Sam Simon was born on June 6, 1955 in Los Angeles, California. He went on to work as a writer for the sitcoms Taxi and Cheers before becoming one of the co-creators of The Simpsons, the longest running animated series in TV history. He left the show in 1993 to helm other programming and went on to become a boxing manager and high-ranking poker player. Simon was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2012 and has continued to be a prominent force in animal rescue work, having also established the Sam Simon Foundation.
Early Years and Career
Sam Simon was born in 1995 in Los Angeles, California. The young Simon was raised in Beverly Hills, with his mother Joan owning an art gallery while his father Arthur ran a women’s clothing factory. Simon endured household conflict growing up, eventually becoming a high school athlete while earning much renown for his abilities as an illustrator. He attended Stanford University and graduated in 1977. By this time he had already published cartoons with California newspapers and took on a job with the animation company Filmation.
Co-Creator of 'The Simpsons'
Wanting to take his career in a different direction, Simon was brought on board for the critically-acclaimed sitcom Taxi after writing an episode for the show on spec. He went on to work with other comedy series as a writer and producer, including Cheers and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, before being called upon to help launch The Simpsons, made up of characters who originally inhabited animated shorts that were part of the lineup of The Tracey Ullman Show. The Simpsons made its debut in the holiday season of 1989 and has gone on to become the longest-running animated TV series in history, still on the air as of 2014 with 26 seasons under its belt.
Simon helmed the cartoon’s writing room though he and Simpsons creator Matt Groening ultimately did not get along. Simon left the show in 1993 and would win a slew of writing and producing Emmys for the program over the years, even after his departure. He later worked on The George Carlin Show and The Drew Carey Show and pursued other passions that included competing as a high-ranking poker player and managing the boxing career of heavyweight champ Lamon Brewster in 2004.
Simon has been married twice—to actress and fellow professional poker player Jennifer Tilly and to Jami Ferrell, a model and Playboy Playmate of the Month.
Charitable Causes and Cancer Diagnosis
Having earned tens of millions of dollars over the years from his share of Simpsons earnings, Simon invested in a number of charitable causes. With animal welfare one of his primary missions, he started the Sam Simon Foundation in 2002, which rescues animals from shelters and also provides service dogs for U.S. military veterans. He also made major contributions to Save the Children, PETA and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
"My new hobby in the twilight of my life, my rich man’s hobby, I should say, is liberating animals from abusive situations such as roadside zoos and circuses." -- Sam Simon
In 2012, after some time feeling ill, Simon was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. With the aid of a medical team who supervised his treatments, he was able to continue to focus on his relief work. He was dedicated to giving away his fortune to a number of charities while also receiving great support from friends and extended family. Simon died on March 9, 2015 at the age of 59.
"He was a genius and a great humanitarian in ways public and private. I personally owe him more than can be repaid, but I will do my best to help every animal I can in his memory," said Simpsons executive producer Al Jean in a statement.
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