Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
Born November 15, 1959 (1959-11-15) (age 51)
Bristol, Connecticut
Occupation Television and film writer
Period 1983-present
Genres Comedy

Michael "Mike" Reiss (born November 15, 1959) is an American television comedy writer. 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, Horton Hears a Who!, The Simpsons Movie and My Life in Ruins.


Early life

He was born to a Jewish family in Bristol, Connecticut. He was the middle child of five children, and his father was a doctor.[1] Mike Reiss 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 then went to Harvard University where he became co-president of the Harvard Lampoon along with Jon Vitti. It was there that he met Al Jean.[1]


Work with Al Jean

Reiss has frequently collaborated with Al Jean as his writing partner. Reiss started his career in television in the 1980s.[2][3] During this period Reiss and Jean worked as writers and producers on television shows such as The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (1984–1986), ALF, and It's Garry Shandling's Show,[4] and wrote for the humor magazine National Lampoon.[5]

In 1989 Reiss was hired along with Jean as the first members of the original writing staff of The Simpsons, and worked on the thirteen episodes of the show's first season (1989).[4] They became show runners of The Simpsons at the start of the third season (1991).[6] 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.[4] The first episode Jean and Reiss ran 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.[7] Jean said "one reason for doing all these rewrites is because I kept thinking 'It's not good enough. It's not good enough."[7] Reiss added that "we were definitely scared. We had never run anything before, and they dumped us on this."[8] Jean and Reiss served as show runners until the end of the fourth season (1993).[7] 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.[6] Sam Simon has stated "The Simpsons wouldn't have been The Simpsons without [Reiss]."[1] Reiss has won four Primetime Emmy Awards for his work on the show.[9]

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 James L. Brooks.[10][11] It was first broadcast on ABC in January 1994 and was well-received by critics,[12][13] 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.[14] For the second season of The Critic, Brooks cut a deal with the Fox network to have the series switch over.[15] This led to controversy as Sherman appeared in the The Simpsons episode "A Star is Burns" leading Matt Groening to complain publicly it was just a thirty-minute advert for The Critic.[16] 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."[16] 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."[16] On Fox, The Critic was again short-lived, broadcasting ten episodes before its cancellation. A total of only 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.[17]

In 1994, they signed a three-year deal with Disney to produce other TV shows for ABC and the duo created and executive produced Teen Angel, which was canceled in its first season. Reiss said "It was so compromised and overworked. I had 11 executives full-time telling me how to do my job."[1]

The pair periodically returned to work on The Simpsons, for example, while under contract at Disney they were allowed to produce four episodes of the show, including season eight's "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious".[18] When Jean returned to The Simpsons permanently for season 13, Reiss worked part-time on it[4] and is currently credited as a "producer" on the show.[19] He flies to Los Angeles one day a week to attend story meetings.[1] He also co-wrote the screenplay for The Simpsons Movie.[20]

Solo work

Along with director Xeth Feinberg, in 2000 Reiss independently produced Hard Drinkin' Lincoln, a series of 16 flash animation cartoons for Icebox.com.[21]

Later, 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.[9] It was named the 94th greatest cartoon of all-time by a Channel 4 poll.[22]

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.[23] He later wrote a number of screenplays including Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Horton Hears a Who!.[1] The first live-action film he wrote was 2009's My Life in Ruins, starring Nia Vardalos. Reiss initially wrote the film as a short story but after being rejected by 37 publishers 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".[24] Reiss defended the film: "My Life in Ruins really makes people happy. It's a relentlessly sweet movie about the basic decency of humanity. It's 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."[1]

He has published ten children's books, including How Murray Saved Christmas, published by Penguin.[9] He also won an Edgar Award for his mystery story Cro-Magnon PI.[25]

Personal life

He lives in New York City with his wife Denise and the two frequently travel abroad.[1][9] Reiss is an atheist.[26]

Writing credits

The Simpsons episodes

The following is a list of episodes of The Simpsons Reiss has written with Al Jean:

The Critic episodes

He co-wrote the following episodes with Al Jean:

  • "Pilot"
  • "Dial 'M' For Mother"
  • "Sherman, Woman and Child"
  • "I Can't Believe It's A Clip Show!"


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Ron Dicker (2009-05-31). "His Own Divine Comedy - 'Simpsons' Co-writer Moves Into Writing For Real Humans on the Big Screen Bristol Native Mike Reiss". The Courant: p. G3. 
  2. ^ Brown, Elisabeth A. (1992-01-09). "Harvard link binds 'Simpsons' writers". The Tampa Tribune: pp. 4. 
  3. ^ "He gets the credit for the birth of Bart". The Milwaukee Journal: p. 3. 1992-12-13. 
  4. ^ a b c d Suarez, Greg (2001-02-10). "Greg Suarez talks Simpsons with Al Jean". The Digital Bits. http://www.thedigitalbits.com/articles/simpsons/aljeaninterview.html. Retrieved 2010-01-05. 
  5. ^ "They're the Simpsons, man, but who the hell is Al Jean?". Canberra Times. 2005-07-30. 
  6. ^ a b Epstein, Daniel Robert. "Al Jean interview". UGO. http://www.ugo.com/channels/filmtv/features/aljean/. Retrieved 2010-01-05. 
  7. ^ a b c Jean, Al (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  8. ^ Reiss, Mike (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  9. ^ a b c d http://www.greatertalent.com/MikeReiss
  10. ^ Jean, Al (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Cape Feare" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  11. ^ Svetkey, Benjamin (1994-02-11). "Gotta Lovitz". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,301117,00.html. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  12. ^ Boedecker, Hal (1994-01-26). "The Critic is worthy follow-up to The Simpsons Animated series gets two thumbs-up". The Gazette. 
  13. ^ Carter, Bill (1994-01-13). "Reporter's Notebook; Top Hollywood Agency Reaches for the Stars Of Television News". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E06EED91331F930A25752C0A962958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=2. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  14. ^ "ABC-TV returns The Critic tonight". Toronto Star. 1994-06-01. 
  15. ^ Shister, Gail (1994-05-02). "The Critic finds new life, love on Fox". Toronto Star. 
  16. ^ a b c Brennan, Judy (1995-03-03). "Matt Groening's Reaction to The Critic's First Appearance on The Simpsons". Los Angeles Times (The Times Mirror Company). 
  17. ^ Uhlich, Keith (2004-02-03). "The Critic: The Complete Series". Slant Magazine. http://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/dvd_review.asp?ID=296. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  18. ^ Jean, Al (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  19. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0718514/
  20. ^ "About the DVD". The Simpsons Movie.com. 20th Century Fox. http://www.simpsonsmovie.com/main.html. Retrieved 2007-11-29.  On the main page, click on "About the DVD" then on "Production Notes".
  21. ^ Hard Drinkin' Lincoln
  22. ^ http://www.channel4.com/entertainment/tv/microsites/G/greatest/cartoons/results.html
  23. ^ Tom Heintjes. "Family Matters - The David Silverman Interview". MSNBC. http://cagle.msnbc.com/hogan/interviews/silverman.asp. Retrieved 2010-08-04. 
  24. ^ "My Life in Ruins". Chicago Sun-Times. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090603/REVIEWS/906039991. 
  25. ^ http://www.mysterywriters.org/?q=Edgars-PastWinners
  26. ^ "George Meyer". The Believer. September 2004. http://www.believermag.com/issues/200409/?read=interview_meyer. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 

External links

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