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'The Simpsons' writer teams up with gay son to pen landmark episode featuring Smithers finding love

Smithers will get his first-ever boyfriend in the Fox animated show's upcoming episode airing on Sunday, November 21.

'The Simpsons' writer teams up with gay son to pen landmark episode featuring Smithers finding love
Cover Image Source: (L)IMDb, (R)Twitter/Johnny LaZebnik

Waylon Joseph Smithers Jr. has finally found love! According to New York Post, the buttoned-up character from 'The Simpsons' will get his first-ever boyfriend in the Fox animated show's upcoming episode that airs on Sunday, November 21. While this is an exciting time for Mr. Burns' deeply devoted personal assistant, executive, and self-proclaimed best friend, the latest development in Smithers' story arch is also a full-circle moment for longtime series writer Rob LaZebnik whose son, Johnny, inspired him to write Smithers' big coming-out episode in 2016. The father-son duo worked hand-in-hand to pen this upcoming installment, in which Smithers (voiced by Harry Shearer) hooks up with a new boyfriend, billionaire fashion mogul Michael De Graaf (played by guest star Victor Garber).

"To be able to work with Johnny on this was, like, such a dream and to be able to see how truly funny and talented he is was just, you know, super fun and rewarding," 59-year-old LaZebnik said of joining forces with his son for this special project. Meanwhile, Johnny, who has carved a niche as a TV writer since graduating from college in 2016, described the experience of working with his supportive father as "spectacular," "fulfilling," and "an honor."



 

"I know my dad is a comedy writer. I grew up with him—obviously, I know he's a funny guy," the 27-year-old said. "But actually getting to sit down and write jokes with him was so much fun. And there were some moments where I was like, 'Dad, that's disgusting—we can't put that on television,' which I didn't expect to be saying because I'm usually the disgusting one. We now have this piece of content that we put into the world together that is a combined brainpower of the two of us."

Image Source: IMDb

Speaking to The Post when Smithers came out after 27 years in the closet on 'The Simpsons,' LaZebnik said: "I am a Midwestern guy, so I don't tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve, but I thought, 'What better way to tell my son I love him than to write a cartoon about it?'" Johnny, who was a senior psych major and film minor at Wesleyan University at the time, said: "The revelation that my father loves me is not much of a revelation, thankfully. He's unbelievably accepting. We're as close as a straight dad and a gay son could be."

Image Source: IMDb

The young writer, who has worked on animation projects including the Paramount+ 'Rugrats' reboot and the upcoming Disney Junior show 'Eureka!,' now says that making a real impact in how pop culture handles gay romance is very important to him. "So often, gay romances are a subplot or alluded to or shown in some kind of montage or as a punchline. And what I think I was really excited about, with this episode, we get to see—without spoiling too much—the beginning, middle, and who knows how it ends of a gay relationship, of really getting into the nitty-gritty of how gay people date, how they meet, what it's like," he said. "That was really special to me to get to highlight characters who are not punchlines, who are fully formed."



 

Garber, who gives voice to Smithers' love interest Michael De Graaf, admitted that he personally felt the significance of taking on the animated role. "I think it's crucially important that these stories are acknowledged," the 72-year-old said. "I haven't played a lot of gay characters, but every time I do it, it brings back certain feelings I had as a young actor where I couldn't be gay." The actor, who married his longtime partner, artist Rainer Andreesen, in 2015, added that the animated role "was kind of a reminder of how much things have changed and also how I've evolved. In my journey to find self-acceptance, self-love, it's a definite significant part of it."

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