By day, Liz Climo works on the animated TV show The Simpsons, where she's a character artist and storyboard revisionist. Off the clock, she draws comics of cute animals with human aspirations — some of which have been gathered into children's books. Her latest is called Rory The Dinosaur Needs A Christmas Tree.
Given all the time she's spent illustrating members of the Simpson family, we thought we'd ask her about Jessica Simpson — the pop star.
Click the audio link above to see how she does.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we ask nice people about unpleasant things. It's called Not My Job. So Liz Climo got turned down for the animation program at a school but then immediately got hired as an animator at "The Simpsons." She started posting drawings she made on a blog. She got hired by a greeting card company, making her one of the most popular illustrators in the world right now. She's also a best-selling children's author.
Liz Climo, welcome to WAIT, WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
LIZ CLIMO: Thank you.
SAGAL: So I want to establish who you are because people, I think, may not know your name, but they know your designs. You're famous for your cards and drawings that involve very cheerful, if somewhat socially awkward, animals.
CLIMO: That's right. I guess the way I try to describe it to people is it's kind of like "Far Side," only a little cuter and not nearly as funny.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Boy, I hope you don't pitch yourself usually.
MO ROCCA: I hope you have an agent.
POUNDSTONE: Yeah, yeah. Her cartoons are really funny.
CLIMO: (Laughter) Thank you.
SAGAL: But for many years, you were...
CLIMO: Yeah, I started a blog at, probably, about now seven years ago and just started doing these little drawings just for fun of animals. And then sort of organically it turned into comics because I've always liked comics growing up. And so yeah, it - that sort of has turned into a lot of other things for me, so it's been very exciting.
SAGAL: In all the time, you were working as an animator on "The Simpsons," right?
CLIMO: That's right. Yeah, I actually just recently left my job on "The Simpsons," and I was there for almost 14 years.
SAGAL: Was that...
POUNDSTONE: And when you left, was it because something happened? Was it - like, did you draw something wrong?
CLIMO: Oh, I wish I had a story that good. No, it was really just that I had to sort of - I came to a point where I had to choose between doing that and then just kind of focusing on my own work.
JOHN HODGMAN: You had 14 good years there, and you had to choose something new for yourself or another 35 good years of "The Simpsons."
SAGAL: Yeah, exactly.
SAGAL: I do like the idea, though - the image of, like, Matt Groening bursting in the room, going, who gave Bart five fingers?
SAGAL: Your characters on your - well, first your blog and now your greeting cards and your books - do the characters all have names? Do you know who they are? Like, for example, there's this manta ray that keeps showing up.
CLIMO: He doesn't have a name yet. Maybe - do you guys have a suggestion?
HODGMAN: I think Peter Sagal is angling pretty hard.
SAGAL: I am.
SAGAL: You sell a lot of greeting cards, right?
CLIMO: Yeah, that sort of just happened on its own. It's been really exciting.
POUNDSTONE: That doesn't happen on its own.
HODGMAN: Sure it does.
CLIMO: Yeah (laughter).
POUNDSTONE: No, it doesn't. I'm 57. I have never sold a greeting card.
POUNDSTONE: The Grand Canyon happened on its own. You have to work for a greeting card business.
SAGAL: Well, Liz, talk us through it. So you're drawing - you're drawing your adorable animals in awkward situations, but they're being kind to each other. And Hallmark calls you up? What happened?
CLIMO: Yeah, actually, a company called and said, hey, we know we're sort of an in-between, like, a liaison for a greeting card company. And we think you'd be a great fit. And would you be interested? And I said, absolutely. And so that's kind of how it happened.
HODGMAN: Wait a minute. You're talking about - greeting card recruiting companies have been going around?
POUNDSTONE: Head hunters.
HODGMAN: That sounds...
ROCCA: Potentially. Card hunters.
SAGAL: Do you...
HODGMAN: Great new reality show, "Card Hunters" (laughter).
SAGAL: Do you write the cards, Liz, or do you just draw the adorable pictures?
CLIMO: I have written some of them, and then sometimes they'll be like, this is great. How about this instead, which is, you know, it's a line. So it's either they like it or they don't. But I've written some but not all of them.
ROCCA: Is everybody is super polite like that, or do they ever say, I really hate this card?
CLIMO: No, no one really says that in that business. Everyone's like, this is, you know, best wishes. And then that's it.
HODGMAN: Was there ever...
ROCCA: They send you a card - a condolence card that they don't like what you did.
HODGMAN: Was there ever a card or a caption that you had that did not get through that you wish had gotten through?
CLIMO: No, I mean, I pretty much have only thought of, like, happy birthday. so...
SAGAL: Wait a minute. That was you?
HODGMAN: That was you? Wow.
POUNDSTONE: Oh, my God.
POUNDSTONE: I never thought I would meet you.
SAGAL: Now, it just so happens that you have a series of children's books, and they're about Rory the Dinosaur, right?
CLIMO: That's right. I do. I have three out, actually.
SAGAL: Right. And who is Rory the Dinosaur?
CLIMO: Rory the Dinosaur is just a little dinosaur who lives on an island, and he actually - the idea of the book came from a comic that I did. I just did a little drawing of a dinosaur and his parent. And they're playing peekaboo, and that sort of just - I kind of came up with an idea for a book from that.
SAGAL: And do you - do you ever go to, like, events where, like, kids who are fans of your books come and meet you?
CLIMO: Yeah, those are my favorites.
CLIMO: I recently went and visited a preschool and read to about probably 50 children. It's great because if they don't listen to you, you just have to talk louder, and then everyone listens to you.
SAGAL: Do you find that the children have strong opinions about Rory the Dinosaur - that they feel that Rory the Dinosaur should do this or should not do that?
CLIMO: Yeah, and they usually have the opinions, like, in the middle of the - like, while I'm reading it, they'll shout them out.
CLIMO: Like in the first book, Rory is on a - like, he's run away from home, and his dad is sort of following him around, just making sure he's safe. But Rory doesn't know his dad's there. He thinks he's doing everything on his own. So the kids are all like, but your dad's right behind you.
SAGAL: Have you...
POUNDSTONE: It's like people in a scary movie that shout at the screen, right?
ROCCA: Watch out for that asteroid.
SAGAL: Have you...
ROCCA: Well, that's how it ends.
HODGMAN: It's true.
ROCCA: That's how it ends.
HODGMAN: Mass extinction is fun.
SAGAL: It is great. Liz, let me ask - let me ask you a genuine question about your work. Do you find - because I always felt this when my kids were very little - that kids, even that little, like to be scared a little bit?
CLIMO: Oh, yeah. I have a 4-year-old daughter, actually. And she definitely likes to be scared. And then she'll, you know - something will freak her out. Like, for instance, we - I shouldn't say this - but we showed her the "Thriller" video.
ROCCA: No. Oh, my God.
SAGAL: The Michael Jackson video with his - he turns in - he goes out on a date with a nice girl, and then he turns into a zombie?
CLIMO: Yeah, every 4-year-old's favorite.
CLIMO: So she, you know - we turned it off about halfway through, but she hasn't stopped talking about it. And I know she doesn't - she'll be like, oh, the guy - he had scary makeup, but it wasn't real. It was just for fun (laughter). I never want to see it again.
SAGAL: Well, Liz Climo, it's a pleasure to talk to you. We've invited you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: You thought that Simpson was a cartoon.
SAGAL: So you worked on "The Simpsons" - Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart and Maggie - but what about that other amazing cartoon character, Jessica Simpson?
SAGAL: We're going to ask you three questions about the singer, sometime actress and successful clothing entrepreneur. If you get two right, well, you will win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of any of us on their voicemail. Bill, who is Liz Climo playing for?
KURTIS: Jim Fantone of Denver, Colo.
SAGAL: All right. Here we go, Liz. Are you ready to play?
CLIMO: Let's do it.
SAGAL: All right. Now you may know this - Jessica Simpson got her start some years ago singing in church groups as a very young woman in Texas, but she eventually quit that and started singing worldly music. Why? A, her entire family suddenly converted to Judaism; B, a father - her father, a preacher, decided she had become too sexy to sing about Jesus or C, they discovered that clubs give entertainers a share of the liquor sales, but churches don't?
CLIMO: I think it's B.
SAGAL: You are right. That's what happened.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Her father, who was a preacher, decided that she could no longer credibly sing gospel music, and so he quit preaching and became her manager.
SAGAL: Yes, your next question. Like many musicians, Jessica Simpson did briefly get into drugs when which of these happened? A, She became addicted to nicotine after not realizing Nicorette was not just normal chewing gum...
SAGAL: ...B, she began to spokesmodel for Michelob ULTRA ULTRA - that's just empty bottles of Michelob ULTRA - or C, she was found wandering around Palm Springs after mixing up the word psychedelic and portabella?
CLIMO: (Laughter) I wish it was C. I think it's A.
SAGAL: You're right. She became addicted without ever smoking...
SAGAL: ...To Nicorette nicotine gum.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
ROCCA: Because there's nicotine in the gum?
HODGMAN: Yeah. Right. OK.
SAGAL: There's nicotine in the gum, and so she got addicted to the nicotine in the gum. And so she says, quote, "I was chewing it. And it was like, oh, my God. I'm talking a million miles per hour, and I love this gum. What kind of gun is this?"
SAGAL: I did not know this was a danger, but apparently it is.
POUNDSTONE: Me neither.
SAGAL: All right, last question, Liz. After her breakup with Nick Lachey, she started dating Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and was blamed on bringing bad luck to him and the team. In fact, her reputation as a curse became so widespread, what happened? A, Tony's teammates took him to a strip club, photographed him there and sent the pics to Jessica; B, a group of 49ers fans paid $10,000 to send her a diamond bracelet engraved, I will love you forever, Tony or C, then-President Bush suggested sending her to the 2008 Democrat National Convention?
CLIMO: Is it A?
SAGAL: No, it is not A. It is, in fact, C. President Bush himself.
SAGAL: He joked about it while hosting the champion New York Giants football team at the White House. Ms. Simpson did not, in fact, attend the Democratic National Convention, and Barack Obama won the election.
SAGAL: Bill, how did Liz Climo do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Well, 2 out of 3 wins. Liz, you sound like a winner.
SAGAL: And you are one. Congratulations.
SAGAL: Liz Climo is an author, illustrator and greeting card magnate. Her new book, "Rory The Dinosaur Needs A Christmas Tree," is available now. Liz Climo, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
CLIMO: Thank you so much for having me.
SAGAL: Thank you.
POUNDSTONE: Thanks, Liz.
ROCCA: Thanks, Liz.
(SOUNDBITE OF DANNY ELFMAN'S "'THE SIMPSONS' THEME")
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