The wunderkind writer who was signed by Pixar - Features - Films - The Independent

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
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
Arts and Entertainment
Queen Christina left the judges baffled with her audition
X Factor
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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week