Author and television writer Larry Doyle will be the special guest for the annual Thurber Birthday Gala on Wednesday, Dec. 9, from 6-9 p.m. at the Westin Hotel, 310 S. High St. in downtown Columbus.

Author and television writer Larry Doyle will be the special guest for the annual Thurber Birthday Gala on Wednesday, Dec. 9, from 6-9 p.m. at the Westin Hotel, 310 S. High St. in downtown Columbus.

The celebration is the conclusion of the Thurber House's 25th anniversary season and the 115th birthday of James Thurber, Columbus' native son and one of the best-known of American humorists and cartoonists.

Doyle was a writer for the MTV cartoon, "Beavis and Butt-Head," and writer-producer for nine seasons on the long-running animated Fox series "The Simpsons." He is a regular contributor to "The New Yorker," "Esquire," "New York Magazine" and the "New York Observer."

Doyle won the 2008 Thurber Prize for American Humor for his debut novel, "I Love You, Beth Cooper."

Doyle said he is a longtime fan of Thurber.

"I always wanted to write humor and he's one of the guys you've got to read," he said.

Doyle, who worked for National Lampoon and Spy magazines before joining "Beavis and Butt-head," said alternating between print and screen writing is a relatively easy transition.

"It's probably not practical, but it's not hard, at least given what I do," Doyle said. "I know a few other writers who write screenplays and novels. They have their own rewards. For screenplays, they actually pay you to do it, and the novel is yours."

"I Love You, Beth Cooper" was released as a feature film in summer 2009 starring Hayden Panettiere (known for her role as a cheerleader with superpowers on the hit NBC series "Heroes"). The movie was not successful, even though it remained relatively faithful to Doyle's novel.

"There's no big betrayal of the book. There were just elements that didn't work as well for the movie," Doyle said. "Probably the biggest (mistake) was seeking a PG-13 (rating). It meant cutting a lot of what was funny about the book."

The novel "I Love You, Beth Cooper" is set at Doyle's alma mater, Buffalo Grove High School in Buffalo, N.Y. As the story goes, nerdy valedictorian Denis Cooverman declares his love for popular cheerleader Beth Cooper to the entire crowd. Beth is supposed to be a dream girl, but turns out to have glaring imperfections.

Doyle said he drew elements from his life in writing "I Love You, Beth Cooper," but the novel isn't strictly autobiographical.

"Did any of it happen? No. You have to bring a certain amount of yourself to what you write," he said. "In a specific way, no, I wasn't on the debate team and I wasn't the valedictorian and I wasn't a super-geek or anything. I wasn't popular, either. Maybe I was closer to the geeks."

Doyle just finished a new novel, "Go, Mutants!" which is scheduled for release in June 2010. Once again, Doyle has chosen high school as the setting.

"The basic idea is that all of '50s pop culture, meaning all of the alien movies and the atomic mutant movies, have happened, they're history" that students learn about in school, Doyle said. "It's a fun coming-of-age story."

As with "I Love You, Beth Cooper," "Go Mutants!" is written in a style that is accessible to both adults and teenagers.

"'Beth Cooper' was released as an adult book and it sold probably more to adults than to teenagers," Doyle said. "Although ('Go, Mutants!') is written about teenagers, there's a nostalgic patina about the whole thing. It's told from the point of view of a more removed narrator."

Doyle has a lot of experience writing from the point of view of youthful characters, having written for "The Simpsons" from its 1987 beginning as a skit on "The Tracey Ullman Show" to 2000. He's watched television's longest-running sitcom evolve over the past two decades.

"It's a cartoon, so you don't have this phenomenon that you have on sitcoms where characters grow out of their original roles and you can't do anything with them," Doyle said. "The characters don't have to age. Although weirdly enough, they seem to have aged. Lisa is basically a 16-year-old 8 year old and Bart is like a 19-year-old unemployed guy. Homer has gotten older. He started out as 35 and there have been references to him being 40."

With ageless characters and enduring popularity, "The Simpsons" could theoretically run for the next 20 years, Doyle said.

"It still gets enough of a rating to beat whatever reality show Fox puts on," he said. "It's shown all over the world."

For tickets and more information about the Thurber Birthday Gala, call (614) 464-1032, ext. 12, or visit