A BIT mORE aBOUT mE
When I was 11 or 12, I wrote a short play called The Christmas Pizza and presented it at our community church. Several years later, at an arts retreat for high school kids, I wrote a short story about Colonel Sanders falling into a deep fryer and being eaten by an oblivious family. These early works have been lost to the ages. As you can see from the stated ambition in my high school yearbook, I was not only a budding comedy writer, but also a budding smart-ass.
I studied theatre at Loyola University of Chicago. I was cast in farces.
In the summer of ’74 I met my wife Charlotte Booker when we were performing The Matchmaker.
After college I did theater and comedy in Chicago. I was hired to play piano for the comedy group, the Reification Company. Bernadette Birkett, Danny Breen, Nonie Newton, Rob Riley, and Tom Tully were among the best improvisers in the city, and it was pure joy to work with them.
After a stint playing playing piano for Second City, I co-founded my own comedy company, Friends of the Zoo. Peter Burns, Jeanette Schwaba-Vigne, Karol Kent, Russ Flack, and yours truly had fun parodying a famous Skrebneski shot of Cindy Crawford and some naked guy promoting the Chicago Film Festival.
After a few years in New York City, and working as a guest writer on two episodes of Saturday Night Live, and after a short stop in Orlando writing for the Mickey Mouse Club, it was on to Hollywood, where I wrote for the sitcoms Woops!, Nurses, and Third Rock from the Sun.
It was on Nurses that I met Boyd Hale. I’d already known Tom Wolfe from Chicago. Together the three of us wrote the film Almost Heroes. See the trailer elsewhere on this website. Fast forward. Years later I connected with three other Chicago friends—Dave Lewman, Joe Liss, John Rubano—and together we wrote and performed the four-man musical, The Bicycle Men.
Later I worked with beloved director Stuart Gordon to create Re-Animator: The Musical, based on his classic cult horror film. Stuart was yet another connection from Chicago: I knew him from working with the Organic Theater Company.
Fast forward some more. Inspired by S.J. Perelman, Jack Handey, John Swartzwelder, and others, I self-publish my first short story collection, Sunset Cruise on the River Styx. We did a reading of stories from the book at Hallenbeck’s General Store in North Hollywood, also the home of Christmas Smackdown. Drop in sometime, order one of the best sandwiches in the San Fernando Valley, and say hello to Anita.
I also want to mention the time I spent at jazz camps: the New York Hot Jazz Camp and New Orleans Trad Jazz Camp. Trad jazz is the jazz of the 1910’s and 1920’s or thereabouts. Think early Louis Armstrong. Here I am playing at Preservation Hall in New Orleans.(!)
And here we are following a second line parade through the French Quarter: me, brilliant stand-up comedian Emo Philips, and clarinet monster Dan Levinson.