Walter V. Kempley Jr.

Longtime comedy scribe and producer Walter V. Kempley Jr., who for several years was head writer for “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson and wrote for numerous sitcoms, died of Alzheimer’s disease Saturday in Sarasota, Fla. He was 74.

A writer for “The Jack Paar Show” and “The Jackie Gleason Show” as well, Kempley’s variety show experience helped back Carson from 1967 to 1971.

He also wrote for David Frost as well as for Howard Cosell’s short-lived “Saturday Night Live With Howard Cosell,” and produced “The Merv Griffin Show.”

His sitcom writing included “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “McHale’s Navy” and “Happy Days,” where he had a five-year contract with Paramount to co-produce and exec story-edit and develop new series.

When his contract with the net was terminated after the 1982 strikes, Kempley turned to writing overseas as. His first novel, “The Probability Factor,” was turned into the 1976 French film “L’ordinateur des pompes funebres.” Later he wrote for German television and films, which translated his works from English.

He is survived by wife Betty, three daughters, a son and four grandchildren.

More Scene

  • Guillermo del Toro, Greta Gerwig and

    Timothée Chalamet Says He'd Love to Work With Christopher Nolan or Guillermo del Toro

    Longtime comedy scribe and producer Walter V. Kempley Jr., who for several years was head writer for “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson and wrote for numerous sitcoms, died of Alzheimer’s disease Saturday in Sarasota, Fla. He was 74. A writer for “The Jack Paar Show” and “The Jackie Gleason Show” as well, Kempley’s variety […]

  • Tracee Ellis Ross

    Tracee Ellis Ross at Image Makers Awards: 'Clothing Started as Armor for Me'

    Longtime comedy scribe and producer Walter V. Kempley Jr., who for several years was head writer for “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson and wrote for numerous sitcoms, died of Alzheimer’s disease Saturday in Sarasota, Fla. He was 74. A writer for “The Jack Paar Show” and “The Jackie Gleason Show” as well, Kempley’s variety […]

  • Golden Globes Timeline

    Inside the Glamorous Golden Globes After-Parties

    Longtime comedy scribe and producer Walter V. Kempley Jr., who for several years was head writer for “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson and wrote for numerous sitcoms, died of Alzheimer’s disease Saturday in Sarasota, Fla. He was 74. A writer for “The Jack Paar Show” and “The Jackie Gleason Show” as well, Kempley’s variety […]

  • Damian Lewis and Malin AkermanShowtime Golden

    Golden Globe 2018 Pre-Parties: BAFTA Los Angeles Tea, Showtime, ICM and More

    Longtime comedy scribe and producer Walter V. Kempley Jr., who for several years was head writer for “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson and wrote for numerous sitcoms, died of Alzheimer’s disease Saturday in Sarasota, Fla. He was 74. A writer for “The Jack Paar Show” and “The Jackie Gleason Show” as well, Kempley’s variety […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content