On May 18th, 1980, I attended a live remote broadcast of the Dr. Demento show at the landmark Tower Records on the Sunset Strip. After meeting "the good doctor" and having him sign my vinyl copies of his LPs Dr. Demento's Delights and Dementia Royale, I was invited to appear on the air! Irreversibly emboldened, I set out to make my first comedy record, a 45 RPM single, which was released later that year. "Dan's Song" made it's debut on the Demento show on October 5th, 1980 and would even occasionally make its way onto the Demento Top 10, on and off, for the next couple of years.
By 1983, I started writing scripts and making films. In 1984, along with my schoolmate David M. Latt (now the producer of the Sharknado franchise), I produced an hour-long video tribute to Jack Benny, featuring many of the late comedian's former cast members, writers and colleagues. My growing understanding of writing and production led me to two summers as a studio intern at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. Starting in 1985 as an irrepressible 16-year-old, I ran around that studio lot, meeting Eddie Murphy, John Candy, Richard Pryor, Michael Keaton, Ron Howard as well as the cast and crew of shows like Cheers and Family Ties. I even got to work a few days as a production assistant on movies like Clue and Pretty in Pink!
During my time at Paramount, I was introduced to the booming comedy club scene. Ever precocious, I quickly insinuated myself into the community of comedians, first as a writer and eventually as a teenage stand up comic. It was thrilling to have jokes I had written told by my clients on their late night TV spots and specials. I was even hired for the NBC special Bob Hope Buys NBC and had the surreal experience of seeing my contributions come to life with Hope, Lucille Ball and then-NBC president Brandon Tartikoff!
My stand-up writing and performing helped pay my way through the USC School of Cinema & TV. I travelled the country, sharing time and stages with many of the premiere practitioners of the art form. George Carlin. Robert Klein. Gabe Kaplan. Jerry Seinfeld. Sam Kinison. Damon Wayans. Garry Shandling. Bill Hicks. Robin Harris. And even my schoolmate at USC and fellow OCD poster boy Judd Apatow. Those were magical times. But by the time I left school in 1991 (note that I didn't say "graduated'), I was ready to get serious and begin my career. However my OCD would persist.
I scored my first TV development job in 1995 working for the legendary Fred Silverman as his VP of Network Programs. During that time, my duties included covering the CBS series Diagnosis: Murder where I was fortunate to work with the brilliant Dick Van Dyke. While at the Silverman Company, I met and befriended a local L.A. radio personality known as "Jimmy the Sports Guy." I was so impressed with him that I declared, at the first opportunity, we would hire him. We did and although our game show project didn't move forward, it did lead to Jimmy's first big break in television... co-hosting a Comedy Central game show, garnering him a Daytime Emmy Award. And the rest, as they say, is history for Jimmy Kimmel.
From there I was off and running. In 1997, I was hired as a VP at the American outpost of the British TV giant Granada, during which time I was recognized in the Hollywood Reporter's "Next Generation" of media execs under 35. I was not yet 30. For the next two decades, I held positions at Studios USA (now NBC/Universal), Carsey Werner, Turner Broadcasting, IFC and Big Beach TV. I am truly grateful for the many highlights of these years, including my various roles on shows like Beggars and Choosers, Starved, The Maria Bamford Show, Derek and Simon, Bathing with Bierko, Whisker Wars, Comedy Bang Bang, Out There, The Spoils of Babylon, Debate Wars and especially Portlandia. (If you're interested, below are a few links to view and read about some of these shows.)
Beggars and Choosers review (Variety; 6/14/99)
The Maria Bamford Show (Super Deluxe, 2007-2008)
Bathing with Bierko in the NY Times (4/13/08)
Out There review (NY Times; 4/21/13)
Debate Wars review (NY Times; 9/22/16)
Portlandia: Put A Bird On It Oral History (Entertainment Weekly; 3/19/17)
While my years as TV and digital content programming executive, a writer and a producer were wonderful and satisfying in many ways, often times the itch of my OCD needed to be scratched via extracurricular activities.
In 1996, I helped launch a project for the TV Academy which is now called The Interviews. This ambitious project is a remarkable compendium of first person accounts from a wide array of luminaries throughout the history of television. I have been fortunate to conduct dozens of one-on-one interviews with many of my heroes. Below are just a few links to some of my favorites.
Milton Berle (6/11/96)
Sid Caesar (3/14/97)
Bob Newhart (6/15/01)
Bernie Brillstein (11/14/01)
George Schlatter (3/6/02)
Jonathan Winters (10/11/02)
The interview with Jonathan Winters is especially important to me personally as it represented the beginning of a more than decade-long profoundly intimate friendship with one of the most significant characters in my life. Here is a password protected link to the 42-minute tribute video I produced for Jon's memorial in 2013. (It does not appear anywhere else online as it has never been seen publicly anywhere other than that private event.)
Whoopi Goldberg (6/6/18)
Billy Crystal (10/25/18)
In addition, through the years, I have also spoken on and moderated panels at Montreal's Just For Laughs Festival, the New York TV Festival, Atlanta's Laughing Skull Festival, the New Jersey Webfest and at the grand opening of the National Comedy Center. Most recently, I embarked on a multi-city tour in between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2021 with the holiday comedy classic motion picture National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation where I moderated a live Q&A with Chevy Chase in front of crowds of thousands of people. I also helped to kick off the comedy schedule at the 2022 South-By-Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas where I moderated a panel featuring Jim Gaffigan, Dulce Sloan, Ricky Velez and the immortal John Cleese.
I have written about comedy for many publications and platforms such as Emmy Magazine, Vulture, Paste Magazine, Splitsider, the Huffington Post and McSweeney's. And in 2021, I appeared as a "comedy historian" in the feature documentary Live at Mister Kelly's, discussing the fascinating history of the comedians who appeared on the fabled stage of the dearly departed Chicago nightclub.
So whether it's honoring the history and the pioneers of comedy, being an advocate for what's new and next or just analyzing and celebrating the art form as it grows, shifts, morphs and evolves, my OCD has driven me for my entire life. And it still does.
Via my Little Bear Bear Productions, I hosted, wrote and produced the SiriusXM audio documentary OCD: The 60-Year History of the Comedy Grammy Award featuring my conversations with Jim Gaffigan, D.L. Hughley, Sarah Silverman, Fred Armisen, "Weird Al" Yankovic and George Carlin's daughter Kelly Carlin. It was the sole American nominee for Best Comedy Special amongst international competitors for the New York Festival's Radio Awards.
The next OCD audio documentary was a much bigger, more sprawling, wildly ambitious narrative. A multi-episode, multi-hour chronicle of the comedy boom of the 1980s featuring conversations with Robert Klein, Jay Leno, Elayne Boosler, Paul Reiser, Larry Miller, Paul Provenza, Marsha Warfield, Tom Dreesen, Paula Poundstone, Kevin Pollak, Jimmy Vallely, Jonathan Schmock, Jeff Foxworthy, Barry Katz, Judd Apatow and expansive talks with Bob Saget, Louie Anderson, Gilbert Gottfried and Judy Tenuta, all four of whom we have since sadly lost. After more than a year in the making, the first three episodes of OCD: Boomers premiered on SiriusXM Comedy Greats on February 8, 2021. The program went on to earn a nod as a finalist for the New York Festival's Radio Award in the category of Documentary: Culture & The Arts! More episodes are forthcoming soon, but the first three episodes (broken into six parts) are available ON DEMAND here...
And on June 12, 2021, (Record Store Day) in partnership with Comedy Dynamics, the first OCD-curated vinyl collection Jonathan Winters: Unearthed hit stores! The 3 LP set was produced with Lucinda Winters to present the early recorded work of her father from 1958-1960... including some rare, never-before released material! The package not only showcases the genius of Jonathan as a performer, it also constructs a historical and personal frame around his early work to illuminate his story as it has never been told before.
To celebrate and promote the release of Unearthed, we produced a two-hour audio documentary entitled OCD: Unearthing Jonathan Winters. It premiered on SiriusXM on June 11, 2021 and featured four interwoven conversations with Robert Klein, Marc Maron, Maria Bamford and Jimmy Kimmel and his father Jim.
Most recently, SiriusXM ordered a reboot of the Comedy Grammy audio documentary which featured most of the content from the 2019 special and included brand new material, including interviews with Lewis Black, Lavell Crawford and 2021 Comedy Grammy winner Tiffany Haddish. Wanna hear it? Click the link below!
On July 6, 2022, SiriusXM premiered a very special OCD tribute to Gilbert Gottfried containing Paul Provenza's and my full conversation with Gilbert recorded in 2020 in the making of Boomers. Here's the link to OCD: Boomers - The Gilbert Gottfried is Dead Special.
And on January 9, 2023, SiriusXM commemorated the first anniversary of the passing of Bob Saget with another OCD tribute from me and Paul Provenza featuring our full two-hour interview with Bob. Here's the link to OCD: Boomers - Remembering Bob Saget (AKA The Last Schmaltz.)
The mission for all OCD projects is to tell the untold and mislaid stories throughout comedy's rich history. It brings together my myriad relationships across the world of comedy, my never-ending curiosity, my expansive repository of knowledge and my dedication to compelling narrative storytelling. I want to go deep or I don't want to go at all! My Obsessive Comedy Disorder is persistent and undeniable... and I love it.