Called both "brilliantly funny" and "mentally unbalanced" by Simpsons co-creator Matt Groening, television writer-producer Sam Simon, 58, has become known throughout Hollywood for his philanthropy since leaving the iconic animated series in 1993 (he retained a highly lucrative executive producer title). A Stanford grad who grew up in Beverly Hills and Malibu -- and rose in the industry at a young age to become the showrunner of Taxi at 24 -- Simon confesses, "I don't know," when it comes to estimating his charitable donations to date.
His contributions include founding the Malibu-based Sam Simon Foundation (worth nearly $23 million as of 2011) that rescues the hungry (humans -- but with vegan foods only) and strays (dogs, of any variety). His other pet charities include PETA, which in February thanked him for his support by naming its Norfolk, Va., headquarters the Sam Simon Center; international nonprofit Save the Children; and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a global marine conservation organization. His contributions led it to name one of the four ships in its fleet of vessels, used to hinder whaling and illegal fishing, the M/Y Simon in 2012. He also turned a Malibu spread into a canine haven that rescues dogs from kill shelters and trains them as companions for the deaf.
Five months ago, the nine-time Emmy winner -- whose post-Simpsons projects have included directing (The Drew Carey Show), hosting (the short-lived poker reality series Sam's Game for Playboy TV) and consulting (currently on FX's Anger Management) -- was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. He confirmed during a May 16 WTF With Marc Maron podcast that he was given the prognosis of three to six months to live and that he will donate nearly all of his sizable Simpsons royalties -- which he has said earn him "tens of millions" annually -- to charity. (Simon's marriages to Jennifer Tilly and Playboy Playmate Jami Ferrell were childless, or child-free, depending on your point of view.) "I think it's really nice for him that he's doing it now and he gets to see the results of his philanthropy," says Tilly. "He really does have a passion to survive, and the longer he's on the earth, the more good work he can do."
No. I don't think that's what karma is. It never crossed my mind. But I don't think the spirit of Hollywood is such a spirit of generosity. I think people really begrudge giving. In New York, it's like that. A lot of charities spend a million dollars on a fundraiser to make $15,000. It's a social swirl. They do some great stuff and then -- it's called mission drift. It becomes more about the parties. You know, I'm not married, and I don't have kids. I had an emergency operation when I was septic, and I really did come very close to dying. My colon cancer perforated my colon. When I woke up in the hospital, even though I did have a will, it did become that much more important to me to set this stuff up for the future. And the Rockefeller Foundation has consultants who have been amazing. We found fantastic trustees. It's something that will be living after I'm gone.