And not to be too pompous, but it's safe to assume that Matt Groening is never really going out of style.