Comedy writing great Robert Weiskopf, one of Lucille Ball’s favorite scribes who with partner Robert Schiller penned numerous memorable episodes of “I Love Lucy,” “Make Room for Daddy” and “Our Miss Brooks,” died Feb. 20in Santa Monica, following congestive heart failure. He was 87.Weiskopf, a Chicago native, attended the U. of Chicago, dropped out his sophomore year and in December 1940 joined boyhood friends Norman Panama and Melvin Frank in Los Angeles, where they had landed a writing job on Bob Hope’s radio show. Hope eventually bought two of Weiskopf’s jokes, and less than three weeks later, Weiskopf hit the big time joining the writing staff of “The Eddie Cantor Show.” Cantor paid $50 a week, so Weiskopf’s association with the comedian lasted only six months, but he had established a name for himself and joined the writing staff of Rudy Vallee’s new Sealtest program, featuring Joan Davis. Following U.S. entry into WWII, Weiskopf and his wife moved to New York and worked for Fred Allen. He later joined the U.S. Army and was still able to work for Allen. In 1953 Weiskopf partnered with Schiller to work on a script for a new Danny Thomas show called “Make Room for Daddy.” They clicked together and subsequently worked on several other hit shows, including “Our Miss Brooks,” “The Bob Cummings Show” and “That’s My Boy!” In 1955 Weiskopf and Schiller landed on the Desilu lot to write for Janis Paige’s TV series “It’s Always Jan.” There the partners ran into an old friend, Jess Oppenheimer, who was producing the biggest show on TV, “I Love Lucy.” Weiskopf and Schiller joined the writing staff of “Lucy” and wrote 50 episodes over the next two years. Some of the more memorable ones they penned included “Lucy’s Italian Movie” (which featured the grape-stomping scene) and “Lucy Visits Grauman’s” (John Wayne’s footprints). They also wrote all of the “Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour” shows (which aired once a month) and also contributed to Desi Arnaz’s own pet project, “The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse. Following Ball and Arnaz’s divorce in 1960, Schiller and Weiskopf went to work on the CBS sitcom “Pete and Gladys.” They later worked for Ball again on “The Lucy Show,” leaving in 1965 to head the writing staff of Red Skelton’s TV show. Following the Skelton gig, they wrote for a number of shows including “The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show,” “The Boys,” “The Carol Burnett Show” and “The Flip Wilson Show,” for which they won their first Emmy. After four years writing for Norman Lear’s “Maude,” they joined Lear’s “All in the Family” in 1977 and won their second Emmy, for a show titled “Cousin Liz,” about lesbianism. The two were nominated for six Emmys during their joint career. Schiller and Weiskopf continued to write for Lear comedies throughout the 1980s. On Weiskopf’s passing, Schiller told Daily Variety, “I’ve lost my closest friend and favorite partner.” Weiskopf is survived by his wife Eileen, two sons and two grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for noon on Wednesday at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda, Los Angeles, CA 90049.
Want Entertainment News First? Sign up for Variety Alerts and Newsletters!
- Entertainment One, Los Angeles, California
- Petrol Advertising, Burbank, California
- The Los Angeles Film School, Los Angeles CA
- Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc., New York, New York
- MPCA, Los Angeles, California