Episode 263

Joel Cohen, Emmy-winning writer/producer "The Simpsons." and co-author "The Occasionally Accurate Annals of Football"

Published on: 14th September, 2023

Welcome to Joel Cohen, Emmy award-winning writer/producer "The Simpsons." and co-author "The Occasionally Accurate Annals of Football"

Joel Cohen's Background:

·      Joel is a writer and producer for "The Simpsons," having won three Emmys and a Peabody award. (we had a humorous exchange about the mystery of receiving a Peabody award)

The Occasionally Accurate Annals of Football:

·      Joel and Dan Patrick co-authored the book "The Occasionally Accurate Annals of Football."

·      Origin of the collaboration: Joel reached out to Dan Patrick with the idea for a funny book about football.

·      The book's release date was September 5, and they've been working on it for a year and a half.

·      Joel praises Dan Patrick's humor and willingness to collaborate.

Book Content and Style:

·      The book is a humorous take on NFL history, including true stories, jokes, and baseless conspiracies.

·      Covers every team, player, and many Superbowl moments.

·      Features contributions from writers of popular shows like "Saturday Night Live," "The Simpsons," and more.

·      The book blends recollections, funny moments, and anecdotes about football.

·      We discuss how collaboration is key in both TV writing and book writing.

 Favorite Book Passage:

·      Joel reads a passage from the book about Don Malbach, the Detroit Lions' long snapper, adding humor and illustrations.

·      Emphasizes how humor and storytelling contribute to the book's narrative.

Business of Writing and Entertainment:

·      Discusses the ongoing strike in the entertainment industry.

·      Addresses the need to ensure that writing remains a viable career path.

·      Mentions AI as a looming threat to writers and actors.

·      Talks about the importance of fair compensation for creators.

Future Trends in Entertainment:

·      Recognizes the fragmentation of content and the rise of niche audiences.

·      Highlights the potential impact of AI on content creation.

·      Mentions the need for creators to adapt to changing media landscapes.

Future Projects:

·      Expresses interest in writing another book and exploring other movie and TV ideas.

·      Discusses how the strike has temporarily frozen some of his projects but remains creatively active.

Joel's Website

@sportswrong on Instagram

Thanks to the folks at HEADFONE for their support. On HEADFONE, you can listen to Premium Audio dramas - like Romance, Thriller, and Horror.

For a 10% discount, use coupon code - MARKCREATIVITY10

Go to - https://headfone.page.link/MARKCREATIVITY10


My guest is Joel Cohen. Joel, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much. I'm proud to represent a million baseless conspiracies.

I love that. If you know the work of the Simpsons, then you know this award winning writer and producer has worked on the Simpsons for so and continues to work on the Simpsons and won three Emmys for it.

And as you say in your bio, even a Peabody, I don't know how that happened, but That's

fantastic. It's it's a mystery to me and the Peabody Awards Commission as well. All of us are upset about it.

They'll never live it down, right? No, exactly. The project that we're talking about today is a great new book, The Occasionally Accurate Annals of Football.

And you've co [:

We ought to write a book that has some truth and a lot of non truth about football.

The one thing Dan Patrick doesn't have is the ability to say no to cold calls. And he regrets it now. He's up at night, why didn't I say no to that idiot? But here we are. No, I'm a huge sports fan. And consequently, I'm a huge Dan Patrick fan.

And I literally just reached out to him about a year and a half ago and said I had this idea for a, what I think will be a funny book gave him a few examples and I guess to his credit or detriment, he said, that sounds great. Let's do it. We've been working on it together for say a year and a half and it's out September 5th.

And I think it turned out well, I can say that until September 5th when people find out I'm wrong, but let's enjoy it now, we're in the honeymoon period.

certainly a fun and humorous [:

The fun of it is. It's a little bit of a mix because yeah, everything is based in truth. The entire history of the NFL is in there, of course, with a lot of comedy and a few mistruths in the form of jokes along the way. We talk about every team. We talk about every player. We talk about many Superbowl moments.

As you said, baseless conspiracies, but behind things that happened a few things that didn't happen. And the last thing I'll throw in the mix is we also wrangled in a. Sort of star studded group of writers from shows like Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, of course, Modern Family, Big Bang Theory, et cetera, who all contributed little snippets and little essays as well.

So it has a fun texture of people recollecting on their own love affairs with football and funny moments in

I thought this contribution [:

The whole book is one giant collaboration. And I think sometimes people don't appreciate that about creativity. You think we're coming up with something funny in the room all by ourselves. And all of a sudden, it shows up on TV or in a book.

No, as I've learned from, being a TV writer for, say, 25 years.

I have nothing to add, so I need other people to add things for me, but just literally, as you said, being in a writer's room, for example, everything great that's on the screen is 100% the product of collaboration. Of course, there's the incredible rare moment if somebody had a great joke of their own on a script, but even then people will adjust it, futz with it a little bit and also set the stage for it to make it even better by the rest of the script.

So I've come to learn that a lot of people think TV writing is competitive, and I always. Correct them and say quite the opposite. It's incredibly collaborative. Yes.

our experiences or a joke or [:

We all love and watch football. We all know something about the players and the teams. But did they say, I, Oh yeah, I got a story that I can't wait to tell you.

Yeah, and you mean just to obviously to make sure there was no redundancies. I talked to everybody, but everyone that contributed has a memory or something funny about football that they wanted to talk to.

We have some people just talking about Adam Sandler, for example, writes the forward about how he's a huge Jets fan and another guy writes about how he turned out to be a Vikings fan. And just the childhood memories and people talking about who's who on the sideline and Super Bowl memories.

So it's just people were able to draw on what they thought was. Memorable, but also funny rule today. Hopefully. Yes. And in

terms of, the craftsmanship, in this show, we'd like to really explore the creativity behind the work. When you said, look, let's put this together.

How do you bring all that together? What was your process to collect the anecdotes and then say, we got to make sense of all

s a bit of a tricky thing to [:

Just free floating comedy is great, but people like a bit of a narrative to pin it on. So I tried to lay out the history of the NFL as a bit of the narrative and then on that spine pepper in talking about every team, every player, and then have these essays also just pop in between decades of the history of the league.

So I was able to just reach out to people that I know that I was friends with and Dan had brought in a few people he worked with Adam Sandler. And we just talked about what, what resonates with you, but also what fits into the book. And it all turned out to, to hopefully achieve both of those things.


And it's interesting. You mentioned this kind of, that it all comes together. Almost every creative practitioner I talked to talks about storytelling, that there's an arc, there's a plot, there's a story to this. Did you have a sense of that going in or did it develop over time?

his idea of I agree. I think [:

There's a lot of stuff of making fun of let's say statistics. We're talking about the draft. We're talking about these free form aspects of football, but how do you keep it all together? So there is a bit of a thrust taking us through as if it were a story. And that's where that idea of using the history of the NFL kind of became that storyline all the way from, when college football and I'm putting that in air quotes, if people listen closely, they can hear the air quotes.

was played at colleges in the:

And of course, we know it now it's, this thing that is a multi billion dollar industry and maybe people [00:07:00] can follow that's the story. And then along the way, we have many fun stops looking at the nuances and idiocies of the game. Yes.

As we think about the craftsmanship and the way it all came together, I would love for you to share a passage of the book and, one of your favorite parts.

Is this a good time for me to admit I can't read? Yeah, . It's,

it's a little uncomfortable, but yes, you

could admit that. Now I'm just gonna move my lips and maybe we'll get a professional reader to fill in the blanks. I just open to any random page. And I'm on page 54 where we're talking about amazing Detroit Lions, which people may be shocked to hear there are even any amazing Detroit Lions, but there's a very quick passage.

ing kicker Malbach retired in:

For ten dollars, he'll snap your baby into its car seat. Price varies depending on baby's weight and oddly middleman. And then there's a lovely drawing of him snapping a baby through his legs.

Yes, and this sets the tone for the whole book.

That is I flash forward to 100 years from now, students of literature parsing that paragraph, looking for the wisdom behind it.


And what did he really mean? Was the baby a symbol for something else?

It was probably a typo. Really, that's what the truth is.

Probably a typo. Yes, that's a good example of, here's a little story, and yet it contributes to this whole, because otherwise it's a soundbite. And it's that's stand up comedy.

It's that was a good joke, but what's the whole point? Did you find yourself checking in then

tulations on retirement, but [:

And there also is an illustration in this case to bring it out more. So it rounds out what is normally just like a. A dry statistic about this guy who almost had the longest career ever as a long snapper And again, like you said a stand up comic Hopefully it fleshes it out and that all falls in the detroit lion section Which falls in the decade in which the detroit lions were founded So it's adding texture and color hopefully to this storyline that we're telling about the league Yes.

And how did your co author Dan Patrick, as he's going through this yeah, he's got an attitude. He's got a twist. He's got a sense of humor but did he really say, I don't, I'll say put my name on this, but he's telling the history of football from a whole different perspective.

How did those two things clash or and or melt.

en nothing but thrilled with [:

That's one of the reasons I went to him because in the world of sports, there's not a lot of people that are also funny. They're, funny adjacent, but not really funny. And I think Dan's actually did one of. Very few exceptions that you know, he's on his show every day He's quite humorous and I knew he'd get it and he's been in a bunch of movies A little bit of a teaser.

He's going to be in a simpsons episode in the fall as well so he was great and he contributed he had some thoughts and notes and cuts and edits But he also had some great ideas. There's a thing in the book comparing tom brady's diet to The old quarterback, Kenny Stabler's diet, who, Kenny Stabler as the book details, one of the items he ate for lunch was a bacon wrapped cigarette, right?

er bring to a tailgate party.[:

One of them that comes to my head is kale, especially if you keep calling it a superfood. So just like funny things like that. And then a bunch of other ideas that all became sections of the book. And he pitched a funny thing about penalties. The book is a collaboration, 100%. And I'm thrilled, first of all, to have his name on the cover.

But he was a great partner the whole way through. That's great.

And it is funny with, what you would call half truths, as it says on the book jacket. But were the Carolina Panthers originally a book club? Things like this.

Yes. I think we can reveal...

Actually, that could have


I don't know if you have a breaking news soundbite, but I think I can reveal they were never a book club. Da That's right. We've just

exposed one of the half

truths. That might be like an eighth of a truth. I don't even know. We'd have to do the math.

and contrast between, it's a [:

We got to get it out. We got to get it done versus a book. Like we want to put this together. It's a whole different approach, I would assume for you, but what were the differences for you?

Yeah, it's a great question. I've found that I enjoyed writing the book because it's just me which is, a negative, but also a positive.

You don't get a lot of notes or interference until the point that you do, of course. But when you're writing a TV episode, it's very much a team effort to the to its benefit and also a little bit to the I suppose if someone would get frustrated about having their gold reworked by everyone else, but I've come to appreciate both because on a TV show, like you said, there is a deadline.

We normally do 22 episodes a year. We have 15 people working madly on all of them, plus our amazing animators and our amazing actors and everyone else associated with the show. But there is a deadline and a sense of thrust that at some point, I don't want to say good enough is good enough, but it does need to move forward in a certain schedule.

ook, of course, it now has a [:

Very singular versus very collaborative. Albeit with these other people contributing, which may get collaborative as well, but I didn't edit their work very much at all. So yeah, I had the same experience.

And maybe Joel, this leads us to the business of writing. And as we're talking now, the business, we usually look at comedy writers, especially and go, man, that, what a great job.

It's all fun and games. But there is a business side. And as we speak, we're in the middle of a little work stoppage an argument over the value of writing and that what it contributes to the creative content and how it creates millions and millions of dollars of revenue and.

Equity for brands. Weigh in a little bit on the business side of writing from your experience and your point of view. Yeah,

is where I think, if I'm not [:

And. There's a lot of nuance and little, specific issues of the strike, but ultimately it's at the core is that idea of we would love writing to remain a viable job for people that are just starting. And of course, people like myself that hope to continue and the way that the things are heading.

And frankly, for a lot of people, the way things are right now, it is not viable economically. To be a writer and, people maybe have an impression that there's writers that have, multi million dollar homes and yes, some do, but they do because they've created shows that have created multi million dollar homes for producers and studios, but many don't.

incomes with a very unstable [:

So yeah it's a big issue and you, and I'm the last thing, forgive me, but the actors are on strike for the exact same reason. It's really become impossible to be an actor that, except for one of the, you know, 40, 50, 60 super famous A list actors, and it is not a career. And everyone is just trying to fight to say.

We believe these are valuable. You guys know they're valuable because you are tapping into writers and actors every day. It serves us all well to ensure that there is a community of these people that are able to do this job and willing and wanting to do this job at a high level. Let's just find a way to make it financially equitable for that to happen.

And looking a little

skin in the game, you'll be [:

Would you? Would you take a bet on yourself? And I would always say yes, but it never really turned out at the end that it was an equitable bet, but I can only imagine these conversations. Now, maybe at one level, it's where you take a bet on the whole film or, whatever the case might be.

But there are opportunities, right? Let me just ask from a business standpoint, can you get a stake? Can you get a piece of the action?

Without getting too technical, people might be familiar with the term of residuals, which is like when I write an episode of the Simpsons, every time that is re monetized, whether it be on network television or streaming, I get a little bit of money.

some money, but the way the [:

There's these stories right now of people, actors mostly, who have been on hit shows showing the residual checks of 27 or 1 or 30 cents. And so that bet has just disappeared because of the business side. So now that this is again about recalibrating that, so that bet is a fair bet and does genuinely pay off when you make more money, we make more money and it's what we were hoping for an outcome, but we're not there yet.


and I guess the same thing in radio and music, if it's the 0. 001 cent per airtime, that's not the same kind of residuals that maybe the artists were used to

in the past. Yeah, 100%. And I, there's been all these fights in the music world about streaming revenue versus radio play, et cetera.

And it's the same argument. And hopefully there's a resolution that is fair on all sides. But yeah,

the Venn diagram of football [:

A hundred percent. And I talk about in the book a little bit about there's been strikes in the NFL, there's been replacing players NFL and it's this exact same thing. No one people generally think about NFL players and think these guys are millionaires, but a lot. Yes, some are, but there's a ton of people that aren't.

And it's an incredibly risky career. And dare I say, so is writing. So is acting. And it's short lived, like these careers as well. So everyone's just trying to get their piece of the pie while they can. So the book has all that. There's a joke about a fictional owner strike one time, where they have signs that say one yacht is not enough.

nd just talk about the sheer [:

And then there's, I propose a NFL player senior league as a stupid business investment at the end of that. But anyhow, so yeah, it just does talk about how it is a business. And I hope again that these guys. Recognize it as such and balance risk and reward and there is some reward to balance it with.

Maybe we can sandwich we started with a lot of fun. We talked a lot of business in the middle. Maybe now as we head out the other end of the podcast, let's think more ahead of the future of entertainment, comedy, as a writer yourself looking at the business, what's ahead and what are the trends, in development?

How is the new, entertainment

stion. Again for people that [:

It can write a book, maybe better than the book I've written. It can actually, for actors, it's even a bigger threat because it can scan people's likeness and then just... Have them say whatever it wants them to say, move them however it wants them to move. So that's a negative trend that everyone's trying to stave off.

At the moment, I don't think it's at the level that I would like to think a computer can, let's say, write a joke or an emotional story as well as a human can, but technology obviously changes. So the, and then just, far as trends in content. Everything is so fragmented now, and the audiences are so small, except for a few exceptions.

have to find it, and then if [:

You have an audience might be out there, but it's a smaller audience, but you do have that ability to touch them and connect with them, not just on traditional streaming and broadcast TV, but obviously new media as well. Yes, I don't know if that answers the question, but it's a long answer. Give the length of the answer or credit, not the quality.

Absolutely. The more the better. Exactly.


We were talking about collaboration. You mentioned all these other great writers contributed to the book. I was curious if any new collaborations might have come out of this. When Adam talks to Andy who calls Joel, what new things might come out?

I don't know about that. I do propose a way to fix the New York Jets. Spoiler alert that ends with them moving to Portland. So maybe that's a great collaboration of minds that have somehow saved the New York Jets from their track record. There's probably some dumb ideas in here that we'll look back on in four years and we're like, wow, that guy nailed it.

You know what a great idea. But I guess that remains to be seen. How about that?

I love that. Yeah. [:

Yes, exactly. For the next little while, I plan to walk in a circle with a stick in my sand by cars in front of a studio.

I would love to do another book. So I do hope that people like this and it's well received. And Dan and I have talked about maybe, addressing other sports down the road. But of course, depends pending on how well this does. I'm always working on other stuff. Some other movie ideas.

They're all frozen, of course, at the moment because of the strike. But yes, this strike will end at some point. Let's hope. And then I do have a bunch of other stuff I'd like to try as well. Movies, TV ideas, et cetera. Just always, unfortunately, even though my career is on strike, my brain isn't. So it's keeps cranking out bad ideas.

That's the thing about you can't stop it. Exactly. It just means the producing part. Should have given us lobotomies just to put our minds in a jar until we're done and then return them to us afterwards. But they wouldn't do that. They're so selfish. Yeah, that's fantastic.

Joel, what a [:

I really appreciate you coming on the show. My

pleasure. Thank you so much. And I hope you and anyone listening enjoys the book. Thank

you. I know. I know they will. Folks, my guest has been Joel Cohen. He's a co author with Dan Patrick of a great new book, the occasionally accurate annals of football.

It is full of highlights and plays and stories as well as scandals and half baked theories and, other things that, hey, we've all sat around a bar talking about these made up stories anyway, so we might as well put them in a book. Creative people come back again.

We're going to continue these around the world journeys to talk to creative practitioners. We love to hear how ideas get inspired, how they get organized, and most of all, how we can gain the confidence and the connections to launch our work out into the world. So until next time, I'm Mark Stinson, and we'll be unlocking your world of creativity.

We'll see you soon.

Next Episode All Episodes Previous Episode
Show artwork for Your World of Creativity

About the Podcast

Your World of Creativity
Catalyst of Inspiration, Stories, and Tools to Get Your Work Out Into the World
On YOUR WORLD OF CREATIVITY, best-selling author and global brand innovator, Mark Stinson introduces you to some of the world’s leading creative talent from publishing, film, animation, music, restaurants, medical research, and more.

In every episode, you'll discover:
- How to tap into your most original thinking.
- Inspiration from the experts’ own experience.
- Specific tools, exercises, and formulas to organize your ideas.
- And most of all, you’ll learn how to make connections

 and create opportunities to publish, post, record, display, sell, market, and promote
 your creative work.

Listen for the latest insights for creative people who want to stop questioning themselves and overcome obstacles to launch their creative endeavors out into the world.

Connect with Mark at www.Mark-Stinson.com

About your host

Profile picture for Mark Stinson

Mark Stinson

Mark Stinson has earned the reputation as a “brand innovator” -- an experienced marketer, persuasive writer, dynamic presenter, and skilled facilitator. His work includes brand strategy and creative workshops. He has contributed to the launches of more than 150 brands, with a focus on health, science, and technology companies. Mark has worked with clients ranging from global corporations to entrepreneurial start-ups. He is a recipient of the Brand Leadership Award from the Asia Brand Congress and was included in the PharmaVoice 100 Most Inspiring People in the Life-Sciences Industry.