For the Swedish religious figure, see Thomas Leopold.

Tom Leopold is an American comedy writer, performer and novelist. He has written episodes of Seinfeld and Cheers and several books. He has often been associated with Chevy Chase, Harry Shearer and Paul Shaffer in various projects.



Leopold began writing material for National Lampoon magazine[1] and went on to work on the The National Lampoon Radio Hour when it was created in 1973. He worked with performers such as Chevy Chase, Richard Belzer and Christopher Guest.[2]

He transitioned into television sketch comedy writing when The Chevy Chase Show began in 1977 (not to be confused with the ill-fated 1993 talk show of the same name). He wrote for other programs such as The Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. Show, The Richard Belzer Show, and The Steve Allen Comedy Hour. In 1979 he wrote and performed in a sketch comedy program called The T.V. Show with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Rob Reiner and Harry Shearer.[3]

He later began writing for television situation comedies and has done this successfully ever since. He has been a producer, story editor and writer on a number of top American programs including Caroline in the City, Cheers, Ellen, Hope & Faith, Seinfeld and Will & Grace. Other programs for which he has written include The Mind of the Married Man and Dream On. He wrote two episodes of Seinfeld (The Cafe and The Suicide) and he co-wrote the episode The Cheever Letters. He wrote two episodes of Cheers (The Beer Is Always Greener and Norm's Big Audit). In 2006 he became executive producer of the British sitcom My Family.[3]

Based on his experience writing for television comedy, Leopold has led a workshop in comedy writing called "Comedy Writer's Room"[4] and taught a master class in sitcom writing,[5] both at Columbia University.

Leopold and Harry Shearer are friends and have collaborated on several projects.[6] They were hired together to do a rewrite of the 1986 film Club Paradise. In the end, only two words of what they wrote ended up in the film (the title) and Shearer was "so appalled by the movie" that he removed his name from the credits.[7] Leopold left his name on the movie, but has done no other film writing since.[3]

Leopold and Shearer also wrote a musical comedy about J. Edgar Hoover called J. Edgar! in 1994.[8] The musical was produced for radio in Los Angeles by L.A. Theatre Works, with music by Peter Matz. It starred Kelsey Grammer and John Goodman and featured Dan Castellaneta, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Annette O'Toole.[8] It has also been performed at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in 2003.[9] A cast recording was produced and is still available.[10]

Leopold often calls in to Shearer's radio program Le Show,[8] playing such unusual characters as "Yvonne Della Femina" (O.J. Simpson's alleged girlfriend and serially transgendered person)[11][12] or even Elvis Presley.[13] (See the Le Show article for a more complete list of his characters).

Leopold and Shearer are also friends with Paul Shaffer.[14] They share an interest in the vagaries of show business itself and sometimes go on trips to see odd shows. "Paul, Harry and I are show-biz-philes. We fly all over to see these bad, funny shows," said Leopold in a New York Magazine article.[15] Leopold and Shearer produced and co-wrote (with Shaffer) a 1986 Cinemax special titled Viva Shaf Vegas in which Leopold also performed, some of which was based on this shared interest.[16]

Leopold has written two novels, his first was Almost Like Being Here in 1988, which was followed by a sequel Somebody Sing in 1990. The books got mixed reviews.[17][18] The first book was produced as a stage play in Chicago in 1993.[19]

In 2008 he collaborated with Bob Sand to publish a biography of a mythical comedy writing team "Milt Wagonman and Marty Sloyxne", who are profane and largely unsuccessful. A number of promotional videos for the book have been posted in which Leopold and Sand appear as the characters. (Leopold plays Milt Wagonman).[20][21][22]

Leopold occasionally performs as a comedic actor in film or television[3] and at live events (most recently in September 2008).[23]


He lives in New York City[8] with his wife and two daughters.[23] He owns a summer home in Greenport, New York that he bought from Kofi Annan. [24]



  1. Leopold, Tom; Guest, Christopher (November 1971), "You've Got to Believe Me!", National Lampoon 1 (20), ISSN 0027-9587 
  2. Kaplan, Arie (Spring 2002), "Wizards of Wit: How Jews Revolutionized Comedy in America (Part 2)", Reform Judaism (Union for Reform Judaism) 30 (3), p. 11, ISSN 0482-0819 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Tom Leopold at the Internet Movie Database
  4. Friend, Tad (June 5, 2006), "Halls of Academe: The Room", The New Yorker (Conde Nast), ISSN 0028-792X 
  5. "Columbia University School of the Arts Special Events 2002-2003". Retrieved January 7, 2009. 
  6. Loder, Kurt (November 4, 2008). "Lapdance with Kurt Loder: Harry Shearer on Comedians". My Damn Channel. Retrieved January 9, 2009. 
  7. Gurwitch, Annabelle (2006), Fired!: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, and Dismissed, New York: Simon and Schuster, p. 65, ISBN 0743297601 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "Harry Shearer and Tom Leopold 'Speaking Freely' transcript". February 28, 2003. Retrieved January 5, 2009. 
  9. Oksenhorn, Stewart (February 26, 2003), "The Lampshades, 'J. Edgar' kick off Comedy Fest today", The Aspen Times, retrieved January 7, 2009 
  10. Leopold, Tom; Shearer, Harry; Matz, Peter (2001), J. Edgar!, Los Angeles: L.A. Theatre Works, ISBN 1-58081-175-2 
  11. Shearer, Harry (May 18, 1997). "le Show". Retrieved January 5, 2009. 
  12. Shearer, Harry (October 14, 2007). "le Show". Retrieved January 6, 2009. 
  13. Shearer, Harry (August 17, 1997). "le Show". Retrieved January 5, 2009. 
  14. Shaffer, P.; Ritz, D. (2009), We'll be here for the rest of our lives: A swingin' show-biz saga, New York: Doubleday/Flying Dolphin Press, pp. 70,74,131,163,202,269, ISBN 0385524838, OCLC 299714497 
  15. Stone, Michael (June 2, 1986), "Paul Shaffer's Hip Parade", New York Magazine (New York Magazine Co.) 19 (22), p. 47, ISSN 0028-7369 
  16. Viva Shaf Vegas at the Internet Movie Database
  17. Wartik, Nancy (September 4, 1988), "In Short: Fiction", The New York Times, ISSN 0362-4331 
  18. Ferguson, Sarah (September 2, 1990), "In Short: Fiction", The New York Times, ISSN 0362-4331 
  19. Nuccio, Fred (January 3, 1993), "`Cheers' for Griffin Theatre's Backstage Tale", Chicago Sun-Times, retrieved January 7, 2009 
  20. "Milt and Marty Interview". April 17, 2008. Retrieved January 5, 2009. 
  21. "Milt and Marty on Today's Celebrities". April 18, 2008. Retrieved January 5, 2009. 
  22. "Milt Wagonman needs a new comedy could be you!". May 8, 2008. Retrieved January 5, 2009. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Comix Musical Revue: An evening with New York's top-rated musical comedy performers". September 2, 2008. Retrieved January 6, 2009. 
  24. Kreahling, Lorraine (September 1, 1997), "Getaway: From The East Side To The East End, By Sea", New York Magazine (New York Magazine Co.) 30 (33), p. 12, ISSN 0028-7369 

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