Emmy-winning comedy writerSam Denoff

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With his writing partner Bill Persky, Denoff had written for Steve Allen, Andy Williams and McHale’s Navy when they took a shot at writing for a new series: The Dick Van Dyke Show. It was rejected, so they tried again, and it was so good that in 1963 they were hired full time as story editors. “When they came upon the scene, they saved my life,” said series creator Carl Reiner. “These two guys made my life possible after that.” They shared two Emmy awards for their work on the show. In 1966, as the series wound down, Marlo Thomas was getting ready to star in another series, and asked Denoff and Persky to write for her. The show: That Girl. Denoff helped define the Thomas character, making her “more balanced,” she said. “I would have tended to be too soft and he too rigid, but together we found a middle ground.” Denoff even wrote the lyrics for the theme song. Over the years, Denoff and Persky shared two more Emmys for their work, writing for Mel Brooks, Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Bill Cosby and more. “We haven’t been partners for 35 years, but we are linked forever,” Persky said. “Somewhere in the world in a mud hut the credits ‘Persky and Denoff’ are running on somebody’s television set.” Denoff died July 8 after suffering from Alzheimer’s. He was 83.

From This is True for 10 July 2011