Paul Raley Dies: Emmy-Winning Writer For Letterman, ‘Grace Under Fire’, ‘Night Court’

Paul Raley, who shared a Daytime Emmy for writing David Letterman’s pre-Late Night show and worked on TV sitcoms and specials, died June 6 in Los Angeles. He was 71. The WGA said he had been in declining health in recent years but did not specify a cause of death.

Raley worked in advertising in New York before hooking up with the writers of The David Letterman Show, which had an unceremonious four-month run on NBC in 1980. The not-ready-for-daytime crew included Letterman and future Late Night staffers Merrill Markoe, Rich Hall and Gerard Mulligan. Raley also appeared on the program as P.J. Rails, a conspiracy theorist who claimed to have proof that ex-baseball player and then-NBC announcer Joe Garagiola shot President Kennedy. Raley also performed stand-up as Rails.

The Pittsburgh native went on to write for such series and specials as Benson, Night Court, The Joe Piscopo New Jersey Special and Harry And The Hendersons and was head writer for D.C. Follies, the 1987-89 syndicated program featuring Fred Willard as a bartender whose customers were puppets from Syd & Marty Krofft. He also earned a CableACE nom for co-writing the pilot of Showtime’s 1983 series The Lost Satellite.

Raley later worked for three years on Brett Butler’s hit comedy Grace Under Fire. He served as a producer and story editor on the popular ABC sitcom from 1995 until it wrapped in 1998.

Survivors include Raley’s sister, Kathy Quinnan. Memorial service plans are pending.

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