It's a Funny Story: A Conversation with Women TV Comedy Writers

It's a Funny Story: A Conversation with Women TV Comedy Writers

About This Event

We could all use a good laugh. Fortunately, we can all unwind with an abundance of outstanding television comedy shows that are available at the click of a button. But comedy isn’t just for the jokes anymore: an increasing number of shows tackle universal problems and surprisingly navigate us through our challenging world. And as writers rooms continue investing in diverse talent, the voices you hear from your television take on fresh perspectives. 

Join The Writers Guild Foundation in partnership with Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting for a discussion surrounding how women television comedy writers got their start, how they use their experiences to inform their work, and the challenges they face in the writers room.


Njeri Brown - black-ish, Dear White People

Natasha Leggero & Riki Lindhome Another Period

Gail Parent - The Golden Girls, The Carol Burnett Show

Christine Zander - Loosely Exactly Nicole, Kevin From Work3rd Rock from the Sun, Saturday Night Live

Moderated by Dr. Rosanne Welch (Touched By An Angel, Picket Fences, Beverly Hills, 90210)

Doors open at 7pm. Event starts at 7:30pm.

All events advertised on our “Events” page are open to anyone who wants to buy a ticket – not just WGA members!

In the case the event is sold out, we will have a first come, first serve stand-by line at the event. The stand-by line does not guarantee entry into the event. We will only accept credit card transactions for any additionally-released tickets.

Proceeds benefit the Foundation’s library and archive and other outreach programs.

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Location / Venue

Our Partners

The Writers Guild Foundation

Event to Support The Writers Guild Foundation

Founded in 1966, the Writers Guild Foundation is the premier resource for emerging writers and movie and TV lovers in Hollywood. Boasting a busy calendar of high-value events and a vast, seemingly bottomless toolbox for writers, the Foundation is unmatched in its mission to promote and preserve the craft, history, and voices of screen storytelling.  A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we’re proud of all we do for the community, including our Veterans Writing Project, our Volunteer and Mentorship Programs, our Archive, and the Shavelson-Webb Library – the world’s only library devoted entirely to writing for the screen.

Njeri Brown is a television writer and attorney. She grew up in Montclair, NJ, graduated from Smith College with a degree in History, then from Rutgers Law School.

After Njeri spent several years as a corporate litigator, representing a range of client, from pharmaceutical companies to a death row inmate, she decided to change careers. 

In 2011, Njeri left the East Coast for L.A. and, through the CBS Writers’ Mentoring Fellowship Program, started her journey into television. Since that time, Njeri has written for shows including black-ish, Dear White People, and the new Netflix dark comedy, Dead to Me.

Njeri lives in Silverlake and, although she has no discernible hobbies, she has gone skiing twice.

Riki Lindhome is the co-creator and star of Another Period on Comedy Central. As an actress, Riki has appeared in several TV shows including Brooklyn 99, Big Bang Theory and Modern Family and films such as Lego Batman, Hell Baby, Much Ado About Nothing and the upcoming Under the Silver Lake. She is also one half of the musical comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates, who have had specials on Netflix and Comedy Central, four comedy albums and a TV show on IFC. 

It came as no surprise when, at the end of its first season on CBS, The Carol Burnett Show earned an Emmy nomination for writing. What should have been surprising was despite the series being headlined by and tailored for the talents of a woman, there was only one female among the writing nominees. That woman, Gail Parent, had become successful as a comedy writer—a field dominated by men in the 1960s—despite her mother’s advice: “Try not to be so funny—men would rather be romantic on a date than laughing all night.” Parent not only became one of the key comedy writers in the medium, but was also instrumental in creating one of the true cult series of the seventies, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. In addition she dabbled in film and theater, and wrote the best seller Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York. She also contributed to the smash hit The Golden Girls and branched out into producing, a duty she assumed for Tracey Takes On…, among other shows. A reliable talent when it comes to knowing what makes not just women, but people in general funny, Parent believes that writers needn’t be categorized according to sex. “With writers it is what is on the page. By the time it gets on the page, sex doesn’t count.”

While studying dramatic arts and English at New York University, Gail met Kenny Solms, whom she discovered shared a sense of humor similar to her own. The two began writing and selling sketches and jokes for $5 each, managing to sell material to humorist Vaughn Meader, best known for his albums lampooning the Kennedy administration. A gig writing revue sketches for Manhattan’s Upstairs at the Downstairs nightclub was followed by their own satirical record album, Our Wedding Album or The Great Society Affair (1966), which poked fun at first daughter Luci Baines Johnson’s nuptials to Air Force NCO Pat Nugent. Parent and Solms not only wrote the material, but performed it as well, alongside Robert Klein, Jo Anne Worley, and Fannie Flagg. The record caught the attention of Joe Hamilton, who was in the process of putting together a variety series for his wife, Carol Burnett. The Solms-Parent style of parody appealed to him, and the team was hired in the fall of 1967 to help launch the opening season of The Carol Burnett Show. They found themselves in the running for an Emmy award on five occasions and winning the trophy in 1973. It was a seminal experience for Parent, who explained, “Working for Carol was like getting our master’s degree in comedy. We had no TV experience but we learned—from the best.”

Having established herself in the medium, Parent was not content to fall back on an easy paycheck coming from the Burnett series. She and Solms wrote for several specials, deliberately writing against type for their stars: Ann-Margret: From Hollywood with Love turned the vibrant performer into a housewife; The Many Sides of Don Rickles had the sardonic comedian portraying a monk; and Annie and the Hoods, where classy Anne Bancroft popped up as a vulgar American marrying British royalty. By the time the last special aired in 1974, Parent had found success as a novelist, publishing Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York in 1972. Also around this period Parent and Solms were invited to write for MTM Enterprises, contributing an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Parent wrote two episodes for its spin-off, Rhoda. And Parent took on her first job as producer (“As producer you get to protect your own stuff,” she would explain) when Joe Hamilton decided to put together a new variety series for the Smothers Brothers. This was a sign not only of Parent’s growing status in the industry, but also of progress for women in the workplace: the Smothers had turned down her request for a job on their sixties series because they had not felt comfortable having a woman on their otherwise all-male writing staff.

Despite earning its staff a Writers Guild Award nomination, the Smothers series lasted only half a season. While Sheila Levine made it to the big screen in 1975, Parent had less luck transferring her novel to television, where, as creator and executive producer, she brought only a pilot of Sheila to the air in the summer of 1977. She did, however, find her name attached to one of the most talked about programs of the era when Norman Lear approached her about doing a mock soap opera. Parent came up with the key characters, including the lead protagonist, a small town housewife whose life is filled with one crisis after another; she titled her twenty four-page outline “The Life and Times of Mary Hartman.” With this, Parent laid the groundwork for what became one of the medium’s true cult series, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and received credit for creating the program.

Her next effort with Solms was the innovative idea of taking the variety show format and combining it with a situation comedy, following the lives of three unknowns hoping to make it in show business. 3 Girls 3 found Parent once again in the producer’s chair, as well as being the writer; but despite earning some of the most encouraging reviews of the year (the New York Times called it, “Easily the freshest, liveliest and most exciting premiere of a series that television has concocted in years.”), it would only air sporadically for four episodes. Carol Burnett called on Solms and Parent one more time for Burnett’s 1977 special, Sills and Burnett at the Met, bringing them yet another Emmy nomination.

At this point, Parent went solo as a screenwriter, while also continuing her career as a novelist, publishing such titles as David Meyer Is a Mother, The Best Laid Plans, A Little Bit Married and A Sign of the Eighties. She returned to television in 1984 as creator of the weekly dramatic series Finder of Lost Loves, based on an
actual agency she had read about that would track down ex-flames. She then teamed with her son, Kevin, to write two episodes of Steven Spielberg’s anthology series Amazing Stories. Parent’s work was so admired in the industry that she was invited to join the predominantly male writing staff of one of the top-rated series of its day, The Golden Girls. In its fifth season she received a producer credit as well, and earned three more Emmy nominations. Despite more than twenty years in the business, this marked the first time Parent was considered an official member of the writing staff of a half-hour situation comedy. Parent next found herself writing sketches for another talented comedienne, Tracey Ullman, for her HBO series Tracey Takes On… Once again doing double duty as producer and writer, Parent ended up with eight more Emmy nominations and another win. (All total she has had seventeen Emmy nominations.)

Parent, not content to slow down or rest on her laurels, went on to write a television movie for Disney teen star Hilary Duff, Cadet Kelly as well as the screenplay for the Lindsay Lohan comedy, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. Most recently, Parent has written for Tracey Ullman's State of the Union, finished a new non-fiction book with co-writer Susan Ende, M.F.T. called How To Raise Your Adult Children and written a play with co-writer Stacy Sherman called Euthanasia – Almost a Musical.

Christine Zander started her career in television as a staff writer on Saturday Night Live in 1987. She did seven seasons then moved to California where she was reunited with her friends Bonnie and Terry Turner who had created the hit series 3rd Rock From the Sun where she enjoyed six incredible seasons on NBC. To name a few other shows that followed; Less Than Perfect, Samantha Who, Nurse Jackie and several half hour comedy pilots. Right now she's delighted to be staffed on a series for HBO.