The wunderkind writer who was signed by Pixar

At 28, Simon Rich is the hottest property in Hollywood. Sarah Hughes meets him

A glance at Simon Rich’s CV is enough to induce career vertigo. He’s written for both The New Yorker and Saturday Night Live, has published five books  (the most recent is out this month), has seen his first novel, Ant Farm: And Other  Desperate Situations, optioned by in-demand director Jason Reitman, and is currently working for Pixar.

It’s the sort of career a fortysomething would happily lay claim to: Rich has just turned 28 and with his tousled hair, rumpled clothing and fresh face could pass for 18. “It doesn’t bother me that I look so young – I think it makes the bar a little lower,” he admits with an engaging grin. “After all, I don’t think my novels are particularly impressive but for a  12-year-old they’re astounding…”

Self-deprecation is Rich’s default stance. Asked how he started off in comedy he says: “When I was a teenager, I’d try to write horror and people would read it and burst into laughter, so I got the message early on.” It’s a position he possibly developed to ward off accusations of privilege. For just as there is no doubting Rich’s precocity – he wrote for Mad magazine while still at college and was hired to write for Saturday Night Live at 22 – so there is no getting away from his background. He is the son of the political columnist Frank Rich (who provided expert help to Armando Iannucci for Veep) and the stepson of New York Times feature writer Alex Witchel. He was educated at Manhattan’s prestigious the Dalton School on the Upper East Side and went from there to Harvard, where he edited the university’s satirical magazine, The Harvard Lampoon.

Small wonder then that not everyone is overjoyed at his success – Gawker once dedicated a post to him headlined “Should Nepotism Annoy Us?” – yet even those who rail against his upbringing are forced to admit his talent (that same Gawker piece hailed his “undeniable comedic flair and imagination”).

“I’m incredibly lucky to write for a living,” Rich admits, adding that he understands the nepotism backlash. “Because of that I don’t take it for granted and work really hard because every day I worry I’ll be forced to get a real job.”

He attributes his success to a love of childish things: “I always wanted to be Roald Dahl and the biggest single influence on my writing is The Simpsons,” he says, adding “the best jokes, or at least my favourites, are ones that are universal about human relationships.”

He has an eye too for the small  absurdities of life – his well-reviewed second novel, What in God’s Name: A Novel, depicted God as the boss from hell “irrational, temperamental,  arrogant, emotionally needy” and took aim at corporate American culture. His  latest book, The Last Girlfriend on Earth and Other Love Stories, a collection of witty, off-kilter love stories, includes a tale in which Sherlock Holmes fails to understand his girlfriend is cheating on him. He drew inspiration for the stories from The Magnetic Fields’ darkly witty 1999 album, 69 Love Songs. “Basically, it’s my attempt to rip Stephin Merritt [the singer/songwriter of the Magnetic Fields] off… even though it’s the weirdest book I’ve written, it’s also the most honest and probably the sappiest.”

As to the future, he’s unable to say much about the new Pixar movie – “I’m prepared to take on God but not Disney’s lawyers” – but admits working there is a dream fulfilled. Given his growing success a job writing for The Simpsons surely can’t be far off? He laughs. “Yes, it would be a dream come true but I’m not counting on that, it would be enough just to take a tour.”

‘The Last Girlfriend on Earth and Other Love Stories’ by Simon Rich is published by Serpent’s Tail on  31 January, £9.99

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum