UPDATED with WGA West statements: John Bowman, an Emmy-winning SNL writer, Martin series -cocreator and producer who also led the WGA’s negotiating committee during the 2007-08 strike, has died. His son Johnny Bowman said his father died suddenly on New Year’s Eve at home in California.
Watch a clip of Bowman addressing WGA picketers in November 2007 below.
A three-time Emmy nominee, Bowman is known for writing on In Living Color, co-creating the ’90 sitcom Martin and writing for Saturday Night Live. He won a writing Emmy for the latter in 1989, shared with Mike Myers, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Al Franken, Conan O’Brien, Bob Odenkirk, Lorne Michaels, Phil Hartman and others.
Two years later in 1990, Bowman became one of the first white writers on the groundbreaking Fox sketch-comedy show In Living Color, created by Wayans.
Exec producer Bowman and Martin Lawrence created Martin, which aired for five season on Fox from 1992-97. Bowman’s writing credits also include The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Men Behaving Badly, The Hughleys and Murphy Brown. He served as an EP on the latter three, as well as on Frank TV, Root of All Evil, Cedric the Entertainer Presents, The Show and Princesses.
“In the writers room, John was a mentor to so many young writers of color, many of us who had our first professional gigs with him,” Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley said in a statement. “Outside the room, he was tireless in his efforts at achieving equitable working conditions for all writers. What John gave to the writing community will endure for decades to come.”
As chairman of the negotiating committee for the WGA during the 2007-08 writers strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Bowman helped gain a settlement that for the first time shared producers’ internet streaming revenue with film and television writers.
A WGA member since 1988, Bowman was elected to three terms as a member of the Board of Directors (2004, 2006, 2008) and was a longtime member of WGA Pension Plan Board of Directors and WGA Health Fund Board of Trustees. He sat on three WGA Negotiating Committees during his career and was committee co-chair in 2011.
“John Bowman’s strong and thoughtful leadership of the 2007 WGA Negotiating Committee made him a vocal champion for the membership throughout the talks and the strike that we eventually won,” said current WGAW President Meredith Stiehm. “He remained committed to serving the membership as a Board member, Funds trustee and 2011 Negotiating Committee co-chair. The Guild is stronger today because of John’s dedication and devotion to his fellow writers.”
Added past WGAW President David A. Goodman: “I was very sad to hear of John’s passing. I met him when we served together on the Board and on the Negotiating Committee during the 2007-2008 strike. As Chair of that committee, he took on a burden for all of us, he never seemed to tire, and I watched in awe as he would calm anxious members with his seemingly effortless, eloquent oratory and biting wit. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for lending his talents and commitment to his Union.”
Bowman later worked as an adjunct faculty member at the USC school of Cinematic Arts, teaching sketch comedy writing. His class ended a few weeks ago.
A private Mass is set for 11 a.m. January 8 at St. Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica. A memorial service to be held in the spring.
Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.
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