Becoming a comedic icon doesn't happen overnight. It takes years and years of hard work. In some cases, this means paying your dues as the low-level member of a sitcom writing staff - a rite of passage for many successful comics, actors and directors. Here are 11 notable examples.
1. Norm Macdonald: Roseanne
The deadpan comic best known for Dirty Work and a controversial stint behind the SNL Weekend Update anchor desk only stayed on staff of the blue collar comedy long enough to write two episodes – including one about DJ turning into a pee-wee hockey thug.
2. Larry David: Saturday Night Live
The hilariously abrasive co-creator of Seinfeld and creator of Curb Your Enthusiasm previously worked as a writer for SNL. Frustrated his sketches weren't making it onto the show, he quit and walked out on the gig one day, only to return shortly afterward pretending that it never happened. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because the character George did the very same thing years later on an episode of Seinfeld.
3. Judd Apatow: The Critic
Before creating Freaks and Geeks, The 40-Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up, Apatow penned a handful of episodes of the the Jon Lovitz show The Critic – and even stepped in when the show needed a good impression of Jay Leno.
4. Richard Pryor: Sanford & Son
You know Pryor as one of the most influential stand-up comedians of all-time — and for his roles in films like Stir Crazy, Brewster’s Millions, and Superman III. But earlier in his career, Pryor co-wrote two episodes of Redd Foxx’s sitcom Sanford & Son along with longtime partner (and Chappelle Show mainstay) Paul Mooney.
5. Garry Shandling: Welcome Back, Kotter
The star of The Larry Sanders Show cut his comedic teeth writing one episode of Welcome Back, Kotter called "Horshack vs. Carvelli." And, like Pryor, he also wrote for a short time for Sanford & Son.
6 & 7. The Farrelly Brothers: Seinfeld
Two years before they released their feature film directorial debut – a little American masterpiece called Dumb & Dumber – Peter and Bobby Farrelly made their mark on TV history by penning one episode of Seinfeld. In the episode, entitled The Virgin, George and Jerry first devise their awful sitcom premise where a man without insurance is court-ordered to butler for another man after a car accident.
8. Seth Rogen: Da Ali G Show
The actor and frequent Judd Apatow collaborator had a hand in six episodes of the short-lived HBO series that starred Sacha Baron Cohen as the woefully misinformed titular host. Rogen received an Emmy nomination for his work on the show.
9. Billy Crystal: The Love Boat
Before he was known as the star of SNL, When Harry Met Sally or Analyze This (or for his ever-growing number of Academy Awards hosting gigs), Crystal was briefly a writer mapping out adventures for Captain Stubing, Gopher and the rest of the crew aboard The Love Boat.
10. Paul Lieberstein: Various
While not the most recognizable of names, fans of The Office (U.S.) know Lieberstein as the hangdog HR rep Toby Flenderson. However, Lieberstein has spent the majority of his career behind the scenes – working as a writer on King of the Hill, The Drew Carey Show, The Bernie Mac Show and others.
11. Mitchell Hurwitz: The Golden Girls
Long before giving the world the dysfunctional antics of the Bluth clan, the Arrested Development creator was crafting sarcastic repartee for Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls. Hurwitz wrote nine episodes in all, including the series finale with this bittersweet ending: