Sam Denoff

Writer/ Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his interview for the Archive of American Television, Sam Denoff (1928-2011) describes his work in radio at WNEW in New York and his move to Los Angeles to work in television, starting with The Steve Allen Show. He talks about working on The Andy Williams Show before landing a job with writing partner Bill Persky on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Denoff discusses his work as a writer and producer on this classic sitcom, in which he co-wrote memorable episodes such as "Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth" and "That's My Boy?" Denoff details the production of the landmark series That Girl, starring Marlo Thomas, which he and Persky co-created and co-produced, as well as the series Good Morning World. He recalls other series he created, which include The Funny Side, Big Eddie, On Our Own, and Turnabout. Denoff describes specials he worked on, including The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special (1967), The Bill Cosby Special (1968), Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman (1969) and Hallmark Hall of Fame's "The Man Who Came to Dinner," with Orson Welles (1972). Denoff also touches on writing for The Annual American Comedy Awards and working as a consultant for the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. Bill Freiberger conducted the four hour interview in Brentwood, CA on March 9, 2000.

"Take great joy in, in everything you write. Irving Berlin was interviewed.. they said, 'Mister Berlin, you have more songs than any other writer living or dead..what is your favorite song?'  And he said- 'the last one I wrote', which really says it. It says his pride in authorship... After years of doing this, every time I write something, whether it's a paragraph or something somebody wants something for a benefit or whatever.. I hope they like it. We all do that. As long as you keep that attitude I think you'll be good."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Sam Denoff on working for Sid Caesar
Sam Denoff on being influenced by the Colgate Comedy Hour with Martin and Lewis
Sam Denoff on first seeing television at the 1939 World's Fair
Sam Denoff on winning his first Emmy (for The Dick Van Dyke Show) from a hospital bed
Sam Denoff on advice to aspiring television writers - write spec scripts
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood; on playing piano; on loving radio shows; on wanting to be a songwriter
On working as a page at NBC and observing the live dramatic anthology series being filmed at Studio 8H; on working at S. Klein department store; on interviewing for a job at WNEW radio

Chapter 2

On writing for WNEW radio in New York; on meeting longtime collaborator Bill Persky; on writing "Let's Keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn"; on getting an agent and starting to write for comedians
On working for Sid Caesar; on his first memories of television; on getting hired to write for Steve Allen; on writing for the ABC affiliate show

Chapter 3

On writing for non-broadcast affiliate shows for NBC; on working with Jack Palance and Gene Kelly
On writing for The Andy Williams Show; on meeting Jonathan Winters
On writing for The Dick Van Dyke Show; on working with Carl Reiner and Sheldon Leonard

Chapter 4

On lessons from Carl Reiner; on why The Dick Van Dyke Show remains funny
On the non-existent writer's room of The Dick Van Dyke Show; on the disappearane of lead time in television; on how accurately The Dick Van Dyke show portrayed a writer's room
On the cast of The Dick Van Dyke Show

Chapter 5

On specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show; "That's my Boy", "I'd Rather Be Bald than Have no Head at All"; "October Eve", "The Gunslinger", "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"
On his writing partnership with Bill Persky; on winning Emmy awards; on the assassination of JFK
On The Julie Andrews specials; on writing for The Bill Dana Show; on the Hollywood Blacklist

Chapter 6

On the Blacklist; on creating That Girl with Marlo Thomas; on Danny Thomas
On the pilot episode and cast of That Girl; on a typical work week; on Daisy Productions and his favorite episodes of That Girl

Chapter 7

On the audience reaction to That Girl; on Good Morning World; on the Sid Caesar reunion special; on reuniting Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore
On The Funny Side, hosted by Gene Kelly; on The Montefuscos, Big Eddie, The Don Rickles Show and the Hallmark Hall of Fame

Chapter 8

On "The Man Who Came To Dinner" with Orson Welles and Don Knotts; on splitting from his longtime comedy partner Bill Persky; on The Late Summer, Early Fall Bert Convy Show, The Sunshine Boys pilot with Neil Simon, On Our Own produced by David Susskind; On Turnabout with Sharon Gless; on working with Garry Shandling
On current projects; on teaching at USC; on not wanting to retire; on advice to aspiring writers; on career highlights and how he'd like to be remembered

Chapter 9

On photos of people with whom he's worked - Joan Collins, Bess Armstrong, Orson Welles, Bill Persky, Dick Van Dyke, Sheldon Leonard, Steve Allen, Don Rickles
Shows

Andy Williams Show, The

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Sam Denoff on writing for Andy Williams
Sam Denoff on meeting the Osmond family and writing for The Andy Williams Show when Jonathan Winters was a guest

Big Eddie

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Sam Denoff on writing Big Eddie starring Sheldon Leonard

Bill Dana Show, The

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Sam Denoff on writing for The Bill Dana Show

Colgate Comedy Hour, The

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Sam Denoff on being influenced by the Colgate Comedy Hour with Martin and Lewis

Dick Van Dyke Show, The

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Sam Denoff on writing for The Dick Van Dyke Show; working with Carl Reiner and Sheldon Leonard
Sam Denoff on the "That's My Boy?" episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show
Sam Denoff on the atmosphere on The Dick Van Dyke Show; why the show is still funny
Sam Denoff on the cast of The Dick Van Dyke Show; Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show; "That's my Boy"," I'd Rather Be Bald than Have no Head at All", "The Gunslinger"
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "That's my Boy"
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - " I'd Rather Be Bald than Have no Head at All"
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "The Gunslinger"
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "October Eve"
Sam Denoff on why The Dick Van Dyke Show is so fondly remembered
Sam Denoff on how JFK's assassination affected the cast and crew of The Dick Van Dyke Show

Dick Van Dyke Show, The: "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"

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Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"

Dick Van Dyke Show, The: "I'd Rather Be Bald Than Have No Head At All"

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Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - " I'd Rather Be Bald than Have no Head at All"

Dick Van Dyke Show, The: "October Eve"

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Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "October Eve"

Dick Van Dyke Show, The: "That's My Boy?"

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Sam Denoff on the "That's My Boy?" episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "That's my Boy"

Dick Van Dyke Show, The: "The Gunslinger"

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Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "The Gunslinger"

Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman

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Sam Denoff on co-writing and producing the Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore reunion special

Don Rickles Show, The

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Sam Denoff on creating and writing The Don Rickles Show produced by Sheldon Leonard

Funny Side, The

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Sam Denoff on the short lived series The Funny Side

Garry Moore Show, The

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Sam Denoff on the mistake that "made" The Garry Moore Show

Good Morning World

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Sam Denoff on writing Good Morning World with many of The Dick Van Dyke Show team

Hallmark Hall of Fame

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Sam Denoff on a Hallmark Hall of Fame special, "The Man Who Came to Dinner"
Sam Denoff on writing Hallmark Hall of Fame's "The Man Who Came to Dinner"

Hallmark Hall of Fame: "The Man Who Came to Dinner"

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Sam Denoff on a Hallmark Hall of Fame special, "The Man Who Came to Dinner"
Sam Denoff on writing Hallmark Hall of Fame's "The Man Who Came to Dinner"

It's Garry Shandling's Show.

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Sam Denoff on It's Garry Shandling's Show

Judy Garland Show, The

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Sam Denoff on being offered a job on The Judy Garland Show, with executive producer George Schlatter

Julie Andrews Specials

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Sam Denoff on writing for the Julie Andrews specials

Kraft Television Theatre

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Sam Denoff on observing the early days of live television while working as a page at NBC's Studio 8H where Kraft Television Theater, Robert Montgomery Presents, and other live anthology series were filmed

Lotsa Luck

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Sam Denoff on creating and writing Lotsa Luck with Dom DeLuise

Montefuscos, The

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Sam Denoff on the short lived series The Montefuscos

On Our Own

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Sam Denoff on the series On Our Own produced by David Susskind

Playhouse 90

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Sam Denoff on observing the early days of live television while working as a page at NBC's Studio 8H where Kraft Television Theater, Robert Montgomery Presents, and other live anthology series were filmed

Robert Montgomery Presents

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Sam Denoff on observing the early days of live television while working as a page at NBC's Studio 8H where Kraft Television Theater, Robert Montgomery Presents, and other live anthology series were filmed

Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special, The

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Sam Denoff on working on the Sid Caesar Reunion special

Steve Allen Show, The (1956-61)

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Sam Denoff on writing for The Steve Allen Show on ABC in 1961

Sunshine Boys, The

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Sam Denoff on the pilot The Sunshine Boys

That Girl

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Sam Denoff on the creation of That Girl with Marlo Thomas
Sam Denoff on the pilot episode, work week, and budget of That Girl 
Sam Denoff on his favorite episodes of That Girl 
Sam Denoff on critical acclaim for and the end of That Girl

Turnabout

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Sam Denoff on producing the series Turnabout with Sharon Gless and John Schuck
Topics

Anthology Drama

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Sam Denoff on observing the early days of live television while working as a page at NBC's Studio 8H where Kraft Television Theater, Robert Montgomery Presents, and other live anthology series were filmed

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Sam Denoff on interference from censors on The Dick Van Dyke Show

Classic TV series episodes

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Sam Denoff on the "That's My Boy" episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show

Comedy

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Sam Denoff on the "That's My Boy" episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Sam Denoff on how television changed the world; how early TV influenced him

Emmy Awards

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Sam Denoff on winning his first Emmy (for The Dick Van Dyke Show) from a hospital bed
Sam Denoff on winning his second Emmy (for The Dick Van Dyke Show) from a hospital bed
Sam Denoff on winning an Emmy for his work on the Sid Caesar Reunion special

Hollywood Blacklist

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Sam Denoff on the Hollywood blacklist
Sam Denoff on the Hollywood Blacklist

JFK Assassination and Funeral

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Sam Denoff on how JFK's assassination affected the cast and crew of The Dick Van Dyke Show

Minorities

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Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "That's my Boy"

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

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Sam Denoff on observing the early days of live television while working as a page at NBC's Studio 8H where Kraft Television Theater, Robert Montgomery Presents, and other live anthology series were filmed

Technological Innovation

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Sam Denoff on first seeing television at the 1939 World's Fair

Women

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Sam Denoff on That Girl's feminist message
Professions

Producers

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Sam Denoff on becoming a producer of The Dick Van Dyke Show

Writers

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Sam Denoff on wanting to be writers, not producers, and the process of writing for The Steve Allen Show
Sam Denoff on learning a lesson from Carl Reiner: "the best comedy comes from reality"
Sam Denoff on bringing your home life into your work life as a writer
Sam Denoff on his writing partnership with Bill Persky
Sam Denoff on his advice to aspiring writers
Genres

Comedy Series

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Sam Denoff on writing for The Dick Van Dyke Show; on working with Carl Reiner and Sheldon Leonard
Sam Denoff on learning a lesson from Carl Reiner: "the best comedy comes from reality"
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show
Sam Denoff on That Girl with Marlo Thomas

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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Sam Denoff on writing for The Steve Allen Show on ABC in 1961
People

Steve Allen

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Sam Denoff on writing for The Steve Allen Show on ABC in 1961
Sam Denoff on a photo of him with Bill Persky and Steve Allen on the set of The Steve Allen Show

Charlie Andrews

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Sam Denoff on getting hired by Charlie Andrews for a television special

Lucie Arnaz

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Sam Denoff on working with Lucie Arnaz

Desi Arnaz

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Sam Denoff on his landlords at Desilu studios

Danny Arnold

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Sam Denoff on being influenced by the Colgate Comedy Hour with Martin and Lewis
Sam Denoff on directors on That Girl

James T. Aubrey

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Sam Denoff on Jim Aubrey not understanding the need for "Rob Petrie" to be a comedy writer

Peter Baldwin

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Sam Denoff on directors on That Girl

Lucille Ball

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Sam Denoff on his landlords at Desilu studios

Irving Berlin

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Sam Denoff on wise words from Irving Berlin

Ted Bessell

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Sam Denoff on the changes in Ted Bessell's character

Steven Bochco

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Sam Denoff on producing the series Turnabout with Sharon Gless and John Schuck, written by Steven Bochco

Mel Brooks

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Sam Denoff on working on the Sid Caesar Reunion special

Red Buttons

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Sam Denoff on the pilot The Sunshine Boys

Sid Caesar

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Sam Denoff on working for Sid Caesar
Sam Denoff on Dick Van Dyke, Jackie Gleason and Sid Caesar as straight men
Sam Denoff on working on the Sid Caesar Reunion special

George Carlin

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Sam Denoff on "Ann Marie"'s agent played by George Carlin

Imogene Coca

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Sam Denoff on working on the Sid Caesar Reunion special

Joan Collins

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Sam Denoff on a Hallmark Hall of Fame special, "The Man Who Came to Dinner"
Sam Denoff on a photo of him with Joan Collins

Bill Dana

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Sam Denoff on meeting Bill Dana
Sam Denoff on writing for The Steve Allen Show on ABC in 1961, with head writer Bill Dana
Sam Denoff on writing for The Bill Dana Show

Dom DeLuise

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Sam Denoff on creating and writing Lotsa Luck with Dom DeLuise

Dick Van Dyke

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Sam Denoff on Dick Van Dyke's talent and physical comedy abilities
Sam Denoff on Dick Van Dyke, Jackie Gleason and Sid Caesar as straight men
Sam Denoff on Dick Van Dyke and "schmuckery"
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "October Eve"
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - " I'd Rather Be Bald than Have no Head at All"
Sam Denoff on co-writing and producing the Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore reunion special
Sam Denoff on a photo of him with Dick Van Dyke
Sam Denoff on a photo of him with Dick Van Dyke and Bill Persky on the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show
Sam Denoff on a photo Dick Van Dyke "killing" Bill Persky and Sam Denoff on their last episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show

Bob Finkel

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Sam Denoff on writing for Andy Williams produced by Bob Finkel

Phil Foster

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Sam Denoff on writing "Let's Keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn" with Bill Persky, performed by Phil Foster

Jackie Gleason

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Sam Denoff on Dick Van Dyke, Jackie Gleason and Sid Caesar as straight men

Sharon Gless

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Sam Denoff on producing the series Turnabout with Sharon Gless and John Schuck

Goldie Hawn

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Sam Denoff on a young Goldie Hawn

Ed Herlihy

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Sam Denoff on Ed Herlihy hosting local show Date in Manhattan, which featured one of Denoff's songs

Milt Josefsberg

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Sam Denoff on what he and Bill Persky learned from comedy writer Milt Josefsberg

Gene Kelly

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Sam Denoff on working with Gene Kelly
Sam Denoff on the short lived series The Funny Side

John F. Kennedy

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Sam Denoff on how JFK's assassination affected the cast and crew of The Dick Van Dyke Show

Don Knotts

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Sam Denoff on the admiration Orson Welles had for Don Knotts when filming "The Man Who Came to Dinner"

Norman Lear

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Sam Denoff on being influenced by the Colgate Comedy Hour with Martin and Lewis
Sam Denoff on writing for Andy Williams, executive produced by Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear

Sheldon Leonard

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Sam Denoff on the genesis of The Dick Van Dyke Show; on working with Carl Reiner and Sheldon Leonard
Sam Denoff on producer Sheldon Leonard and his method of producers being head writers
Sam Denoff on how JFK's assassination affected the cast and crew of The Dick Van Dyke Show
Sam Denoff on writing Big Eddie starring Sheldon Leonard
Sam Denoff on creating and writing The Don Rickles Show produced by Sheldon Leonard
Sam Denoff on a photo of him with Sheldon Leonard during production of Big Eddie

Jerry Lewis

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Sam Denoff on being influenced by the Colgate Comedy Hour with Martin and Lewis
Sam Denoff on consulting on the Jerry Lewis telethons

Rose Marie

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Sam Denoff on the cast of The Dick Van Dyke Show; Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke

Garry Marshall

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Sam Denoff on cameos in Garry Marshall's films

Dean Martin

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Sam Denoff on being influenced by the Colgate Comedy Hour with Martin and Lewis

Dick Martin

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Sam Denoff on renting from Dick Martin and writing for Rowan and Martin

Garry Moore

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Sam Denoff on the mistake that "made" The Garry Moore Show

Mary Tyler Moore

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Sam Denoff on the cast of The Dick Van Dyke Show; Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke
Sam Denoff on everyone loving Mary Tyler Moore
Sam Denoff on an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show written by Carl Reiner
Sam Denoff on co-writing and producing the Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore reunion special

Donny Osmond

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Sam Denoff on meeting the Osmond family on The Andy Williams Show

Jack Palance

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Sam Denoff on working with Jack Palance and pitching him circus jokes

Bill Persky

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Sam Denoff on meeting and working with writing partner Bill Persky
Sam Denoff on working with Bill Persky writing for comedians
Sam Denoff on his work with Bill Persky on The Dick Van Dyke Show
Sam Denoff on his writing partnership with Bill Persky
Sam Denoff on his writing partnership with Bill Persky
Sam Denoff on the creation of That Girl with Marlo Thomas
Sam Denoff on fighting with Marlo Thomas and Bill Persky keeping the peace
Sam Denoff on Bill Persky getting into directing
Sam Denoff on splitting with writing partner Bill Persky
Sam Denoff on a photo of him and Bill Persky
Sam Denoff on a photo of him with Dick Van Dyke and Bill Persky on the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show
Sam Denoff on a photo of him with Bill Persky on the set of The Steve Allen Show

Carl Reiner

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Sam Denoff on the genesis of The Dick Van Dyke Show; on working with Carl Reiner and Sheldon Leonard
Sam Denoff on the cast of The Dick Van Dyke Show; Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke
Sam Denoff on learning a lesson from Carl Reiner: "the best comedy comes from reality"
Sam Denoff on producer Sheldon Leonard and show creator Carl Reiner
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "October Eve"
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - " I'd Rather Be Bald than Have no Head at All"
Sam Denoff on an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show written by Carl Reiner
Sam Denoff on working on the Sid Caesar Reunion special
Sam Denoff on creating and writing Lotsa Luck with Dom DeLuise - pilot episode directed by Carl Reiner
Sam Denoff on his biggest career highlight - getting employed by Carl Reienr

Don Rickles

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Sam Denoff on creating and writing The Don Rickles Show produced by Sheldon Leonard
Sam Denoff on a photo of him with Bill Persky and Don Rickles on the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show

Dan Rowan

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Sam Denoff on renting from Dick Martin and writing for Rowan and Martin

Jay Sandrich

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Sam Denoff on directors on That Girl

George Schlatter

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Sam Denoff on being offered a job on The Judy Garland Show, with executive producer George Schlatter
Sam Denoff on working with George Schlatter on the American Comedy Awards

John Schuck

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Sam Denoff on producing the series Turnabout with Sharon Gless and John Schuck

Garry Shandling

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Sam Denoff on It's Garry Shandling's Show

George Shapiro

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Sam Denoff on agent George Shapiro

Neil Simon

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Sam Denoff on the pilot The Sunshine Boys

Lionel Stander

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Sam Denoff on the pilot The Sunshine Boys

David Susskind

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Sam Denoff on the series On Our Own produced by David Susskind

Bob Sweeney

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Sam Denoff on directors on That Girl

Frank Tarloff

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Sam Denoff on "David Adler" aka Frank Tarloff - Tarloff used a pseudonym during the Blacklist

Danny Thomas

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Sam Denoff on producer Danny Thomas
Sam Denoff on Danny Thomas
Sam Denoff on fighting with Marlo Thomas and Bill Persky keeping the peace

Marlo Thomas

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Sam Denoff on the creation of That Girl with Marlo Thomas
Sam Denoff on fighting with Marlo Thomas and Bill Persky keeping the peace
Sam Denoff on Marlo Thomas and Daisy Productions
Sam Denoff on the end of That Girl

Mel Tolkin

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Sam Denoff on working on the Sid Caesar Reunion special

E. Duke Vincent

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Sam Denoff on writing Good Morning World and writer E. Duke Vincent, future partner with Aaron Spelling

Orson Welles

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Sam Denoff on a Hallmark Hall of Fame special, "The Man Who Came to Dinner", to star Orson Welles
Sam Denoff on the admiration Orson Welles had for Don Knotts when filming "The Man Who Came to Dinner"
Sam Denoff on a photo of him and Bill Persky with Orson Welles

Andy Williams

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Sam Denoff on writing for Andy Williams

Jonathan Winters

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Sam Denoff on writing for The Andy Williams Show when Jonathan Winters was a guest

Bud Yorkin

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Sam Denoff on writing for Andy Williams, executive produced by Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear

Alan Zweibel

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Sam Denoff on It's Garry Shandling's Show

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