To devoted fans of American television’s longest running prime time series, The Simpsons, the name Sam Simon is quite familiar. Simon co-created the show which has become a global phenomenon with Matt Groening, but left it in 1993 to pursue other interests. Simon retains a lucrative executive producer credit on the show, and is putting the money he’s made over the years to good use.
Simon spoke this week with The Hollywood Reporter, discussing his diagnosis with terminal colon cancer and his plans to give away as much of his fortune as possible in the time he has left. When asked by The Hollywood Reporter how much money he has given to charity to date, Simon said, “I don’t know.” He founded the Malibu-based Sam Simon Foundation to rescue stray dogs and help feed the hungry. According to the organization’s website, it specializes in service dogs for the hearing impaired and service dogs for veterans. The Reporter estimates the foundation’s worth at $23 million as of 2011.
Simon has also been heavily involved with PETA and has one of that organization’s centers named after him in Norfolk, Va. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society also named one of its vessels after Simon in thanks to his efforts to help global marine conservation.
Simon got his big break in television when he was just 24 years old as a showrunner on the classic sitcom, Taxi. Now 58, Simon received his diagnosis five months ago and was told he has just three to six months to live. Simon confirmed the diagnosis and his philanthropic plans in May on the podcast WTF with Marc Maron.
Simon told THR that giving away his fortune doesn’t “feel like an obligation.” He continued, “One of the things about animal rights, which is not the only thing that I care about in this world, is that your money can bring success. I see results. There is stuff happening, really good stuff, every week.”
Simon is also using his considerable fortune to advance the idea that veganism “is an answer for almost every problem facing the world in terms of hunger and climate change.” He went on to say, “It helps people’s health. Meat is the biggest greenhouse gas producer. There’s also the cruelty and suffering aspect. When people do meatless Mondays, and when people adopt instead of buying a dog, that’s a PETA victory.”
As for his health, Simon is still taking chemotheraphy and admits that he doesn’t bounce back from the treatment like he did when he first began taking it. His attitude seems upbeat but realistic. He said, “So I’m feeling pretty good today, and, you know, we shall see.”