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Comedy Writers Visit SMC

Bridget Feeney | Monday, September 10, 2012

Students at Saint Mary’s will be treated to series of lectures, workshops and a live show when two veteran comedy writers visit campus this week.

Tom Leopold and Bill Persky will visit the College on Sept. 12 and 13 to teach and discuss writing and comedy.

Persky is a five-time Emmy Award winning director, producer and writer for famous television shows such as “That Girl,” “The Cosby Show,” “Who’s the Boss,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “Kate and Allie.”

He visited Saint Mary’s last April with Adriana Trigiani, a television writer, author and member of the Class of 1981. The pair taught master classes and discussed their careers with the College community.

Persky said he is looking forward to returning to campus and interacting with the students and faculty.

“I had such a great time last time,” he said. “There’s a sense of being at home when I’m at Saint Mary’s and feeling like I belonged. I felt like I was amongst friends.”

Senior Elizabeth Elsbach attended Persky and Trigiani’s lectures and private classes last spring. As an English writing major, Elsbach said she is eager for another opportunity to work with Persky and to meet Leopold.

“Bill Persky is an inspiration for any writer who wants to break the mold, and his guidance, to Saint Mary’s alumnae and to current students, is invaluable,” she said. “I personally have gained a greater insight into my own writing and writing as a career due to Bill Persky’s advice from last year.”

Persky said he is excited Leopold will be with him this week as he visits the College.

“Tom brings a whole new element to the lectures and classes,” he said. “He’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and I’m excited to [see] the audience react to him.”

Leopold’s career as a comedy writer spans nearly four decades. He has served as writer, producer and story editor for a number of television shows including “The Chevy Chase Show,” “Cheers,” “Seinfeld,” “Will and Grace,” “Hope & Faith,” “Ellen” and “Caroline in the City.” He has also worked with famous entertainment personalities such as Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Billy Crystal and Chevy Chase.

On Thursday evening at 7:30, Leopold will present his new one-man show, “When a Comedy Writer Finds God,” about his conversion from Judaism to Catholicism. Persky, who helped Leopold write it, will introduce Leopold before the performance.
Leopold said his show, which includes original songs, has wide appeal.

“It’s my journey of faith and finding grace,” he said. “It’s about what led me to Jesus. There are lots of laughs and jokes, but I think people will find the story touching, too.”

Elsbach said she is happy for the opportunity to meet the pair and learn from them.

“I am looking forward to Tom Leopold and Bill Persky’s workshops on humor because I have found that often writers, especially new writers, find humor difficult to articulate,” she said. “Being able to tell a joke is different than putting a joke to a page. I’m looking forward to the workshop in order to improve my style of writing in this particular genre.”

English, communication studies and theatre students will enjoy private master classes and lectures with Persky and Leopold on Wednesday and Thursday.

After Leopold’s show, Persky will be signing and selling copies of his book “My Life is a Situation Comedy,” and Leopold will sign copies of his CD, “Just the Hits,” featuring original songs, including some from his one-man show.

“I always knew I was funny, but I didn’t know I could write; that was a lucky thing,” Leopold said. “Writing comedy is a high because everyone laughs at the same stuff.”