It is with an incredible sense of loss for the writing community and the Writers’ Program that I acknowledge the recent death of Alan Kirschenbaum, who taught advanced sit com writing and served as a lead judge-mentor for the UCLA Extension Television Competition.
When I received Alan’s letter expressing interest in teaching for the Writers’ Program in June 2009, I couldn’t whip out a “When Can We Meet?” reply fast enough. It was obvious that Alan’s stellar credits as a writer, producer, and director of over 400 TV comedy episodes, including My Name is Earl, Coach, and Yes, Dear (which he co-created) would be a big draw for our students. As well, I was charmed by his letter, which ended with: “If you are looking for an enthusiastic, funny person with strong opinions about good writing, a prolific resume and a real desire to try something new, I look forward to hearing from you.”
Alan designed a new workshop for which he selected, based on their work, 12 writers who had half-hour comedy scripts with potential but who couldn’t figure out how to make them work. Needless to say, we were flooded with applications each time Alan taught the course. The students loved the way Alan ran the class like a showrunner—”the way he would run a room with other professionals”; they loved the way Alan challenged them (“He kicks your proverbial butt”) while simultaneously being “helpful, encouraging, honest, inspiring, and funny.” And of course, they valued his notes, which always made “the next draft of the script much stronger,” and his abiding support: he cared, as one student wrote, “about the quality of the students’ work and their success in the industry.”
Alan, you told me you wanted to make a difference in emerging professional writers’ lives—and you did. We thank you and we miss you.
Program Director, UCLA Extension Writers’ Program