You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Facts of Life,’ ‘Silver Spoons’ Co-Creator Ben Starr Dies at 92

Prolific scribe started in radio, wrote for 'All in the Family,' 'Mr. Ed,' 'The Brady Bunch'

Comedy writer Ben Starr, whose career stretched from radio through 1980s sitcoms, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92.

Starr was a co-creator of NBC comedies “The Facts of Life” and “Silver Spoons.” During his long career, he wrote for TV comedies ranging from “All in the Family” to “Diff’rent Strokes” as well as “Mr. Ed,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Petticoat Junction,” “The Brady Bunch” and “Chico and the Man.”

Starr inadvertently helped create the famous catchphrase from “Diff’rent Strokes” — “Whatchu talking ’bout Willis?” The line as written in an early script for the show was “What are you talking about, Willis?” but after star Gary Coleman gave it his distinctive delivery, Starr knew it was a keeper.

Starr went on to create the spinoff “Facts of Life” with two other writers he met while working on “Diff’rent Strokes,” Martin Cohan and Howard Leeds. “Facts of Life” ran from 1979 to 1988. “Silver Spoons,” also created with Cohan and Leeds, ran from 1982-1987 and launched the career of Rick Schroder.

In addition to his TV work, Starr penned a number of features including 1966’s “Our Man Flint” and “Texas Across the River” and 1967’s “The Spirit is Willing.” He also wrote plays, including “The Family Way,” which had a brief run on Broadway in 1965.

Raised in Brooklyn by Russian immigrant parents, Starr served in WWII and attended New York’s City College and later graduated from UCLA. He got his showbiz start in radio,  writing for such giants as Al Jolson, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin and George Burns.

Starr was among the veteran comedy scribes featured in the documentary “Lunch,” about the group’s regular kvetch sessions at Factor’s Deli in Los Angeles.

Starr’s wife of 50 years, Gloria, died in 1999.

Survivors include three children and three grandchildren and nephew Andy Kaplan, who heads international channels for Sony Pictures TV.

Here is a link to an Archive of American of Television interview with Starr from 2009:

More TV

  • janelle monae Grammys Metoo

    Janelle Monae’s ‘Dirty Computer’ Film to Premiere on MTV and BET 

    Comedy writer Ben Starr, whose career stretched from radio through 1980s sitcoms, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92. Starr was a co-creator of NBC comedies “The Facts of Life” and “Silver Spoons.” During his long career, he wrote for TV comedies ranging from “All in the Family” to “Diff’rent Strokes” […]

  • Andrea Riseborough Nancy

    Gabriel Byrne, Andrea Riseborough, Amazon Board Cocaine Drama ‘ZeroZeroZero’

    Comedy writer Ben Starr, whose career stretched from radio through 1980s sitcoms, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92. Starr was a co-creator of NBC comedies “The Facts of Life” and “Silver Spoons.” During his long career, he wrote for TV comedies ranging from “All in the Family” to “Diff’rent Strokes” […]

  • Nordic Noir Gets Tropical Twist With

    Nordic Noir Gets Tropical Twist With Canary-Set ‘Crimeshare’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Comedy writer Ben Starr, whose career stretched from radio through 1980s sitcoms, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92. Starr was a co-creator of NBC comedies “The Facts of Life” and “Silver Spoons.” During his long career, he wrote for TV comedies ranging from “All in the Family” to “Diff’rent Strokes” […]

  • Scandal series finale

    'Scandal' Series Finale Recap: The Gladiators Say Goodbye in 'Over a Cliff'

    Comedy writer Ben Starr, whose career stretched from radio through 1980s sitcoms, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92. Starr was a co-creator of NBC comedies “The Facts of Life” and “Silver Spoons.” During his long career, he wrote for TV comedies ranging from “All in the Family” to “Diff’rent Strokes” […]

  • Bart Peters

    Former Audience Network Exec Bart Peters Launches Big Branch Productions

    Comedy writer Ben Starr, whose career stretched from radio through 1980s sitcoms, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92. Starr was a co-creator of NBC comedies “The Facts of Life” and “Silver Spoons.” During his long career, he wrote for TV comedies ranging from “All in the Family” to “Diff’rent Strokes” […]

  • David Hogg

    TV News Roundup: Freeform, ABC News Team for 'Parkland: For Our Lives' Special

    Comedy writer Ben Starr, whose career stretched from radio through 1980s sitcoms, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92. Starr was a co-creator of NBC comedies “The Facts of Life” and “Silver Spoons.” During his long career, he wrote for TV comedies ranging from “All in the Family” to “Diff’rent Strokes” […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content