From SNL’s earliest days to a long career in TV and film, how Alan Zweibel has helped funny people be funnier | News

Comedy writer Alan Zweibel spent a short time in his early career doing club stand-ups on stage, but his words reached audiences on a much larger scale through his work in film and television. . The multiple Emmy Award-winning author was a member of the original writing staff of “Saturday Night Live,” where he formed a lifelong friendship with the late comedian Gilda Radner. Broadway play.

Likewise, he and Billy Crystal have always worked closely together, as they have worked together in television and film, teaming on numerous projects, including Crystal’s Tony Award-winning Broadway show 700 Sundays. I have built relationships and friendships.

From theater to television to film, he has worked with David Letterman and Martin Short to write (and make a cameo appearance in) “Curb Your Enthusiasm” with Larry David and co-write “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” with comedian and dear friend. I have worked with everyone so far. , the late Garry Shandling.

Zweibel’s latest film, 2021’s Here Today, co-written with Krystal and starring Krystal and Tiffany Haddish, was inspired by Zweibel’s spectacularly failed charity auction lunch date. it was done.

He recently published a memoir, Laugh Lines: My Life Helping Funny People Be Funnier, and is currently working on a film adaptation of Barry Sonnenfeld’s memoir and a book co-written by Zweibel, Lunatics. I’m in. With humor columnist Dave Barry. Zweibel is also finishing work on another book.

He shares memorable moments from his career at the Osman Family JCC on the evening of January 22nd.

The press spoke to Zweibel about his career and some memories he captured in “Laughter”. This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Palo Alto Weekly: You started your career writing jokes for comedians working at a resort in the Catskill Mountains of New York. What inspired you to write comedy for a living?

Alan Zweibel: Ever since I was a boy, I wanted to be a TV comedian. I was watching “The Dick Van Dyke Show” with his parents. It was this handsome man in a nice New Rochelle home who married Mary Tyler Moore. he had a family In the office, he was just lying on the couch at work and joking with Buddy and Sally. And I didn’t know how to do it. There was no internet. It was a different world back then. When I graduated college, I learned that writing jokes for the Catskills was an appetizer to TV writing just before I arrived. After Jerry Lewis and Totti Fields – that generation – comedians became famous and had their own TV shows, they took writers. thought. But by the time I got there in his early ’70s, the Catskills were no longer breeding grounds, so it didn’t work out. But I started writing jokes because I was given the opportunity to do so. I thought it was a baby step to the greatest thing.

Palo Alto Weekly: Is it because it got you into standup and it got you into SNL?

onion: It was a means to an end. I’m tired of the Catskills people. I knew film and TV execs were basically running the same way and not trying to get me a man twice his age. I didn’t want to write jokes. I took the jokes they wouldn’t buy from me and made plans to stand up at some of New York’s showcase clubs. Things like Improvisation and Catch A Rising Star. An agent would come along, like my material, and want to represent me to get a job writing television. One night, Lorne Michaels came by. He liked my material. He was looking for actors and writers for this new show called “Saturday Night Live,” so I met with him a few days later. I typed in his 1,100 jokes and gave him a binder.

Palo Alto Weekly: What was it like working with SNL in the early days?

onion: good. It was a long adolescence. We worked in the very corporate RCA building, 30 Rock. Here she’s wearing jeans and flannel and a pair of mismatched tube socks. The only rule Lorne had was “Let’s make each other laugh.” If we make each other laugh, we’ll play it on TV. So it was very free form. We formed friendships that continue to this day.

Gilda (Radner) and I became very close and she and I created several characters for her. I was. When she got sick, her last television appearance was on a show I co-produced called It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. So I look back on those years with incredible fondness.

Palo Alto Weekly: The subtitle of your book “Laugh Lines” is “Helping funny people to be more interesting”. As a writer, how do you convey the voice of each comedian you work with?

onion: When I graduated from college… I knew I wanted to write a screenplay, and I wanted to have a different voice. So, I made a practice exercise called “Okay, this week’s subject is buying a house.” On Mondays Rodney Dangerfield writes monologues as if he were talking about buying a house, Tuesdays as if Joan Rivers is, Wednesdays as if Robert Klein is , and by the end of the week had written five different monologues about the same thing. subject. When I write for all these different people, if I find the same interesting enough, I put something in their mouth that they can say at ease without (even if) capturing their voice. But that’s it.

Palo Alto Weekly: You have been involved in so many successful collaborations. What do you think is the secret to a good partnership?

onion: Well, 1 and 1 are equal to 3. It’s about the product. I have to check my ego at the doorstep. If I’m writing for someone, if I’m writing for Billy Crystal, in 700 Sundays, it’s his life. So even if I think there’s a joke or conversation he should have, or even something funny, if he’s not used to doing it, he won’t be able to tell it with certainty. So I say to him, or whoever I’m writing with: I agree, let’s think of another way of saying it. ’ It’s about the product. It has nothing to do with pride. It doesn’t matter who has more rows. About the work.

Palo Alto Weekly: What can viewers expect from your show?

onion: I love doing these shows because it tells them who I am and it makes them laugh. I also make them cry a little bit when I (talk about Gilda). Q&A is always very interesting. Because it leads to an anecdote that I never thought of during the talk. Then there’s a book signing, and if[the audience]wants to talk and chat, I’ll be there too. Especially now, years later, I love coming out from behind my laptop and being human again. It’s all Zoom and we’re excited to have a live audience.

An Evening with Alan Zweibel will be held on January 22nd at 7:00 PM at the Osman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. Tickets are $65. Suitable for ages 15 and up. For more information, visit

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