Richard Appel

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Rich Appel
A man with glasses and black hair, talking into a microphone.
Rich Appel at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego.
Born Richard James Appel
(1963-05-21) May 21, 1963 (age 51)
New York City, New York, United States
Occupation Writer, producer, former attorney
Period 1994–present
Genres Humor
Spouse(s) Mona Simpson (1993–unknown)
Children 2

Richard James "Rich" Appel (born May 21, 1963) is an American writer, producer and former attorney. Growing up in Wilmette, Illinois, Appel developed a love of comedy and dreamt of a career as a comedy writer; he attended Harvard University and wrote for the Harvard Lampoon. Following in his mother's footsteps Appel instead became a lawyer. After attending law school he started out as a law clerk for Judge John M. Walker, Jr. before becoming a federal attorney, serving as assistant U.S. attorney for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York for three years. In 1994, he moved into comedy writing when he was hired for The Simpsons, writing seven episodes of the show including "Mother Simpson". He moved on to become showrunner and executive producer of King of the Hill before creating the sitcom A.U.S.A.. He then worked on The Bernie Mac Show, Family Guy and American Dad! before co-creating The Cleveland Show. He was married to the novelist Mona Simpson.

Early life and law career[edit]

Richard James Appel was born May 21, 1963 in New York City,[1][2][3] to Nina (neé Schick) and Alfred Appel.[3][4] His mother was a lawyer, taught law and served as dean of Loyola University Chicago's law school from 1983–2004,[5] and his father (who died on May 2, 2009) was professor of English at Northwestern University and an expert on Vladimir Nabokov.[6] Appel has a sister, Karen Oshman.[6] Appel lived in California while his parents taught at Stanford University before the family moved to Wilmette, Illinois,[2] where Appel went to North Shore Country Day School. Appel became interested in comedy from a young age, noting: "I grew up watching The Dick Van Dyke Show and always thought that what Rob Petrie did for a living was what I wanted to do." His father introduced him to the works of Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy and encouraged him to "read comic books and watch quality [sic] television",[2] and he and a friend produced parody adverts and news pieces with a Betamax and often engaged in prank phone calls. At high school, he wrote sketches and routines and dreamt of being a comedy writer but "didn't know anyone who did it, and it didn't seem like a career that was open to me."[4]

He attended Harvard University and wrote for the Harvard Lampoon, alongside Conan O'Brien and Greg Daniels, both of whom he beat for the chance to give the comic graduation speech, the Ivy Oration. Tad Friend noted: "Everyone thought it would be Conan automatically, but Rich's speech was funny and self-deprecating, in a way that was both silly and profound."[4] After graduation in 1985 with a degree in history and literature,[7] Appel attended Harvard Law School rather than moving into comedy, because the idea of following his mother and grandfathers into the legal profession "appealed" to him. He then worked for two years as a law clerk for Judge John M. Walker, Jr., of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, working on the trials of people such as Michael Milken and Leona Helmsley. Subsequently, for three years from 1990, Appel served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Fellow attorney Geoffrey Berman stated Appel "was an excellent lawyer. He was good on his feet, articulate, with a sense of the law that was common-sensical, more intuitive than based on books." Appel still had dreams of becoming a comedy writer despite the security working as a lawyer offered him, but only in 1993, after his wife became pregnant, was Appel "reminde[d] that this was [his] life and [he] could shape it." Three months later he had retained an agent, had written and submitted two spec-scripts, and had moved to California.[2][4]

Writing career[edit]

"I don't think I opened my mouth for the first six weeks in that room. Part of it was my son had just been born. My son was, like most babies, not sleeping through the night, and there were some days where I didn't say anything not because I was intimidated but because I could barely focus."

—Appel on the start of his stint at The Simpsons[8]

When starting out as a comedy writer, Appel recalled: "One reason I caught up to my contemporaries is that when I started to send out my scripts, the idea that I'd been on the Lampoon, even 8 or 10 years before, was a credential I could use."[4] Appel got his first television job when David Mirkin hired him for the writing staff of The Simpsons in 1994, initially on a ten-week contract,[2] and served as a writer and producer there for four years.[1][9] There, he wrote seven episodes, often employing the use of "joke sequences, a narrative approach to humor that eschews the quick laugh in favor of something that develops over time."[4] Appel found work on The Simpsons to be a learning curve because it was a "very tough show to write for."[2] His first episode was season seven's "Mother Simpson". Appel was desperately trying to think of a story idea to show and decided that he had to really reach out and opted to do something about Homer's mother, who previously had only been mentioned once. He named her Mona Simpson, after his wife.[10] Many of the writers could not believe that an episode about Homer's mother had not previously been produced.[11] The writers used the episode to solve several little puzzles, such as where Lisa's intelligence came from.[10] Also for season seven he penned "Bart on the Road", in which he utilized the plot devices of "go to work with your parents day" and Bart getting a driving license,[12] and contributed to the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield"; the two segments he wrote for the episode (one about Marge, the other about Lionel Hutz) were both cut.[13] Appel wrote two episodes from season eight, "Bart After Dark" and "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson",[14][15] as well as season nine's "The Two Mrs Nahasapeemapetilons" and season 10's "When You Dish Upon A Star".[16][17]

Daniels hired Appel as executive producer and showrunner on King of the Hill in 1997, leading the show's writing process and overseeing all aspects of the show. Daniels noted: "It was essential that Rich was a good writer who could deal with people, who could help manage the business in the room. But equally important was the fact that he was someone I could trust, who had a similar sense of taste and values."[4] He stayed until 2001.[2][18] For his work on The Simpsons and King of the Hill, Appel won three Primetime Emmy Awards.[19] Appel created the short-lived series A.U.S.A., which aired in 2003, which he based on his own experiences as an assistant U.S. attorney.[20] He conceived it in 2001 and NBC ordered 13 episodes the following year; the show's original pilot used a single-camera setup but NBC executives felt it would have more appeal as a multiple-camera setup, so it was re-shot.[1] Appel noted of the show: "There's a sense sometimes in Hollywood that writers and producers who come from animated shows maybe have something to prove to justify their credibility as live-action show-runners or writers. My own experience has been fortunate. I haven't felt that. But I know it exists."[2] He was inspired by the comedic side of working as a lawyer when writing the show: "Whether you're working on a case that you're proud to tell you mother and grandmother about, you're still going to encounter possibly really shifty dishonest lawyers, or a judge who is a little crazy, or witnesses who self-destruct on the stand."[21] The show was not acclaimed: Scott D. Pierce of The Deseret News praised the premise but felt the show was "sort of like watching a train wreck,"[20] while Alan Sepinwall of The Star-Ledger said it was "too cartoonish to work."[22] Appel then wrote and worked as a co-executive producer on The Bernie Mac Show and Kitchen Confidential,[9] and appeared as Josh in the 2004 film I ♥ Huckabees.[23] In 2006, Appel produced a pilot called My Ex Life about two divorcing couples for CBS, which was directed by Kelsey Grammer.[24][25]

In 2008, he served as a co-executive producer on Family Guy and executive producer on American Dad! from 2008 until 2009.[26] Appel wrote the Family Guy seventh season episode "Family Gay".[27] Appel co-created, alongside Mike Henry and Seth MacFarlane, the Family Guy spin-off The Cleveland Show, which they began discussing in 2007 and which premiered September 27, 2009.[28][29] He and Henry serve as the show's executive producers and showrunners, handling the day-to-day operations, with limited involvement from MacFarlane.[30] Henry and Appel conceived the show as "more of a family show, a sweeter show" than Family Guy.[31] The show, which was picked up to air a first season consisting of 22 episodes,[32] was picked up by Fox for a second season, consisting of 13 episodes, bringing the total number to 35 episodes. The announcement was made on May 3, 2009 before the first season even premiered.[33] It was extended to a full second season.[34] Appel signed a new three-year, seven figure deal with Fox to continue serving as showrunner on The Cleveland Show in 2010. Fox chairman Gary Newman commented: "What is special about him is his incredible leadership ability. He is a terrific showrunner, and he really sets the tone on a show that is exactly what you're looking for."[9]

Personal life[edit]

He married novelist Mona Simpson,[4][10] the biological sister of Apple founder Steve Jobs, in 1993.[35] They have two children.[6] Appel and Simpson have since divorced.[36][37]

Credits[edit]

Appel worked on the listed shows and wrote all the listed episodes:

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Freeman, Michael (2002-11-11). "The comic appeal of Rich Appel". Electronic Media. pp. 16–17. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rich Appel takes a bite out of showbiz". Chicago Sun-Times. 2003-01-26. p. 1. 
  3. ^ a b "Appel, Alfred, Jr. 1934-". Contemporary Authors, New Revisions Series.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). 2004-01-01. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Ulin, David L. (1998-12-06). "In His Prime Time". Chicago Tribune. p. 14. 
  5. ^ "Nina S. Appel". Loyola University Chicago. Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  6. ^ a b c Loebbaka, Charles R. (2009-05-05). "Noted English Scholar, Author Alfred Appel Dies at Age 75". Northwestern University. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  7. ^ Sterngold, James (1997-12-02). "From Harvard to Hollywood - Ivy Leaguers are now writing TV sitcoms". The Deseret News. p. C10. 
  8. ^ Ortved, John (2009). The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History. Greystone Books. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-55365-503-9. 
  9. ^ a b c Andreeva, Nellie (2010-02-08). "Rich Appel signs new 20th TV deal". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  10. ^ a b c Appel, Richard (2005). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "Mother Simpson" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  11. ^ Oakley, Bill (2005). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "Mother Simpson" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  12. ^ Appel, Richard (2005). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "Bart on the Road" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  13. ^ Appel, Richard (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  14. ^ Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Bart After Dark". BBC. Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  15. ^ Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson". BBC. Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  16. ^ Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "The Two Mrs Nahasapeemapetilons". BBC. Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  17. ^ Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "When You Dish Upon A Star". BBC. Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  18. ^ Hart, Hugh (2003-03-02). "Hear the One About the Funny Lawyer?". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  19. ^ "Primetime Emmy Awards Advanced Search". Emmys.org. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  20. ^ a b Pierce, Scott D. (2003-02-03). "'A.U.S.A' is awful". The Deseret News. p. C08. 
  21. ^ Walker, Dave (2003-02-03). "A comedy writer in Uncle Sam's court - Producer of 'A.U.S.A.' knows how to spoof the feds -- he was one". The Times-Picayune. p. Living 01. 
  22. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (2003-02-04). "Jury out on sitcom". The Star-Ledger. p. 47. 
  23. ^ "I Heart Huckabees Cast List". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  24. ^ "Ex-'Simpsons' Screenwriter Does Divorce For CBS". Press of Atlantic City. 2004-10-31. p. H6. 
  25. ^ "CBS Comedy Has Good Grammer". Zap2it. 2006-03-30. Retrieved 2010-02-21. 
  26. ^ "Richard Appel". FoxFlash.com. Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  27. ^ "Family Guy (1999 - Present): Family Gay". MovieWeb. Retrieved 2012-04-03. 
  28. ^ "FOX Announces Fall Premiere Dates For The 2009-2010 Season". The Futon Critic. 2009-06-15. Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  29. ^ "Fox Primetime - The Cleveland Show - Fact Sheet". Fox Flash. Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  30. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (2008-11-30). "Fox seeks a new hit, this time in Cleveland - Seth MacFarlane gives sneak preview of 2009's Family Guy spinoff". The Toronto Star. p. E12. 
  31. ^ Idato, Michael (2009-12-17). "A sweeter family guy - comedy". The Age. p. 15. 
  32. ^ Lynette Rice (2008-11-10). "Fox orders full season of 'Family Guy' spin-off". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  33. ^ Hughes, Jason (2009-03-04). "The Cleveland Show renewed before it begins". TV Squad. Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  34. ^ Fernandez, Maria Elena (2009-10-14). "Fox orders a full second season of 'The Cleveland Show'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  35. ^ Elkind, Peter (2008-03-15). "The trouble with Steve Jobs". Fortune Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  36. ^ Burciu, Andrea (2010-03-11). "Author Mona Simpson reads from newest novel on campus". The Hofstra Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-03-12. 
  37. ^ Kamp, Ted (2009-06-29). "The Diary of Steve Jobs's New Liver". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2010-03-12. 

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