SAM SIMON. PHOTO CREDIT: DENISE REISS.
Sotheby’s is honoured to present memorabilia from the personal collection of television legend Samuel "Sam" Simon (1955-2015). This dedicated auction will offer a unique window into Simon’s colourful life, including illustrations, comics, boxing-related material, and other items from the many shows he worked on during his career. While widely known and celebrated as a writer/producer/director on countless pop culture icons of the small screen, Simon's passions extended beyond television to include a notable run as a boxing manager, as well as a lasting legacy as a champion of animal rights. Full proceeds from the sale of his collection will benefit the multi-platform Sam Simon Charitable Giving Foundation, which supports both animal welfare programs and poverty alleviation and disaster relief organizations.
One of Simon’s greatest acknowledged contributions to The Simpsons was its legendary writers’ room, which included what would become some of comedy’s most celebrated minds, including Conan O’Brien, Jon Vitti, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jay Kogen, and Greg Daniels. One of its original members, George Meyer, who joined The Simpsons as a writer in 1989, told us how he remembers Simon both as a comic genius and a friend.
Sam was a visionary who flew by instinct. He somehow sensed that America was ready for a bolder and more incisive animated show, and he crafted it with astute choices. What were the rules? Could the Simpsons defy physics, like Wile E. Coyote? What townspeople would we need to create? For Homer, how stupid was too stupid? Should the show aim for topicality or timelessness? Sam made these tricky creative decisions, and a thousand more. In a room of opinionated weirdoes, his judgment was seldom questioned.
SAM SIMON'S "THE SIMPSONS" JACKET, CIRCA 1990. ESTIMATE $500–700.
Early on, I remember someone pitching a joke about Homer's body odor. In a small, slow, pained voice, Sam replied, “I don’t like that Homer smells bad.” He was right, and after that we didn’t do cheap B.O. jokes. (We did other kinds of cheap jokes.)
With talent and taste, Sam elevated the lowly cartoon show to the top tier of TV comedy. He challenged and cajoled us to do our strongest work. How could we not? The network was giving us near-total freedom, and the viewers were showering us with daisies. And most vitally, we had a true comic genius at the helm. Sam’s influence on modern comedy is incalculable. He took a broom to the cobwebs of cliché and inspired funny people worldwide to reach dizzier heights.
COLOUR PHOTO OF LAMON BREWSTER, DON KING, AND SAM SIMON. ESTIMATE $50–75.
The happiest I ever saw Sam was the night his protégé Lamon Brewster won the WBO heavyweight championship in Las Vegas. When Lamon scored a TKO over Wladimir Klitschko, Sam rocketed out of his seat in giddy joy. When Sam had a passion, he would hurl himself into it until he got to the tippy-top.
Sam was a sagacious art collector and especially loved “T.P. and Jake” by Thomas Hart Benton. He would beam as he talked about it. A detail from the painting adorns his mobile veterinary clinic. One afternoon Sam was showing us his garden. He gleefully told us he’d solved the problem of birds landing on, and befouling, his beloved sculptures. “Rubber snakes! Ninety-nine cents! They work!"
“Sam made these tricky creative decisions, and a thousand more. In a room of opinionated weirdoes, his judgment was seldom questioned.”
Sam was deeply proud of his contributions to The Simpsons. If he liked you, he would bring out his original drawings for Mr. Burns and other classic Simpsons characters. He'd glow with delight as he told you how he came up with them.
It’s hard to accept that Sam is truly gone. I feel blessed that we shared so many laughs, with each other and with the world.
MAD MAGAZINE "A MAD PEEK BEHIND THE SCENES AT 'THE SIMPSONS' STUDIO" LITHOGRAPH CIRCA 1989. ESTIMATE $200–400.