Monday, March 09, 2020

RIP Earl Pomerantz

It is with great sadness I announce the passing of Earl Pomerantz. He was 75. Earl was a dear friend and regular readers know he also had a blog, which for the moment remains up.

Happy to say Earl was a guest on my podcast. EPISODE 87. Please listen to it to hear for yourself what a sweet, funny, good-hearted person he was.

Career-wise, Earl was an Emmy-winning writer. He wrote scripts for THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, RHODA, THE TONY RANDALL SHOW, PHYLLIS, TAXI, CHEERS, THE COSBY SHOW (which he also ran for a time), and created MAJOR DAD and BEST OF THE WEST. He was also a creative consultant on both Garry Shandling shows, LATELINE, and ACCORDING TO JIM. His credits alone tell you he was a terrific comedy writer.

But he was a very different type of comedy writer. His humor came from celebrating humanity and pointing out the silly absurd things we all do and can relate to. He was never mean spirited. I don’t think he could write a real put down joke. Shows that derived laughs out of humiliation held no interest for him. Earl believed that comedy was meant to provide joy.

More than any writer I can think of, Earl knew exactly who he was. He knew his strengths, he knew his point-of-view, and he knew what he could write well and what he couldn’t. When you got an Earl Pomerantz script you got the best of Earl Pomerantz.  Every time.

One thing I always admired about Earl was that he never lost that sense of childhood wonder. Earl asked lots of questions. Lot. Lots and lots. And only because he sincerely wanted to know the answers.

I got Earl interested in blogging and since 2008 his own blog, EARL POMERANTZ: JUST THINKING has been delighting readers from around the world.  I invite you to browse and go down a rabbit hole of insight, whimsy, and reflections.

Some random thoughts about Earlo:

He was from Canada.

His brother was a writer whose partner was Lorne Michaels.

Earl was offered a job on the original SNL and turned it down to concentrate on sitcoms, although he had no job at the time.

He wrote commentaries for Toronto newspapers.

He voiced commentaries for NPR.

He was an actor early on and was a series regular on the Bobbie Gentry Variety Show in the late ‘60s.

He won an Emmy writing for Lily Tomlin.

He won the Humanitas Award for an episode of THE MARY TYLER MOORE. That came with a cash prize that he used to buy his mother carpeting.

He was a beloved husband, father, and grandfather.

He followed me doing the warm-up on CHEERS.

He was a Toronto Blue Jays fan. And he loved spring training.

Our families went on Christmas vacations together.

He created a series for ABC called FAMILY MAN about his own life. Richard Libertini played him.

His many questions would drive some writers nuts.

As recently as a couple of years ago, he went to Oxford to study.

He loved Westerns (what Canadian didn’t?).

He created a multi-camera Western called BEST OF THE WEST that ran for a year on ABC. It was hilariously funny. Among the writers: Sam Simon and David Lloyd.

Back in the ‘80s when writers were still making stupid money, Earl was in a long late rewrite. During a break in the wee hours he said, “There’s got to be an easier way of making $300,000 a year.”

Earl said this about blogging: I’ve never had more fun writing.

He never knew how many readers he had. He never checked his stats. I think he’d be pleasantly surprised.

He was good friends with John Sebastian of the Loving Spoonful.

He wrote hilarious stage directions. Wanna see a secure door? Look at those locks. 

He rewrote every blog entry two or three times.  

He never got over the thrill of driving onto a movie lot.

His first drafts were always terrific. You could almost shoot them without any rewriting.

Earl used to claim that if you wanted to make cuts in a script that page 8 was never needed. You could always just remove page 8. Damned if he wasn’t usually right.

And finally, everybody loved him (even the writers he drove nuts with his questions). Probably because he loved everybody. He was a gentle soul with a wicked sense of humor. I will miss our lunches, our walks in Santa Monica, discussions of spring training facilities, analyzing today’s comedy, Bobbie Gentry stories, dinners at Roy’s, and much shared laughter.

Earl’s serious health problems began about five weeks ago. He suspended his blog, titling it “Intermission.” If only. But I’ll let him sign off.  Earl we love you and will miss you greatly. One last time, from Earl Pomerantz:

So long.

And as The Cisco Kid used to say,

“See you soon, Ha!”


Sean said...

I'm sorry for your loss Ken


YEKIMI said...

Just from these two words on his blog "so long" that I think he knew it was coming. Why do all the funny ones leave so early and the cretins, like that donkey fart in the White House, stick around forever?

YEKIMI said...

And I think it's sad that there's been no mention of his passing on, or any other paper/website that I've looked at. When the Emmys come 'round they damn well better have him on the "In Memorian" part.

Max Clarke said...

Earl wrote two of my favorite Cheers episodes. One was the first season, Sam's Women. The other was when the Sam & Diane romance was underway, How Do I Love Thee?

Years ago, Earl let his readers know he had a heart problem. As I recall, he invited readers to vote on the procedure: a human heart surgeon or a robot. I voted for the robot, and he later wrote that the procedure (valve replacement, maybe) had been performed with a robot. It had gone well, he let us know.

Back in 2017, I used an Audible credit to buy an Eddie Izzard memoir because Earl had praised Eddie in his blog essay, "Upgrade." It's good.

Earl will truly be missed.

Unknown said...

Ken, my condolences to the Pomerantz family and to yours. Your love and admiration for Earl was obvious from your posts over the years. The Pomerantz family clearly was blessed with humour. One of my favourite performers is Earl's brother Hart. A lawyer by profession, he was a memorable (and subversively funny) regular on a 1970s series in Canada, "This Is the Law". There would be several short silent sketches, each ending with an arrest by a Mountie. Panelists would try to guess the obscure local law that had been broken. Hart's wild theories were always accompanied by a twinkle in his eye and I bet Earl shared the same trait. And as you mention, Hart had a pre-SNL sketch series here called the "Hart & Lorne Terrific Hour".

LinGin said...

As usual, a superb appreciation/eulogy. Although you could have simply posted, "A mensch."

angel said...

Godspeed, Earl. I will miss you and your blog. :(

estiv said...

I loved Best of the West and the Lovin' Spoonful, so I'm sorry I didn't follow him. Thanks for the tribute to what sounds like a memorable human being.

Brian Phillips said...

I'm very sorry to hear this. I enjoyed his work and his blog immensely. Thank you for a wonderful tribute.

tavm said...

I think I've seen all the eps he wrote for "Taxi". I also recently saw all the "Laugh-In" eps his brother Hart and Lorne wrote for though I couldn't guess what material they created there. I read in a book about "SNL" that their pieces were edited first by other writers (like head writer Paul Keyes who restricted certain Nixon jokes since he was the president's speechwriter) then by the cast members. That inspired Lorne to create a show in which he'd do the opposite of that...

Mike Barer said...

He had the old school blog. No pictures. Simple. I followed it and often was only one of two or three leaving comments.
I noticed he hadn't put one up in a while and then I saw his intermission post.
Earl, may your memory forever be a blessing!

Dave Bismo said...

RIP Earl Pomeranz. So sorry to learn of his passing. I loved his writing and really enjoyed his blog. Condolences to his loved ones and his many fans.

404 said...

So sorry to read this, and sad for you and your loss. I only knew of Earl through his participation (comments, etc) on this blog, but I will say I have fond memories of what I've since learned was work that he helped to write or create -- especially BEST OF THE WEST. My whole family loved that show, and we were very sad when it didn't get a longer life.

Unknown said...

He was very funny! I seem to remember he didn't drive on freeways. RIP Earl.

zapatty said...

Earl was one of the writers on the "Hart & Lorne Terrific Hour," which aired on CBC. One of their best bits was a sketch about Baffin Island separating from Canada. Very funny stuff. RIP, Earl, and thanks for the memories.

JonCow said...

Ken, I am sorry for your loss, and the loss for all of us who appreciate comedy writing. Earl was the author of "Mummy Daddy," one of the funniest episodes of Amazing Stories. Check it out here:
Sorry Earl is not receiving royalties for this; he should.

Amanda said...

RIP Earl Pomerantz. He wrote some of my favorite episodes of Cheers,but I didn't know much about him as a person, other than what I've seen from you. I will definitely check out his blog and his interview. He sounds like he was a truly endearing soul.

Harkaway said...

Such sad news. I enjoyed his blog. Always low key and generous. He will be missed not just by his family and friends, but by the many who enjoyed his writing.

Dan Reese said...

I’m so sorry for your loss, Ken. What a lovely tribute. And I’m so glad you had him on the podcast so we had a little chance to get to know a name we’d seen so often for so many years.

CRL said...


Best Of The West was Deadwood without the cussing.......

michael weithorn said...

I got to know him a little bit during the early 80's when we were all working on the Paramount lot. What a delightful man, a beautiful human spirit. Very sad news indeed.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Sorry, Ken. Beautiful thoughts.

Been a rough couple of months.

Sergio said...

Very sad news. My condolences to his family and his friends. I liked his blog. He once wrote an "Interview with a giraffe" on his blog and it still makes me smile every time I think about it. That's the power of a wonderful funny writer.

Unknown said...

Tod Browning, thank you for the Amazing Stories link. A hilarious script by Earl Pomerantz indeed.

Andrew Orenstein said...

Ken, my name is Andrew Orenstein and I was close to Earl. I am heartbroken to learn of his passing. I knew he was sick but was obviously not expecting this. I do not want to bother Myra but if you could please email me offline at if you know about funeral/shiva etc, I would greatly appreciate it.



Johnny Hy said...

Very well done Ken and condolences on the loss of your friend. He had an amazing career and life!

Breadbaker said...

I must admit my first reaction when I saw this headline was "Oh, shit, this one has got to hurt. Ken loved this guy." QED. So sorry for everyone who knew him and everyone who will miss his humor.

Jewish Torontonian comedians rule!

Gary Glasscott said...

Very sad news indeed. Earl's blog had, over the years, become a dependable, gently comical and comfortable pair of shoes in my otherwise rather chaotic day.

I never had so much as an email conversation with him and yet, due to his inimitable writing style, I felt closer to him than some of my neighbours!

Go in peace, Earlo, I never met you and yet I'll miss you more than you would ever have known.

Mike Bloodworth said...

That's the thing about getting older you start to lose more and more people as the years go by. When you're young death is so abstract. But now it's a reality. It seems as if there have been more tributes on your blog this past year than the last three or four combined. Stay strong, Ken. Earl sounds like he was a great guy.

Tudor Queen said...

"He was never mean-spirited."

To me, that says everything. Who wouldn't want that for a legacy? And, oh, yes, in spite of never stooping to nastiness, he really was so very funny.

I'm sorry that you've lost another dear friend.

Cowboy Surfer said...

Nice tribute. Sorry for your loss Ken.

Earl did great work.

Alan Gollom said...

Wonderful tribute Ken. I loved Best of the West. I was so sorry it lasted only one season. His episodes on Taxi were classics. "Louie and the Nice Girl" was both hilarious and touching. There was a lot of humanity in his writing. Condolences to all.

Janet said...

So sad to be losing all the good ones...

John Hammes said...

Later in life, Jack Benny would complain it seemed like every month, or every several weeks, he was going to the funeral of somebody he knew. It is beginning to feel that way, for some of us, too.

We share the same experiences of generations past. We understand the experiences for generations yet to come.

We are still looking for a way to ease the pain.

Rest in peace to all good, peaceful people. May their life and love live on.

Through us. Through their loved ones. Through our loved ones.

Unknown said...

I got to know Earl through a mutual friend during the last writer's strike. We walked the picket line, then went out for lunch. It was the first of many, many breakfasts and lunches over all these years. You captured him perfectly, Ken. He used to say he didn't know how to write jokes, which is quite a statement from a comedy writer. I think he could, but he was focused on human behavior as you said. He was a thoroughly delightful human being and I can't believe I'm not going to sit down with him and laugh and hear his unique view of the world.

MikeKPa. said...

I always write this after one of your tributes, but they are always so personal and moving. It's how i found this blog, when Jerry Belson passed away.

GC said...

I am so sad. So, so sad, Ken. Mr. Earlo is gone. Sad!

Wayne said...

So sad. Earl was a real mellow soul. Funny but not in a brash way. My start in TV was having the same agent as him at ICM. The aggressive and later notorious Helen Gorman Kushnick. She had the balls to get some jokes I wrote (I didn't even have a script) to Ed. Weinberger, who put me on staff punching up. It might never have happened if not for Earl. Blessings upon you, sir.

Johnny Walker said...

Just discovered the news of Earl's passing. I found his blog many years ago through this blog. He answered one or two of my questions (I guess annoying curiosity is something we shared) and he was always very nice. When I took the effort to read his blog (which sadly wasn't as regularly as it deserved) I was ALWAYS glad I did. The posts were always better written than they had any right to be. And there are some AMAZING stories in those archives. Lots of stuff about Taxi and Andy Kaufman that I still think about. He seemed like a wonderful soul with lots of humility. I'm very sad that there won't be any new musings on his blog, but I'm grateful that he wrote it at all. I hope it remains live for a long, long time. It gave him a lot of joy, and it deserves to give others lots, too.