Sam Simon, a co-creator of The Simpsons and a veteran of the television industry for over four decades, passed away at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday following a long battle with colorectal cancer. He was 59. The writer, cartoonist, producer, showrunner, poker player and philanthropist had been diagnosed with terminal cancer since late 2012, Variety reports.
In a series of tweets, Simpsons showrunner Al Jean wrote, “Just heard terrible news of death of [Simon]. A great man; I owe him everything. If you would like to honor Sam’s memory, do something nice for the next animal you meet. An enormous loss.” Jean also told Variety, “Sam Simon taught me everything about animation writing, and even more about life.”
Simon got his start as a newspaper cartoonist before he submitted a spec script for the sitcom Taxi in the early Eighties; within two years, he was elevated to the role of that series’ showrunner. It was on Taxi that he first worked with producer James L. Brooks, who would later serve as the co-creator of The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987. Brooks recruited Simon and cartoonist Matt Groening to create an animated segment to feature within the Ullman show, which in turn gave birth to The Simpsons.
While Simon’s tenure on The Simpsons, where he served as creative supervisor, ended in 1993 after four seasons, his input shaped the series into the long-running, globally beloved cultural behemoth that it is today. Simon helped develop the world of Springfield and its famous denizens so much that, even after he exited the series over 22 years ago, Simon is still credited as an executive producer on the series, which has run for 568 episodes and counting.
Simon, who won nine Primetime Emmy Awards for his work in television, also played pivotal roles on series such as Cheers, The George Carlin Show, The Drew Carey Show and, most recently, the Charlie Sheen vehicle Anger Management.
Since he was an executive producer on one of the most syndicated TV shows ever, Simon was able to indulge in two passions: poker playing and philanthropy. The cartoonist frequently competed in the World Series of Poker tournaments, and according to the Wrap, donated over $100 million to charities that supported animal rights, including his own Sam Simon Foundation.