Live from Huntington . . . it’s Alan Zweibel! The original “Saturday Night Live” writer returns to his Long Island roots on Thursday, April 6, when he appears at Cinema Arts Centre in support of his new book, “For This We Left Egypt?” (Flatiron Books, $19.99), a parody of the Haggadah that he co-authored with Dave Barry and Adam Mansbach. The Emmy-winning writer, who grew up in Wantagh and Woodmere, will treat the crowd to an evening of comedic stories and clips, plus a Q&A session followed by a book signing and reception
“When I come to Long Island, I feel like I’m home,” says Zweibel, 66, who has written seven other books. “My memories of Long Island are happy ones. I love going back there.”
Zweibel began his comedy career by writing jokes for Morty Gunty and other Borscht Belt comedians.
“I used to watch ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show,’ where he was a TV comedy writer, married to the beautiful Mary Tyler Moore, had a nice house in New Rochelle and spent his days at work lying on a couch joking around with Buddy and Sally. I was like, ‘I want to do that!’ ” says Zweibel. “It just appealed to me.”
Zweibel used the jokes he hadn’t sold for his own stand-up comedy act in the early ’70s. He also made a friend in fellow Long Islander Billy Crystal, with whom he later co-wrote the Tony-winning play “700 Sundays.”
“We started out together in the clubs,” says Zweibel. “Billy would pick me up from my parents’ house in Woodmere every night in his blue Volkswagen and drive into the city to perform at Catch a Rising Star. On the way home we’d listen to recordings of our sets and critique each other.”
On one of those club dates, Zweibel was approached by a Canadian TV producer named Lorne Michaels, who offered him an interview for a writing gig on a new show called “Saturday Night Live.”
“The vibe was very exciting. We were a bunch of 20-year-olds having a blast,” says Zweibel. “Lorne had great faith in the baby boomer generation. We had a sense that something was happening.”
“SNL” took off with characters that he created with Gilda Radner like the brash newscaster Roseanne Roseannadanna and the confused senior Emily Litella. Catchphrases like “It’s always something!” became a part of pop-culture vernacular.
“It was incredibly rewarding,” says Zweibel. “You are kidding around in an office, then all of a sudden people are saying it. I don’t think a writer ever loses that thrill.”
TEAMING UP WITH SHANDLING
Zweibel continued to break ground when he teamed with comedian Garry Shandling in 1986 for the Showtime sitcom “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” in which the star broke the fourth wall by talking to the camera.
“It was one of the first comedies made for cable and an alternative to what the networks were offering. For me it was like lightning struck again,” says Zweibel. “I learned a lot from Garry about the energy and synergy of a writing team. I cherished the relationship we had.”
Although he resides in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, with his wife, Robin, whom he met at “SNL” when she was a production assistant, Zweibel still has strong Long Island ties.
“I have friends from Wantagh that I met in Hebrew school that I still have dinner with every three months. My wife and I even go out with my senior prom date from Hewlett High School and her husband, who now live in Plainview,” says Zweibel. “Next year will be my 50th high school reunion. I’m really looking forward to that.”
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 6, Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington
INFO $52 (includes book and reception); 631-423-7611, cinemaartscentre.org
KICK IT WITH KLEZBOS
On stage after Zweibel and during the reception, live music will be provided by Isle of Klezbos, which brings Latin and jazz rhythms to the neo-traditional roots music from Yiddish culture.
“We deliver a wide range of music styles from poignant and intimate to rambunctious and rollicking,” says drummer and co-founder Eve Sicular. “There’s syncopated rhythms with a funky feel to them and a street beat that’s danceable.”
— David J. Criblez