Back when I was at Portland State College and had dreams of making films, I attended the nascent Portland Film Festival, and one of the films in the festival was called "Study in Wet" my Homer Groening. He happened to be there and was very friendly. I told him I loved his film and especially his dry, ironic sense of humor.
He invited me up to his house to see some of his other work, and I took him up on his offer. He and his wife, Margaret, were perfect hosts, feeding me while I watched some of his other "industrials" on his 16mm projector.
Well, that was back in 1967. And now that his son, Matt Groening, is a big superstar, Anne Richardson and Lisa Groening decided to put together a long-needed retrospective of the forgotten genius (and inspiration for namesake Homer Simpson) at the famed Hollywood Theater, as part of their "Mid-Century Oregon Genius Program". It was a packed house, full of Portland's animation celebrities: Joanna Priestley, Paul Harrod, Joan Gratz, Will Vinton, Marilyn Zornado and Craig Bartlett.
I was honored to be asked to do the opening introduction, then the panel, consisting of film critic Tom Shrader, Ted Mahar, Lisa Bartlett (née Groening) and Matt himself, took over and talked about the life and art of Homer.
The films they showed were made for big Oregon clients like Jantzen, White Stag and Pendleton, so they never really made it to cinemas or TV. But they're so funny and entertaining, they should have been. Matt noted that Homer told him that a film has to be either short or funny to be a success, and that demonstrates shades of my own Plympton dogma: short, cheap + funny.
I loved his sense of humor, very deadpan, which is also the kind of humor I try to emulate. There's an ad agency in Portland called Wieden & Kennedy, and they've done ads for Nike and ESPN that are also very dry and ironic. Hmm! I wonder if they were also influenced by Mr. Groening.
I hope Lisa and Matt can put these gems on DVD. Some are a bit dated, evoking the "Mad Men" era, with sexy bathing beauties everywhere, but they're so clever and witty, his work deserves to be discovered by more people.
I believe you can find a few of them on YouTube, I'm enclosing a scan of the program so you'll know what to look for. So check him out, Homer Groening.