Payne attended University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before transferring to UCLA, where he graduated with a master’s degree and began his writing career in TV with John Frink. They began writing sitcoms “Hope and Gloria,” “Men Behaving Badly,” “Veronica’s Closet,” “Can’t Hurry Love” and “The Brian Benben Show,” where his talents were recommended to “The Simpsons.”
Along with other “Simpsons” producers, they won four Emmys.
Payne received the Writers Guild of America’s Paul Selvin Award in 2005 for “The Simpsons” episode “Fraudcast News,” which satirized TV news and media consolidation. He and Frink co-wrote “Simpsons” segments “Treehouse of Horror XI,” “Insane Clown Poppy,” “Bye Bye Nerdy,” “Simpsons Tall Tales,” “Old Yeller Belly” and “The Bart Wants What It Wants,” which received a WGA nomination for animation writing.
Payne has been a consulting producer on “The Simpsons” and wrote two episodes set to air in the fall — “Labor Pains” and “White Christmas Blues.”
Payne moved into feature writing with 2006’s “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” followed by “Silver Surfer” and “Thor.” He also wrote scripts for the sequel “Thor: The Dark World” and “Maximum Ride.”
Payne was a native of Wilmington, N.C. His writing partner Frink told the Wilmington, N.C., Star-News, “He was always proud of being from North Carolina. He ate grits till the day he died.”
Friends described Payne as a tireless perfectionist. Many in Hollywoood learned of Payne’s death from “Simpsons” showrunner Mike Scully on Twitter, who tweeted, “Great writer, sweet guy, gone way too soon.”
Payne is survived by his wife, Julie, and three children.Nathaniel, Joshua, and Lila, his mother Barbara, brother John and sister Suzanne Payne Fanning.
Services have been set for 1 p.m. Friday at Hillside Cemetery in Los Angeles.