Friends recall Kirschenbaum’s gifts

Outpouring of tributes reflect scribe's deep roots in comedy biz

‘Yes, Dear’ co-creator Greg Garcia remembers Alan Kirschenbaum

Alan Kirschenbaum was a comedy writer’s writer. He grew up steeped in the Borscht Belt tradition, thanks to his father, Catskills favorite Freddie Roman. Throughout his 30-year career as a TV scribe, Kirschenbaum, who died Friday at 51, was known for his generous spirit, prodigious talent and seemingly endless supply of jokes.

The depth of Kirschenbaum’s roots in the creative community was underscored by the outpouring of emotional tributes from writers, actors, producers, comics and other bizzers as word of his death spread during the weekend. Kirschenbaum, whose long resume included co-creating the CBS comedy “Yes, Dear” and the Eye’s upcoming midseason comedy “Friend Me,” was remembered by many on Twitter as a “gentle soul” and a gifted writer.

“Heartbroken over the loss of the wonderful Alan Kirschenbaum,” “Arrested Development” creator Mitch Hurwitz wrote.

“He was hilarious. A joy to be around and the definitive mensch,” “Modern Family” co-creator Steven Levitan wrote.

“Deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend Alan Kirschenbaum. He was someone I truly thought the world of. Sad day,” thesp Michael Chiklis wrote.

“He was a sweet, funny man,” wrote thesp David Krumholtz.

Among Kirschenbaum’s closest friends and collaborators were “Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Phil Rosenthal and Greg Garcia, co-creator of “Yes, Dear.”

In an essay posted Saturday on Huffington Post, Rosenthal recalled befriending Kirschenbaum when both were young teenagers in New York. He credited Kirschenbaum for encouraging him to write, and for teaching him the ropes of the TV biz after Rosenthal came to L.A. and slept on his old friend’s couch.

“I lost a brother,” Rosenthal wrote. “I would literally not be here at all, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity, the success, the money for this laptop without him, my dear and funny friend.”

The domestic laffer “Yes, Dear” was a frequent target of critics during its 2000-2006 run on CBS. Kirschenbaum seemed to revel in those barbs, and, of course, turned them into a fertile source of one-liners.

In a message to Deadline.com, Garcia wrote: “I hope somewhere Alan is telling a joke and God is doing a spit take, but for those of us he left behind, we’re devastated.”

Details of Kirschenbaum’s death were unclear during the weekend.

Kirschenbaum’s most recent project, the ensembler “Friend Me,” began production a few weeks ago, though no premiere date has been set. He co-created and was exec producer of the CBS TV Studios comedy about young people working for a social media startup with Ajay Sahgal.

In a statement, CBS said it was “stunned and devastated” by Kirschenbaum’s passing.

“We have lost a long-time colleague, a valued friend and truly one of the most well liked individuals in our midst. We will remember a gifted and successful comedy writer/producer who shared generously of his time beyond his show duties to help the network and studio in a variety of ways; a kind and gentle man; and a warm and witty conversationalist who could always be seen chatting up many on our lot ranging from assistants to senior executives. Everyone at CBS truly loved Alan and he will be deeply missed.”

In an interview with the New York Times in 2001, Kirschenbaum recalled growing up surrounded by comedy.

“One great thing about my dad was that he would never make me go to sleep, so there were always people over at the house late — Morty Gunty, Myron Cohen, Corbett Monica, Dick Capri and Mal Z. Lawrence — telling stories,” Kirschenbaum said. “It was magical to me.”

Among the many shows Kirschenbaum worked on were “Raising Hope,” “My Name is Earl,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Coach” and “Dear John.” He also created the 1992-93 Fox sitcom “Down the Shore.”

Kirschenbaum was known for his efforts to guide less experienced writers. He had recently worked for the UCLA Extension Writers Program as an instructor.

In addition to his father, survivors include his mother, Ethel; wife, Vicki; daughter, Molly; and sister, Judi.

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