Named after one of television’s the most influential writers, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award is the guild’s highest honor for television writing. It is presented to a guild member who has “advanced the literature of television and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the television writer.”
Markoe will receive the award at the Writers Guild Awards ceremony on February 1 in Los Angeles.
“Merrill Markoe’s pioneering work created what was then a new language of comedy in television, and her writing has influenced every comedy variety series in the last three decades. We are truly honored to give her this award,” said WGA West president David A. Goodman.
Markoe’s career as a TV writer began in 1977 on the revival of Laugh-In, joining a writing team that included Robin Williams. Three years later, she co-created and became head writer of The David Letterman Show, for which she shared a Daytime Emmy Award for her work on the ground-breaking morning comedy-talk show.
Continuing her creative collaboration with Letterman, she went on to earn six Emmy nominations and share three Emmy Awards for her work on NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman, for which she was the late-night show’s original head writer, creating many of its signature segments, including “Stupid Pet Tricks,” “Stupid Human Tricks,” and “Viewer Mail.”
Markoe shared a 1990 Writers Guild Award for her work as a writer-performer on HBO’s Not Necessarily the News, and over the course of her diverse comedy career, wrote for numerous other shows, including Newhart, Moonlighting, Sex and the City, The Garry Shandling Show, The Lewis Lectures, TV Nation, Mary, Open All Night, Making the Grade, Sara, The Best Times and Buffalo Bill. She wrote, directed and starred in several solo HBO specials including 1988’s Merrill Markoe’s Guide to Glamorous Living, which earned her a 1989 CableACE Comedy Special nomination.
Past recipients of the award include Jenji Kohan, Diane English, Aaron Sorkin, Steven Bochco, Susan Harris, Stephen J. Cannell, Shonda Rhimes, David Chase, Marta Kauffman & David Crane, Larry David, Garry Marshall, and Alison Cross.