Q&A: Writer and Comedienne Carol Leifer

The Seinfeld, SNL, and Modern Family writer talks about her second comedy book, women in comedy, and her thoughts on the LGBT Human Rights Campaign.

SeinfeldSaturday Night LiveThe Larry Sanders Show, and now Modern Family writer Carol Leifer is back at it this year, working on her second book to be released in April 2014. Her first book, When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win, hit shelves in 2009 and was a national bestseller across the U.S.

Aside from comedy writing, Leifer was a cast member of Celebrity Apprentice Season 3, toured with Jerry Seinfeld, and appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman more than 25 times. Tonight, Leifer will attend a Comedy and Cocktails, a Combined Jewish Philanthropy event at the Westin Hotel in Waltham. Leifer recently talked with us about her upcoming projects, fellow funny women in comedy, and the progress of the LGBT Human Rights Campaign in America.

You’re a comedian who wrote for some of the most iconic TV shows in America, like SeinfeldSaturday Night Live, and The Larry Sanders Show. Your first book, When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win, came out in 2009, and in the same year you appeared on Celebrity Apprentice. What’s next on your agenda?

Right now, I am writing a new book, that’s coming out next year. It’s called How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying. It’s an advice book about navigating through the work world. I mean, I’m not out of Harvard with an M.B.A. or a graduate of a fancy business school, but I certainly have a lot of advice from my long journey.

How did you come up with that title? It’s really great.

Thank you! Well, from my first book I learned that it’s always great, especially when you’re a comedian or comedy writer, to have a funny title because it signals to your audience that it is hopefully going to be funny. I think that’s important. We tried a bunch of titles, but when I landed on this one, everybody seemed to respond to it.

Will the writing be similar to your last? Humor and personal essays? Or more professional?

It’s really more about all of my work experiences, and each chapter is something that happened to me that I want to communicate to the audience as a bigger lesson for something. I talk about the different steps in my career. I talk a lot about comedy writing, including stand-up comedy—[for which] the bigger lesson is to diversify when you can. So I really use my personal journey as the basis for the backbone of the advice in the book.

I’ve also teamed up with Clorox, and I’m going to be on The View next Tuesday, April 9, to promote a project I’m working on with them. I’m working on a thing with them called the “Ick-tionary”, which is a dictionary of stains and spills that Clorox tackles pretty well. That’s been a very fun project as well, teaming up with them and getting ready to launch that.

Singer-songwriter Bret Michaels, the winning Celebrity Apprentice from your cycle in 2009, is a cast member in the current Celebrity Apprentice all-star season on NBC. What was it like working with Michaels and Donald Trump?

Bret Michaels was really the nicest person and fellow cast member. He really is genuinely so warm and nice. He was the only person, after I got fired, who made a personal reach-out to me to personally say goodbye and that it was nice working with me. I have to say, when doing the show—and even though I was there briefly—it was really great working with Trump, too. He’s a very intuitive person. I have to say that so much of the show, he’s [not just] a figurehead at the top. He’s really in it and he has a keen eye.

Would you say Trump is more grounded in person than the way he is portrayed on TV?

I would say he is, yes, for sure.

The “Funny Ladies” are now making a huge statement in the world of comedy—including Tina Fey and Amy Poehler who hosted this year’s Golden Globes

It’s a great time for women in comedy now. They’re really coming to the forefront of everything. Now, they’re not even seen as funny women, but just funny people. So it’s a really great and amazing time for women in comedy.

Last week, the Human Rights Campaign [an organization in support of gay marriage] took social media by storm, in light of the Supreme Court’s recent discussion of the issue. As a gay woman in a successful long-term relationship, what is your take on the campaign and its progress?

Being in an almost 17-year partnership and having a son whom we adopted, I think it’s amazing what’s been happening. I’m so encouraged about the future, even from just a day-to-day point of view. I can’t believe that there are still states where gay couples can’t adopt a child. It’s crazy and ludicrous to me. I think [there has been] phenomenal progress, and I think 10 years from now, people on these talk shows, who talk about protecting marriage and how gays shouldn’t marry, will be viewed like, “Can you believe these people talked like this back then?” Because it is changing now at such a deeper pitch, you know?

You can even say the same if you look at family shows like The Cosby Show and All in the Family, and compare them to shows like The New Normal and Modern Family. The family-oriented shows today have same-sex couples with children and loving families that we would never see on TV 10 or 15 years ago.

Absolutely, and that changes people. I wrote a Modern Family episode that I think changes the hearts and minds of the viewers.

To end, are there any jokes or one-liners you can spoil us with from your new book out next year?

It’s still in the initial stages, but we’ll have to talk next year!


Look for Carol Leifer at the Combined Jewish Philanthropy Comedy and Cocktails event tonight, April 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Westin Hotel in Waltham. Leifer will be on The View next Tuesday, April 9 to promote “Ick-tionary.” The release of her second book, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Crying, will be on shelves April 2014.