July 2015 | Megan Amram '10

Megan Amram AB ‘10 
(Author & Comedy Writer, Silicon ValleyParks & RecScience… For Her!)

amram.jpgBy D. Dona Le

Most classical musicians start taking lessons in early childhood. Olympic-level athletes often begin training as soon as they’ve learned to walk.

But contrary to what her meteoric career as a comedy writer would suggest, Megan Amram ‘10 didn’t sprout from her mother’s forehead, fully formed and armed with the mighty pen. In fact, Amram wasn’t even funny as a child, describing herself instead as a math and science nerd.

Her first foray into comedy writing happened shortly before college, when she took a comedy class offered at her high school. With the encouragement of her teacher, Amram considered a career in comedy writing as “something that maybe I could do” for the first time.  

Maybe was quite the understatement. Five years after high school—about five months after Amram arrived in Los Angeles after graduating from Harvard—she landed her first writing job… for The Academy Awards.

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June 2015 | Claudia Weill '69

weill.jpgClaudia Weill '69 (Theatre, Film & TV Director, Girlfriends, thirtysomething, The Belle of Belfast)

By Dayna Wilkinson

Claudia Weill didn’t set out to be a director.  A first generation American, she grew up drawing and painting: “the arts were to my Swiss family what sports are to an American family, what you did on weekends.”  After her junior year in college, a summer job changed everything. “I was a PA on a documentary about the ‘Summer of Love’, 1967 in the Haight-Ashbury. I was happy to do anything, from taking publicity stills to casting and locations, dropping the director’s laundry off on the way to the film lab, making meals for fifty and interviewing folks on camera. It was way too much fun to go back to school after that summer.”

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May 2015 | Dan Goor '97

Dan Goor '97 (Co-Creator, Executive Producer, Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

By Dayna Wilkinson

goor.jpg“When I went to college I wanted to be a doctor and a comedian—like my idol Jonathan Miller, from the British comedy revue Beyond the Fringe.”

Dan’s twin interests can be traced back to his upbringing in Bethesda, Maryland down the street from the National Institutes of Health. “I’ve always been very interested in science and molecular biology,” he says. “I grew up with it—my Dad and everyone around us worked at NIH. Scientists describe what they do as stories, and I think that fostered my fascination with storytelling.”

His appetite for comedy emerged early. “My brother was a really talented pianist--he’s four years older. While he’d practice, I’d read Woody Allen short stories to him. We got hold of a video camera and spent hours making up sketch comedy routines and cracking each other up. We imitated what made us laugh on TV--Saturday Night Live, Monty Python, televangelists...”

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April 2015 | Colleen McGuinness '99

Colleen_McGuinness_3_Getty_Images_for_Glamour_Photo_by_Astrid_Stawiarz.jpgColleen McGuinness '99 (Comedy Writer-Producer, About a Boy30 Rock)

By Sara Lynne Wright

“A lot of recent graduates, especially Harvard students, want to do the responsible thing and have a job lined up when they move to Hollywood, but it’s really hard to do that unless you already live here.”

Comedy writer-producer Colleen McGuinness has practiced what she preaches.

As a writer for film and television, including 30 ROCK and ABOUT A BOY, she has no shame admitting that when she first moved out to L.A., she was unemployed.

Half-Korean and half-Irish but raised by her Irish-Norwegian grandparents since she was six months old, Colleen says the feeling of being an outsider is part of what has fueled her to write.

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March 2015 | Benjamin Scheuer '04

Benjamin_Scheuer_headshot_2014.jpgBenjamin Scheuer '04 (Singer, Songwriter, & Creator of The Lion)

By Cristina Slattery

Benjamin Scheuer is the singer, songwriter and creator of the critically acclaimed off Broadway musical, THE LION. THE LION is currently playing at the Lynn Redgrave Theater in New York through March 29th and will travel to Portland, Oregon, in May. Who is Benjamin Scheuer? Well, his show tells his story. Armed with several guitars, the 32-year-old Scheuer sits in different spaces on the small stage, and sings his autobiographical songs to the audience. In this intimate setting, audience members experience an intensely emotional journey. This one-man musical includes songs that explain Ben’s life and the several traumatic experiences he has had to endure.

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February 2015 | Joe Toplyn '75, MBA '79

Joe Toplyn '75, MBA '79 (Writer, Late Night with David LettermanTonight Show with Jay Leno, Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV, Winner of four Emmy Awards)

By Terence O'Toole Murnin

Toplyn.jpgAfter Years of Writing Comedy for the Likes of Leno and Letterman, Joe Toplyn Now Shares His Secrets in the First Book Ever on Writing for Late Night TV with His Sights Set on a New TV Show

Photo Copyright: Nate Williams

“As my stockbroker friends might say, ‘You can’t fight the market,’” deadpans Joe Toplyn on his need to write hilarious, topical humor, often skewering Bill Cosby, or Kim Kardashian, or whoever is currently making the news. His Twitter feed (@JoeToplyn) mines the same topical gold that Toplyn has been perfecting for years for comedy heavyweights like Letterman and Leno:

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January 2015 | David Kwong '02

David Kwong '02 (Magician & Puzzler, Now You See MeThe Imitation Game)

By Terence O'Toole Murnin

DKGoogle-Plus-Photo.jpgNot a Cruise Ship Magician—Puzzles and prestidigitation can't really begin to describe the genius of David Kwong

Photo to the left by Aaron Epstein

Calling David Kwong a magician is kind of like calling John Harvard a collector of books. It describes one of his many passions, but it only hints at what the man is becoming—and what he will ultimately become. Although not a household name (yet), Kwong has indeed “arrived,” tapping into the Zeitgeist on an enchanted path where highbrow Intelligentsia meets Hollywood spectacle in a tantalizing mix of performance art that both entertains and informs.

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December 2014 | Warren Hsu Leonard HLS '99

Warren Hsu Leonard HLS '99 (Executive Story Editor, How to Get Away with Murder)

By Dayna Wilkinson

“If you want to write as your second or third career, don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it."WarrenHsuLeonard.jpg

Warren Hsu Leonard wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after high school but he knew he wasn’t ready for college. "As an eighteen year old from a small town in Maine, I certainly didn't imagine I could end up in Hollywood.”

After taking some time off, Warren sold everything he owned and bought a one-way bus ticket to San Francisco. “The documentary scene there was amazing back then. I went to movies, interned for several politicians and worked for political and environmental causes.”

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November 2014 | Emily Halpern '02 & Sarah Haskins '01

Emily Halpern '02 & Sarah Haskins '01 (Writers & Producers, TROPHY WIFE, BOOKSMART)

By D. Dona Le '05

sarahhaskins.jpg“Writing’s fun,” declares Sarah Haskins AB ‘01.

Emily Halpern AB ‘02, sitting across from her in their adjoining offices at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, agrees. “The early brainstorming and outlining stages, we do together, just sitting with coffee and talking—kind of like this.”

“Some light complaining, a little brainstorming,” Sarah quips.Halpern.jpg

This writing duo, co-creators of the ABC show Trophy Wife (2013-2014), met while they were Harvard undergraduates and Emily was dating one of Sarah’s friends. They didn’t know that ten years later, they would be successful writing partners, producers, and showrunners in Hollywood.

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October 2014 | Tinker Lindsay '74

Lindsay.jpgTinker Lindsay '74 (Writer, HECTOR & THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS)

By Khurshid Velji

Tinker Lindsay ’74, co-writer of the screenplay for the film Hector and the Search for Happiness, was recently in Toronto for the film’s North American premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Although Lindsay had a busy schedule, just before she attended the premiere, she made time to meet with a group of Harvard Alumni from Harvardwood and the Harvard Club of Toronto. It was an honor to meet with her personally and celebrate her accomplishments.

Lindsay graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard with a B.A. in English and American Language and Literature. She was a Phi Beta Kappa member and an editor for the Harvard Crimson. She also completed the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Course.

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