Late-night TV writer Steve O’Donnell will be this year’s recipient of the WGA East’s Herb Sargent Award for Comedy Excellence. Nominated for 20 Primetime Emmys and the winner of four, O’Donnell spent 10 years as head writer on NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman and another five years as head writer on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live.
The award, which will be presented February 19 at the WGA Awards ceremony in New York, is given to a writer “who embodies the spirit, commitment and comic genius” of the late Herb Sargent. He served as president of the WGA East for 14 years and for more than 20 years as a writer-producer of Saturday Night Live.
“This is an especially wonderful honor coming from my friends and peers in the Writers Guild of America, East, the group I respect and love more than any other,” O’Donnell said. “I suppose I should add ‘except for my family’ – but they’re actually a bunch of jerks. No, no! I’m joking! That’s what I do for a living. I’m being light-hearted, when in fact I couldn’t be more seriously honored and humbled, especially as this comes from the guild which has had such professional and personal importance in my life.”
O’Donnell was hired by Letterman in 1982 and went on to be his head writer at NBC’s Late Night from 1983-92, leading the writing of memorable reoccurring segments such as “The Top 10 List,” “The NBC Bookmobile” and “Calling Meg, the Office Worker in the Building Across the Street.” In 1993, he followed Letterman to CBS’ Late Show, where he worked until 1995.
He was a writer on Jimmy Kimmel’s The Man Show from 1999-2001 and took on the head writer duties for Jimmy Kimmel Live from its launch in 2003 to 2008. He’s also written for Seinfeld, The Simpsons, The Chris Rock Show, The Dana Carvey Show, Lateline, The Bonnie Hunt Show, Norm Macdonald Live, and Why? With Hannibal Buress.
Past recipients of the Sargent Award include comedy greats Lorne Michaels, Judd Apatow, James L. Brooks, Gary David Goldberg and Norman Stiles.