Thursday, June 9, 2011

Leonard Stern

When I was a kid, I noticed that the credits of some of the better comedy shows included this man's name.

I'm thinking of "Get Smart," "The Governor and J.J." and "He and She," to name a few.

("He and She," by the way, was one of my family's favorite shows, featuring Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss as a young Manhattan couple and Jack Cassidy as the quintessential ham actor. It was funny and sophisticated, and when it was canceled we and many others -- though apparently not enough of us -- wrote to CBS, asking that it be kept on the air.)

In the early 1970s, this man's name (with a middle initial -- B. -- added) showed up on the credits of a mystery series, "McMillan and Wife."

By that time, I think I'd found out that Leonard Stern had also written for "The Honeymooners."

Leonard B. Stern died this week, and the obits I've seen so far play up the fact that he was one of the creators of the Mad Libs books, which were popular with my family for a time. The New York Times, I think, goes overboard with this angle in its obit, but I suppose Mr. Stern wouldn't mind; these books probably made him rich.

But I think he deserves to be remembered more for his fine comedic mind and sense of taste.

(And if you ever get a chance, read one of his lesser-known books, a collection of idiotic network memos -- yes, I know, some would say that's a redundancy -- titled "A Martian Wouldn't Say That.")

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