Famed ‘I Love Lucy’ Writer Remembered
“I Love Lucy” writer, Bob Schiller died at the age of 98, but not without leaving a lasting mark on the comedy world and the hearts of many.
Schiller, who died Tuesday in Pacific Palisades, Calif., wrote for a variety of shows, including “I Love Lucy” and “The Carol Burnett Show.” He began his television writing career in 1950 and later partnered with Bob Weiskopf, which lasted for the better part of a half-century.
Schiller and Weiskopf came up with some of the most memorable “I Love Lucy” episodes, including the famous grape-stomping scene. Schiller wrote 53 episodes of “I Love Lucy” from 1955-57.
“All one can be is joyful that he was given 98 years to make people laugh,” said Lucie Arnaz, Lucille Ball’s daughter and actress. “It should be a celebration. He was a delightful human being who helped me so much in understanding the circumstances that affected my life. Now, he gets to enjoy his rest and the team is complete.”
Locally, the National Comedy Center, which also operates the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, looked back over Schiller’s legacy and life. According to Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center executive director, Schiller was a civil rights and free speech supporter.
“Bob Schiller wove previously ignored topics such as race relations and gender equality into his scripts,” Gunderson said. “He was a unifier who worked to bring the nation together through laughter. He was hugely important to some of the most popular, successful and certainly beloved sitcoms of all time and we are fortunate to have his work.
Schiller visited the Jamestown area in 2004 for a seminar as part of a program held in the former Reg Lenna Civic Center for an annual Lucy’s Birthday Celebration.
“I’m very excited about coming back there because I’ve always heard about Jamestown,” Shiller said at the time. “Not only from Lucy, but all the people who’ve been there in the past. It’s always a pleasure to be surrounded by fans. I’m constantly amazed by their knowledge. They all know more facts about the show than I do.”
Schiller was raised in Los Angeles and attended the University of California in Los Angeles, according to the Associated Press. He was later drafted into the Army in 1940 and produced a variety of comedy shows for the troops during his time overseas. After his time in the army, he spent time in the public relations and radio broadcasting fields.
A former passenger in Schiller’s carpool in the late 70s offered kind thoughts and remembrances of the comedy writer. Victoria Ordin, BroadwayWorld reviewer in New York City, was a childhood friend of Schiller’s daughter, Abbie.
“He just was a legend and it’s impossible to overstate his influence,” Ordin said. “I met him when I was in kindergarten.”
Ordin remembers Schiller as a “normal dad” who drove for their carpool.
“I remember talking to him about how I wanted to be an adult,” she said. “And then he mentioned taxes! I said ‘OK,” even still.”
Ordin remembered Schiller as a funny man during the carpool days and that he was very smart. He drove a vintage 1960s Benx Convertible. He and his wife, Sabrina, were very charitable and made a real difference in people’s lives. Some members of the extended family, including Schiller’s father, “Poppa,” also lived in the house. Ordin said the home was a large one, but was family-centered.
Schiller had a booming voice and laugh, she remembered. He was sarcastic, and had “gravitas tempered by wit.” Ordin remembered celebrating Shabbat with the family and holiday parties.
Of Schiller, she said he was “amazing.”
“They don’t make ’em like that anymore,” she said. “It makes me cry a little. He was the last of the men of that generation still alive from my childhood.”