Composer Alf Clausen was fired from The Simpsons back in 2017. He soundtracked the show for 27 seasons, scoring more than 560 episodes. Now, he’s suing FOX for firing him for allegedly ableist and ageist reasons.
On Monday, Clausen filed a lawsuit against FOX, claiming that he was fired because of his age. FOX’s parent company Disney and James L. Brooks’ Gracie Films are listed as defendants as well. In the suit, he contends that he was told the show would take a “different direction” with its music, Variety reports. “This reason was pretextual and false,” he continues. “Instead, Plaintiff’s unlawful termination was due to perceived disability and age.” He was 78 years old at the time he was let go.
After he was fired, Clausen was replaced by Bleeding Fingers Music, the music production company co-founded by Russell Emanuel, Hans Zimmer, and Steve Kofsky. The lawsuit says Clausen’s replacement “was substantially younger in age, who was not only paid less, but was not disabled.” The lawsuit does not detail what Clausen’s disability is.
Clausen’s 35-piece orchestra had been a defining feature of The Simpsons over the years. Series creator Matt Groening insisted from the very start that an orchestra be used to for the show’s music. That edict and Clausen’s decades of work created a singular sound for the beloved sitcom, leading to some prestigious awards. Clausen himself received 21 Emmy nominations for his contributions to the show, winning twice. He has been nominated 30 times in total over the course of his career, making him the most nominated musician in Emmy history.
Months before he was unceremoniously fired, Clausen did an in-depth interview with Consequence of Sound. In it, he discussed his work situation, his career studying music, and the reason why he initially turned down Groening’s offer to score a few episodes in 1990. “I think that’s one of the reasons they’ve kept me all these years: they were looking for somebody who could score all those different types of music in small clip-form,” he said at one point. “That’s what’s been fun for me. I think that anyone else who would have been hired for this job and stayed for this long would have gone to the nuthouse.”