Ron Weiner '95 (Writer & Producer, 30 ROCK, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT)
By Kibi Anderson '00
By profession Ron Weiner ’95 is a comedy writer. Having worked on several hit comedy TV shows including NEWSRADIO, FUTURAMA and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, he has been darn successful, too. However, if you ask him what he is passionate about, you'll get a different answer – “Writing, for sure, but composing music probably more so.” Accordingly, Ron has spent most of his life working on his two loves, and recently found a way to combine them.
Ron started studying piano at the age of 5, after watching his friend’s older brother play “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. He comments, “I thought he was so cool.” He notes that he always loved doing creative stuff – singing, acting, making home movies, these things came naturally to him. It was in high school that he was finally given a platform to showcase his comedy chops, in an improv class that he describes as influential in his development. Ron comments, “for the first time I learned how to do comedy in a structured environment, and how to improvise, plus I liked the people I was working with.” As part of a 12 hour drama-thon at his high school, Ron performed in a parody of “In Search Of” where he played Leonard Nimoy, and drew laughs. Ron also began writing short humorous reviews of local restaurants and video stores for the high school newspaper. The reviews were somewhat popular in school and even spawned a few imitators. “I would see people in the cafeteria laughing at what I wrote,” comments Ron. This would give him the confidence to apply to the Lampoon Magazine several years later at Harvard.
Hailing from Brookline, MA, Ron notes that even before attending Harvard, the school always had a presence in his life. “I would hang out in Harvard Square with my friends in high school. His older brother Dan (’92) also went to Harvard, and his Dad was a professor in the Medical School so it was a bit of a no-brainer that he would at least apply. Fortunately he got in. He entered Harvard, not really sure about what he wanted to do with his life. Medical school was briefly a notion. However his two passions remained front and center – music and writing. He competed to compose the music for the annual Hasty Pudding Musical every year and lost until finally snagging the job his senior year. Also in his senior year, he wrote the book, lyrics and music for an original science fiction musical called GALAXY that went up in the Loeb Experimental Theatre.
However it was his time working on the Literary Staff of the Lampoon Magazine that probably had the most profound influence on him during his time at Harvard. In his sophomore year, at the suggestion of his brother, he tried out for the magazine. He comments, “It was a brutally competitive process, but it was definitely worth it. If you were to officially ask me my major, I would say English, but I really majored in the Lampoon.” He goes on to say, “It is almost absurd the degree that Harvard has played a role in my life, specifically the Lampoon.” His time there helped him develop a thick skin and think about his writing in a more critical way, which was great preparation for Hollywood.
Approaching graduation, Ron considered whether he should pursue a career in music or writing. Since at the time he didn’t really have a band or specific music gig to push, and had few connections in the music world, he opted to move to New York and apply for TV writing gigs. Ron recalls, “Few people I knew moved to LA from Harvard at the time, so I figured I would go with where I had the most relationships.” He lived in New York for just over a year, eventually landing a writing job on a cable afternoon talk show called USA Live. However, one day a call came in from his agent in LA: he had been admitted to the Paramount Writers Apprentice Program, and needed to be in LA in four days.
Through the Paramount Program, he was placed on a show called Goode Behavior that starred Sherman Hemsley. Although the show was short lived, it was his first time in a real writers room. He recalls, “I learned so much, and also tapped into so much of what I did during my time at the Lampoon. Far from home, Ron received a great deal of social and professional support from the Lampoon network over the next few years. Ron notes, “When I first got to LA I was put up in the side room of the home of Scott Silveri ’94 and Brian Kelly ‘94, which they named ‘The box’. At the end of the night, they would often command me to ‘get in the box.’ They also helped out tremendously with my sample scripts, or ‘specs,’ that are so important to breaking in.” While talent and hard work are obviously necessary to succeed in the industry, Ron concedes the Lampoon network has been amazing. Fellow Lampooner Dave Mandel ’92 introduced him to an agent. Steve Lookner ’93, Josh Lieb ’94 and David Cohen ’90 hired him for his first three real gigs: THE WEIRD AL YANKOVIC SHOW, NEWSRADIO, and FUTURAMA.
Finally enjoying some success in TV, Ron began to turn is attention once again to sharing his music with the world. In 2004, he wrote and staged a cabaret show of original songs called MONSTER LOVE. His current show playing at Art/Works Theater, INTERNET DATING THE MUSICAL, is a “world premiere stage production that explores the hilarious ups and downs of this exploding cultural phenomenon”. Having received rave reviews from publications such as the Los Angeles Times and E! Entertainment, the show was initially scheduled to run thru early June, but due to its popularity was extended until July 15.
Ron comments, “INTERNET DATING: THE MUSICAL has been a wonderful experience, and it has been very gratifying to combine my love of writing and music.” He recollects that even though it has at times felt frustrating that his music was on the sidelines, perhaps that was a blessing in disguise. Ron comments, “Not having an outside boss or market dictating what I could and could not do, has allowed me to be much more free and creative in my music. It has been nice that I can keep it ‘pure,’ and do it just for the joy of it.” This was probably for the best in the long run, as enjoying the complete Ron Weiner package, both writer and musician, is definitely the way to go. For tickets to the show, please visit Art/Works Theater, 6569 Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles or go to the website http://www.internetdatingthemusical.com/. You can also hear a few mp3 songs from the show on the site!