Writers Talking About Anything but Writing: Paige Lewis
Words By Laura Villareal and Paige Lewis
An Interview with Paige Lewis on The Simpsons, Radiohead, and Painting
Writers Talking About Anything but Writing is a series of interviews in which we ask writers to take a break from trying to document the world and just kinda chill out in it for a while.
Laura Villareal (LV)
The Simpsons has had a longstanding place in pop culture since it began running in 1989. I remember watching episodes after school as a kid while doing homework. How long have you been a fan of the show? What do you love about it?
Paige Lewis (PL)
I’ve been watching The Simpsons since as far back as I can remember. I was born in 1991—The Simpsons has been a living thing for longer than I have. It’s wild. Did your parents allow you to watch The Simpsons after school, or were you being sneaky about it? My mother didn’t want my siblings and I watching it, but she worked late, and we were brats.
I can’t speak for every Simpsons fan, but for me, The Simpsons was glorious from Season 1 through Season 10, and after that it gets sort of difficult to watch. So, when I talk about what I love, I am talking about Seasons 1-10 (and maybe a few stray episodes from Seasons 11 and 12). I love the layers of humor in the show. Like, it’s funny when you’re a kid—it’s got a lot of slapstick humor and silly phrases and faces. But then, the older you get and the more art, and literature, and music, and film you experience, the more references you understand, and the funnier the show gets. In a way, the early seasons reward you for expanding your knowledge. This also makes it possible to watch episodes over and over again without getting bored.
I definitely had to be sneaky about watching it. Moms of the early 90’s were definitely anti-Bart Simpson! Maybe they were right to worry. Even years later, I find myself absentmindedly quoting episodes I haven’t seen in years. Is there a moment or a quote that you think of often?
Oh, I love that you just have quotes burned into your memory like that. I have some quotes that come up a lot in my daily life, but most are nonsense out of context—”I was saying Boo-urns.” Or “Sticking together is what good waffles do.” Or “I sleep in a racing car. Do you?”. Maybe they’re all nonsense even in context.
Oh, for sure! The Simpsons seems to be everywhere. Do you have a favorite Simpsons-based memory either with the show or the brand?
My husband, Kaveh Akbar, and I actually started talking because of our mutual love for The Simpsons! A few years ago, Kaveh took me to my first Simpsons trivia night in New York City. The whole trip up to NYC, Kaveh kept warning me that the trivia was really hard, that he and his friends usually only got a few questions right when they’d played, and that I shouldn’t get my hopes up. But then we got there and in the first round I got 20 out of 20 questions right! I was the king of The Simpsons!
Don’t ask me about the 2nd and 3rd round.
20 out of 20 is amazing! I can’t imagine being quizzed over that many seasons of information.
Oh gosh, I should have mentioned that the trivia is only about Seasons 1-10. Due to quarantine, we actually just recently played our first game of virtual Simpsons trivia with like one hundred other Simpsons nerds. It was difficult because the questions are on a timer and you lose points for every second you don’t answer. I think maybe my favorite part of Simpsons trivia is the team names everyone comes up with. Last time, we were Team Discovery Channel!
That’s such a good trivia name!
Like the Simpsons, Radiohead has a cult following. It seems to be a really polarizing band. I did a little research and found a wild assortment of Radiohead content—everything from Chuck Klosterman’s Kid A conspiracy theory to heated takes on each album to a YouTube mash-up called Radiohead Albums Portrayed by The Simpsons. This might be a spicy take, but for me, I got why people liked Radiohead when I heard King of Limbs on repeat at my job in 2011. Admittedly, up until then, I had only heard “Creep” and “Karma Police.” I know KOL is one of their least popular albums but I think it’s when Radiohead’s sound began to shift towards more electronic sounds which I thought was interesting. How would you rank the albums? What’s your personal favorite?
Ranking! I feel ill-equipped to rank their albums. I will say I wasn’t very interested in King of Limbs when it first came out. I love it now, but it took years before it grew on me. Maybe I needed to work somewhere where it played on repeat?
By some kind force in the universe, “Creep” was not the first song I heard by Radiohead. Growing up, I found a lot of my favorite bands through my sister, Raychel. She’s seven years older than me and introduced me to most of my favorite music, movies, art, etc. One summer, while I was still in middle school, Raychel left her huge CD collection with me. And she had a lot of Radiohead CDs. The first Radiohead album I pulled out of her CD case was Hail to the Thief, which means the first song I ever heard by Radiohead was “2+2=5”. And after that first listen, I went bonkers. I wanted to hear everything they’d ever made. I read books about Radiohead, and I’d sit for hours watching YouTube videos of their concerts on the family computer, to the displeasure of absolutely everyone else in the house. I covered my school folders in pictures of Thom Yorke, like a little creep.
I feel like I bounced back and forth between wanting to marry Thom Yorke and wanting to be Thom Yorke. Once, I saw a photo of Thom wearing a shirt with a little bottle on it, and on the bottle were the words “Presse Ne Pas Avaler” (it means something like, “Don’t Swallow the Press”). And I convinced my mom to take me to a T-shirt store in the mall and they printed the image of the bottle on a shirt for me. It looked terrible, but I was so excited to wear it to school!
So, anyway, I have a soft spot for Hail to the Thief, but I think Kid A is my actual favorite album.
I love that your older sibling got you hooked! Do you still feel that desire to know everything about Radiohead? I went down a nostalgia rabbit hole recently looking through the Radiohead Public Library. It’s such a treasure trove.
The Radiohead Public Library is such a gift! But I don’t get obsessed with things the way I used to. I think part of my original obsession stemmed from a fear that someone would challenge my knowledge on the band—like, “Oh, you like Radiohead? Prove it! Name five B-sides!” And this wasn’t an entirely irrational fear. I’d been asked this sort of question by boys many times whenever I claimed to like something they liked. Today, I feel much more secure in my ability to love things without an encyclopedic knowledge of those things.
How do you feel about Thom Yorke’s solo work?
I really love what Thom is doing on his own. He came out with The Eraser in 2006, and after playing it probably 100,000 times, I still love it. I often listen to Thom’s solo stuff while writing. His film score for Suspiria creeps me out a little, though.
How long have you been painting? I’ve seen some of your paintings on Twitter and they’re really incredible! I really loved your hand-painted Simpsons diorama.
Are you working on anything right now?
I started painting in high school. My friend Erial and I would bring cheap canvas and acrylics and paint outside of a bookstore. There wasn’t much to do in Bradenton, Florida, and our painting nights were something I looked forward to every week.
Thank you so much for being kind about my Simpsons paintings. In January 2012, I made a New Year’s resolution to paint a Simpsons scene every week. Here is the only photo I have of the very first Simpsons painting I did (if you look closely you can see three Radiohead posters in the background). I didn’t keep that resolution, but I did paint a ton of Simpsons stuff for my friends and beloveds.
I’ve been a little busy with teaching lately and didn’t paint much in 2019, but I recently made a post about painting cartoon scenes for anyone willing to donate $100 to Australian wildlife organizations, so now I’m painting a lot. I’m excited that people were willing to donate, and I love seeing what moments from The Simpsons people love enough to want a painting of.
Wow, that would have been about 52 paintings in a year! Are you still taking requests for paintings to support Australian wildlife organizations? And if so, where should people contact you for one?
I’m still taking requests, but I’m not going to be mailing out any of the paintings until it’s safe to leave my house. So, if you really want a painting and you’re a very patient person, DM me on Twitter!