John Swartzwelder: The Simpsons' Own J.D. Salinger

John Swartzwelder: The Simpsons' Own J.D. Salinger

Libertarian. Recluse. Smoker. Influential.

John Swartzwelder. Heard of him? I hadn't, until this mind-blowing Metafilter post by The Whelk. Swartzwelder is responsible for writing more (and more classic) Simpsons scripts than any other writer, is a famous recluse, and is currently embroiled in self-publishing a series of increasingly more intricate (and hilarious) science fiction novels. 
 
Swartzwelder is also a steak-eating, cigarette-smoking, mustache-wearing Libertarian, and although one of the co-creators of "Parks & Recreation" worked with Swartzwelder at The Simpsons, the official word is that Ron Swanson is NOT modeled after him. Even though the similarities are truly uncanny.
 
Record scratch!
 
I literally do not know where to begin. Let's go chronologically. Swartzwelder was born in 1950 and grew up in Renton, WA. He went to advertising school, started writing for Saturday Night Live, was recruited to work on an influential humor magazine, and was recruited from there to The Simpsons.

Swartzwelder cut quite the figure at The Simpsons. He is responsible for literally dozens of the show's most popular early episodes. He began his retreat from public life in 1994, when he was excused from attending rewrite sessions because they made the writing room no smoking. 
 
He retreated so far from the public that until recently, one of the leading theories among Simpsons fans in the know was that Swartzwelder was not a real person. Instead, the theory went, it was a pen name used by writers who wanted their names removed, or for group collaborations. The Alan Smithee of The Simpsons, basically.
 
Swartzwelder has refused to participate in DVD commentaries, despite the show's creators begging him to do so. But he has appeared on the show several times, in animated form. Wikipedia has a list of his appearances here. To quote Matt Groening, "Any time David Crosby appears in a scene for no apparent reason, it is really John Swartzwelder."
 
These days, Swartzwelder writes and self-publishes funny, absurdist science fiction books, which you can order on Amazon. If you like the screwball satire humor of early Simpsons episodes, you may want to check these out - they sound pretty fabulous!
 
I'll be honest with you… part of me is still convinced that John Swartzwelder is a hoax. It's just too good a story, isn't it? The thought of a real-life Ron Swanson being responsible for so many of the amazing early Simpsons episodes… it's too much. Or maybe I'm just jealous, because I aspire to the title of Famous Recluse some day.