News Release: December 12, 2019
Television Comedy Writer Merrill Markoe to Receive WGAW’S 2020 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement
2020 Award Recipient
Television comedy writer Merrill Markoe (Late Night with David Letterman) has been named the recipient of the Writers Guild of America West’s 2020 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement, presented to a Guild member who has “advanced the literature of television and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the television writer.” She will be honored at the WGAW’s 2020 Writers Guild Awards ceremony on Saturday, February 1.
“Merrill Markoe’s pioneering work created what was then a new language of comedy in television, and her writing has influenced every comedy variety series in the last three decades. We are truly honored to give her this award,” said WGAW President David A. Goodman.
A WGAW member since 1977, Markoe has enjoyed a four-decade-long career as a television writer, author, and comedian. An acclaimed humorist, Markoe is perhaps best known as co-creator and original head writer of 1980’s The David Letterman Show, for which she shared a Daytime Emmy Award for her work on the ground-breaking morning comedy-talk show.
Continuing her creative collaboration with Letterman, Markoe went on to earn six Emmy nominations and share three Emmy Awards for her work on Late Night with David Letterman (Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program), for which she was the late-night TV show’s original head writer, creating many of the show’s signature segments, including “Stupid Pet Tricks,” “Stupid Human Tricks,” and “Viewer Mail,” among other trademark comedy bits.
Markoe also shared a 1990 Writers Guild Award for her work as a writer-performer on HBO's Not Necessarily the News. Over the course of her diverse comedy career, Markoe’s additional TV writing credits have included Newhart, Moonlighting, Sex and the City, The Garry Shandling Show, The Lewis Lectures, TV Nation, Mary, The New Laugh-In, Open All Night, Making the Grade, Sara, The Best Times, and Buffalo Bill, as well as several solo HBO specials which she wrote, directed, and starred in, including 1988’s Merrill Markoe’s Guide to Glamorous Living, which earned her a 1989 CableACE Comedy Special nomination.
She also regularly appeared on L.A.’s Channel 13 (KCOP) News as a correspondent featuring her segment, Merrill’s L.A, for several years.
A prolific comedy author, she has published four novels and four books of humorous essays, including Cool, Calm, and Contentious (2011), Nose Up, Eyes Down: A Novel (2008), Walking in Circles Before Lying Down: A Novel (2006), The Psycho Ex Game (2004, with Andy Prieboy), It’s My F**king Birthday (2002), Merrill Markoe’s Guide to Love (1997), How to Be Hap-Hap-Happy Like Me (1994), and What the Dogs Have Taught Me…and Other Amazing Things I’ve Learned (1992). Markoe’s most recent work is an audio book, The Indignities of Being a Woman (co-written by Megan Koester), published in 2018.
Markoe has also contributed to Rolling Stone, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Us, People, Esquire, and Glamour, among other publications.
Born in New York City, Markoe grew up in San Francisco’s Bay area, graduated from UC Berkeley with a master’s degree in art, and briefly taught art at USC. After taking screenwriting courses and doing research for the head writer on late-night comedy series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, she landed her first gig as a TV writer on the 1977 revival of Laugh-In, joining a team that included Robin Williams.
Named after one of the most influential writers in entertainment history, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement is the WGAW’s highest award for television writing. Past Television Laurel Award recipients include Jenji Kohan, Diane English, Aaron Sorkin, Steven Bochco, Susan Harris, Stephen J. Cannell, Shonda Rhimes, David Chase, Marta Kauffman & David Crane, Larry David, Garry Marshall, and Alison Cross.