The continuing adventures of Joe Boucher

You don't forget a commencement speech like the one delivered at Roanoke College on May 5, 2001 by Joe Boucher '87, known then for his work as producer of the hit animated series "The Simpsons" and the Emmy-Award-winning series "King of the Hill."

Who could forget such gems as: "I strutted onto the back quad as a freshman with a thick Long Island accent, tight shorts, and a Judas Priest T-shirt. Some of the upperclassmen were so appalled they burned my shorts before Christmas break."

Boucher hasn't forgotten. He remembers putting great energy into the speech to ensure it connected with students who were preparing to springboard into the real world.

So he drew upon a life that was as ordinary and as out-of-the-ordinary as any of our lives - and wrote a speech that was excerpted in the New York Times.

Boucher sort of marvels now, recalling the message he wanted to convey to that Class of 2001.

"I wanted to get across to students to 'live your life creatively, discover your own life'." Boucher (pronounced boo-SHAY') said in a February phone interview from his home in Los Angeles.

Twenty-five years after discovering a life in Hollywood, Boucher is still in the game of developing new shows and pitching them to television networks. One, called "The Mud Hogs," an animated family comedy about a high school football coach who has lost 200 games in a row, has been bought for a pilot presentation by Fox, he said.

Boucher enthusiastically describes his hopes for the show, how "with the football connection, [Fox] will see the show as a good addition to its Sunday night lineup."

But he speaks with the same enthusiasm, perhaps more passionately, about the Seneca Youth Lacrosse Club, which he helped found about a year ago and with which he now volunteers as a coach. The club has allowed Boucher to blend his love of the game (he is a Roanoke Men's Lacrosse All-Time Letterman, 1984-87) with his personal interest in Native American culture and the history of lacrosse. (Lacrosse is a team sport of Native American origin.) Boucher's 12-year-old daughter Poetry, and 9-year-old son Griffin, both play.

"It's nice to be able to work with kids and really try to build their character, teach them what's important," Boucher said.

It was lacrosse that brought Boucher to Roanoke, sight unseen. He met legendary Roanoke lacrosse player and coach John Pirro '77 at a college fair while in high school. "It was an off-chance meeting; he was a lacrosse coach and I was a player," Boucher said. "I wouldn't say he recruited me, but he encouraged me to fill out an application."

Other schools were more interested in Boucher and Boucher more interested in them, but "I didn't really have money for any college," he said. "At the last minute, because I was a good student, Roanoke put together the best financial aid package. And it was as far away from Long Island as I could get."

Mild kidding aside, Boucher said his experience at Roanoke was great preparation for Hollywood. The exposure to different people, cultures and social classes was a real eye-opener for the tough Long Islander with an admitted chip on his shoulder. The Roanoke experience gave him an ability to adapt, to move comfortably in varied circles.

Boucher was fresh out of Roanoke with a bachelor's degree in business administration when he set out for California, knowing no one, and snuck onto the 20th Century Fox lot in search of work. He found a job in the mailroom that, in part, entailed delivering Rupert Murdoch's morning paper.

The rest, as they say, is history. Would he sneak onto that lot today?

"I like to think I would," he said. "Sometimes you have to take those big chances."

-Leslie Taylor