The Simpsons: How the show's writers predict the future

They're the most-famous animated family on the planet and have been entertaining viewers for more than 30 years.

From celebrity cameos and sometimes predicting the future, The Simpsons set the benchmark for other animated sitcoms.

"You're in a room with 10 to 20 really funny people," writer Al Jean tells Radio 1 Newsbeat. He's been with Bart and the rest of the family since 1989 when the show began.

"So maybe the best thing is when Trump does something stupid and you've got a lot of people who can make jokes about it right away."

"But," he says, "there are definitely a lot of distractions".

The Simpsons
20TH CENTURY FOX
The Simpsons raised the idea of a Trump presidency several times before he was president
 



Working on the programme is like group therapy.

"There is so much going on in the world that we have to come in and talk about it," Stephanie Gillis, another of the show's writers, tells us.

"That's why I think we end up talking about the show a lot outside of work, because so much of what is going on in the world ends up on the show."

That's not all - things that haven't yet happened also have a tendency to end up on the show.

In recent years The Simpsons have given us a glimpse into the future - including the prediction that Donald Trump would become President.

They predicted the Ebola crisis, smartphones and even Lady Gaga performing at the Superbowl.
 

Al Jean and Stephanie Gillis
GETTY IMAGES
Al Jean and Stephanie Gillis are two of the writers on The Simpsons - and they're also married
 


"With the Trump one in 2000 we were looking for a funny celebrity who would be president," explains Al.

It wasn't as left-field as you may think - President Trump had already said back then he'd consider running for office at some point in the future.

The show's apparent knack for predicting the future provided a field day for conspiracy theorists when an episode long before the terror attacks on 11 September 2001 saw the Simpsons head to New York City.

"They bought a guide book on New York that had the words 9 dollars on it next to a picture of the Twin Towers, so it looked like 9/11 - but it was totally coincidental," Al says.
 

Lady Gaga performing at the Superbowl
GETTY IMAGES
nLady Gaga performed at the Superbowl on The Simpsons years before it actually happened
 


There have been hundreds of episodes and many plotlines about the future but they don't think the outcomes are as crazy as some fans think.

"If you make enough predictions then 10% will turn out to be right," Al suggests.

"We are sort of futurologists in that we write 10 months ahead, so we're trying to guess what is going to happen," adds Stephanie.

The Simpsons is as famous for predicting the future as it is for it's incredible list of celebrity cameos.

From Chris Martin to Mark Zuckerberg, there have been more than 800 guest appearances.

And it's become an "I've made it" moment for many celebrities. Al says they are always surprised how enthusiastic people from the UK are.

One of their favourite memories is of recording former British Prime Minister Tony Blair inside 10 Downing Street.
 

Tony Blair and Homer Simpson
tFOX
Al and Steph were tasked with keeping Tony's Simpsons involvement secret
"Alistair Campbell [his press secretary] came out and he said we had to



keep it all very secret," Al recalls.

"We wanted to take a picture outside and when we did there were photographs being taken of us by a guy lurking in the bushes.

"I was supposed to keep it a secret and then it was on the front page of the news.

"It was so sneaky but we think it was set up by Alistair Campbell," laughs Steph. "They definitely planned it."

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