Hewlett High School alumnus Alan Zweibel has come a long way since writing jokes for $7 apiece for the Catskill comics.
Zweibel, 72, a Five Towns native who also lived in Wantagh, recently was awarded a lifetime achievement award from Stand Up NY, which opened in 1986 and is one of New York City’s premiere comedy clubs. The honor is Zweibel’s fifth such award.
“When I was told about this particular award, it touched my heart,” he said. “I have a great affection for comedy clubs because it was very good for me to showcase my material.”
Zweibel grew up on Long Island, moving to Woodmere at age 15. His family first lived in Brooklyn. He graduated from Hewlett High School in 1968.
He started in small clubs, initially writing jokes for Catskill comics and other clubs before screenwriter Lorne Michaels eventually noticed his work and gave him a job as an original writer on “Saturday Night Live” in 1974. There he formed connections with many comedy writers, including two that would remain Zweibel’s best friends to this day, Billy Crystal and Larry David.
Zweibel’s television credits include “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, “Monk” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” a show created by David. He also wrote for the Tony Award-winning play “700 Sundays,” on which he worked alongside Crystal, and six off-Broadway plays, including “Bunny Bunny–Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy,” which he adapted from his bestselling book.
Zweibel also has written 11 books including “The Other Shulman: A Novel,” a 2006 Thurber Prize for American Humor-winning novel, the popular children’s book, “Our Tree Named Steve,” and a parody of the Haggadah, titled “For This We Left Egypt?” which he co-wrote with Dave Barry and Adam Mansbach. His last book was “Laugh Lines: My Life Helping Funny People Be Funnier.” The Haggadah is the book used to guide Passover seders.
He is working on several other projects, including adapting director Barry Sonnenfeld’s memoir, “Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother,” as a feature film for Castle Rock Entertainment, and “Here Today,” a film he co-wrote with Crystal.
Zweibel, who now lives in New Jersey, frequently visits Long Island, of which he has always held fond memories.
“What I remember was a simpler time,” Zweibel said. “I had a lot of fun at Hewlett High School. I get together with the three guys who I've known since I was 8 years old, from when I lived in Wantagh before we moved to Woodmere. We're all 72 now, but there's a fondness that we all have for old times. I remember people not taking things too seriously and almost everybody I knew was friendly and had a sense of humor.”
Zweibel has been married to his wife, Robin, for 43 years, and they have three children and five grandchildren.
He worked on “SNL” for the first five years of the show and regards that time as one of his favorites during his professional career.
“I can't discount ‘SNL,’” he said. “I was 24, my first job in television. It was this brand-new show that was going to air and the excitement of helping. Being a part of the creation of it is really up there for me.”
He also singled out working on “700 Sundays” as one of his favorite accomplishments because he collaborated on it with Crystal. “I was honored when (he) asked me to do that with him,” Zweibel said.
Refusing to listen to those who doubted his abilities was an important lesson that Zweibel learned early on, and he has carried that lesson with him throughout his career.
“The naysayers, don't let them into your life, you don't need that kind of energy,” he said. “Listen to people who egg you on. Something that I learned when I became a parent is whatever your passion or your children's passions are, support it. Don't look at what the odds are. If I can make it — for me to have five Emmy Awards —that should be a lesson for everyone.”