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Q&A with David Pritchard

Q&A with David Pritchard

He walked into the room wearing a sport jacket with rolled up sleeves and immediately started talking about burping and farting.

Emmy award-winning producer David Pritchard visited Chico State as a part of the College of Engineering, computer science and construction management executive lecture series. He’s worked on The Simpsons, Family Guy, King of the Hill and Workaholics.

The Orion sat down with Pritchard to reflect on his past, career and what he would like students to do in order to be successful.

The Orion: What brings you here to Chico State?

Pritchard: I came here because any time I have an opportunity to speak to college students and to give them a sense of what the world of media is and what the world of work is and what it takes to actually run a happy, fulfilling creative life. I’ve had incredible great luck and good fortune to have lead a pretty rich and really successful—not financially as much as it is experimentally. I want to encourage everyone else to do the same thing. We need more people in the world who are interested in fixing the problems rather than trying to be interesting by doing something cool. That’s my philosophy.

The Orion: What does your job entail?

Pritchard: Stuff. First of all, I’m not normal. I’m not the traditional Hollywood producer. I’m not the traditional Hollywood studio or network executive. I kind of make my own way, I finance my own stuff. I try not to go into the Hollywood system. That’s about half of my life. Half of my life is figuring out ways to either create a cool show that will be successful or to figure out another way to finance or distribute movies that will be successful. The other half of my life is just general business. I have a bunch of other business interests that include a bank and an advisory company in West Africa and a medical technology business and a creative incubator, internet incubator that I created and started. They’re not all in the media business.

The Orion: What was it like working on Workaholics?

Pritchard: The thing about Workaholics is that it’s kind of an anti-show. It doesn’t conform to conventional structure and story format. It’s essentially following three guys who don’t have any velocity in terms of what their lives are. They’re basically lost souls. They’re lost, but they’re okay with being lost they actually find ways to have fun being lost. One of the reasons the show works on a macro level is that a lot of young people have the same feeling. There’s a sense of ‘what’s out there for the world for me?’ I think it’s funny for 13-25 year old guys. I don’t understand how women think it’s funny but apparently they do because they probably know guys like that. I would love for it to run forever.

The Orion: What was it like working on The Simpsons?

Pritchard: The Simpsons is a machine, it’s like a giant freight train. It’d be pretty hard to kill it. The Simpsons is its own world and culture. Finding funny situations and funny lines and funny circumstances for those set of characters is not complicated. It’s really not that hard cause they’re such well-defined characters and it was a lot of fun. It’s pretty hard to mess something like that up.

The Orion: Do you still watch The Simpsons?

Pritchard: I watch the Simpsons and Family Guy. I really like King of the Hill. Dr. Katz is still one of my favorite shows because it was a little bit smarter. I think South Park is by far the funniest and smartest show that’s on television. I think it’s the most fearless show. I think Matt and Trey are absolute geniuses at being fearless and relentless in their social satire.”

The Orion: Describe one major obstacle you faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

Pritchard: For me, the hardest thing was overcoming the fact that I grew up in an Irish neighborhood in Pittsburgh. My mother was an Irish maid who became a school teacher. We didn’t have a lot of money or resources. We were relatively poor. We were rich in relatives. We grew up in a really crappy neighborhood in Pittsburgh and overcoming, understanding, embracing and transcending those stories and those links are things that are really hard. I grew up in a deeply racially charged environment. My family and my grandparents were racist. It was totally acceptable then. It was the 1950s. I realized really early on through athletics and academics that the cool people were the people of color. The other Irish guys were just big dumb, stupid, drunken Irish guys just like my brothers. I figured out how to transcend that anchor which could’ve held me back if I had not taken the time to really think about it.

The Orion: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Pritchard: The best advice that I ever got, I probably haven’t gotten it yet. Somebody in West Africa is going to teach me something. It will probably be some 12 year old girl. That’s my bet. It will be some little girl that will say something that will just make me fall apart.

The Orion: What’s one thing you want students to benefit from your visit today?

Pritchard: Um, that they would all send me a bottle of Guinness. I don’t really want them, I just wanted to say that. There’s three things. The first one is that if you’re going to live a creative life, you have to understand that facts and data and information are just as important at applying creative solutions to anything as your instinct, your artistic judgment or your attitude and aptitude. You have to use information you have to know how to analyze things. Being creative is not just ‘Oh I got this really cool idea.’ It’s ‘How does that idea fit in the bigger world?’. How does it change the bigger world? How do you get that idea to live and operate in the bigger world? So, I think the first thing is you gotta know how you think and you gotta know how your mind works and you gotta use information. The second thing is you actually have to live with frustration and pain and discomfort if you’re gonna do anything because the world is really complicated, it’s getting harder and harder and the chances of you being successful in the beginning are slim. You have to enjoy risk, you have to be prepared to put up with a lot of pain. The third thing is to be interested and be engaged in the world. Stay interested, don’t think you have all the answers, use facts and not be afraid to do things that are gonna cause you some pain and have some risk.

The Orion: What’s next for your career?

Pritchard: I don’t think about that. I’ve never had a plan—never had one plan…I’ve never really looked for a job. I talk to people, I engage, I’m interested and I’m moving and I think that’s what we all have to do. That’s what I encourage every kid in this school to do is to engage other people, talk to people, find out how the world works, figure it out, don’t worry about it, don’t have a plan. What’s the adage? Man plans, God laughs. I’m not sure you can put a plan together. I think you can have some hopes and some fate and little dreams but beyond that, just start doing shit.

Sharon Martin can be reached at [email protected].

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