The Quiet Genius of George Meyer

George is one of these people who is constantly giving away jokes, sharing ideas, letting other people take credit for the work that was done collectively.

George Meyer is one of the most brilliant comedic talents, I think, of our generation.  He’s described by many as the funniest man behind the Simpsons, which is often rated as the funniest show in TV history.  

George Meyer has this remarkable story of having worked on over 300 Simpsons episodes and only been credited as a writer on 12 of them.  And yet he ended up really receiving a lot of credit ultimately for his contributions behind the scenes.  I think one of the ways that this happened was George is one of these people who is constantly giving away jokes, sharing ideas, letting other people take credit for the work that was done collectively.

And a lot of people really were grateful for that.  Over time most people, it turns out I find in my research, are matchers, for example, they try to maintain an even balance of give and take.  So quid pro quo, reciprocity, if I help you, you help me. 

And a matcher really hates to see somebody get away with being a taker.  Somebody can be completely selfish and take advantage of someone else and get away with it.  And so a matcher will almost always try to punish that person and find ways to make sure that, you know, they can’t get away with exploiting other people.  Well, just as a matcher hates to see, you know, really selfish people get away with it, a matcher also feels like if you’re generous and you don’t get rewarded that somehow violates their sense of justice in the world.

And so matchers tend to go around actually promoting and supporting and spreading positive reputational information about these very generous givers.  Now I believe that’s part of what happened to George Meyer.  Over time when people started to ask, you know, "Who really makes the Simpsons successful?" – there are a lot of matchers out there who would say, “George is adding a lot of value, not taking any credit for it and we need to talk about what a great source of insight and comedic jokes he was.”

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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