On part 5 of a five days of posts on Jerry Seinfeld do you think I can find some connection to his success and the state of Iowa? Of course, I can. First Seinfeld points to his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson as the event that changed his life. For decades Johnny Carson was where you went to be blessed before you moved up the comedian ranks. Just where do you think Johnny Carson was born? If you said, I-O-W-A, you would be correct.
Before the The King of Late Night! won eight Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he had his start in the world when he was born in Corning, Iowa.
Back in 1925, when he was born, Corning had a population of just under 2,000. According to Wikipedia, “he grew up in nearby towns of Avaca, Clarinda and Red Pak is southeast Iowa, before moving to Norfolf, Nebraska at age eight.” As a student at the University of Nebraska, Carson began performing magic tricks for money. After graduation he began his broadcasting career at WOW in Omaha.
So that’s a pretty good connection. The other one is a little more indirect. When I move to Cedar Falls, Iowa in 2003 from Orlando, Florida I was followed by an actor named Gary Kroeger. I was familar with him because some of my production friends in Orlando had worked with him around that time when he hosted at game show called Beat the Clock that was taped at Universal Studios-Florida. After that show was canceled Kroeger and his wife decided to return to Cedar Falls where he grew up and where he had taken a job as a creative director at an advertising company.
What’s this have to do with Jerry Seinfeld? Well after he graduated from high school he attended college at Northwestern University and started and improve group with his girlfriend—who just happend be to Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Yep, the same Julia Louis-Dryfus who would go on to play Elaine, Jerry sometime girlfriend on the long running TV sitcom Seinfeld. Both Kroeger and Louis-Dreyfus went from college to joining the cast of Saturday Night Live on 1981. One of the staff writers in that show was a struggling writer named Larry David. Of course, David would go on to be the co-creator with Jerry Seinfeld of Seinfeld.
Kroger worked next to David writing skits. In fact, after Seinfeld ended his run and created Curb Your Enthusiasm, he cast Kroeger to play the Weatherman in this clip. (Language warning.)
Indie film lover of the film The Big Picture starring Kevin Bacon may remember Kroeger who had role in the film along with Teri Hatcher and Jennifer Jason Leigh. And he was also one of the screenwriters of the 2001 film The Chameleon which starred Seymour Cassel. So while Kroeger may not be a household name he’s a produced screenwriter, who was once on the cast of Saturday Night Live, and has performed alongside some top well-known talent. He made it to the big leagues which is further than the tens of thousands who try ever year to one degree or another.
And who Knows, what Seinfeld would have been like if Kroeger and Julia Louis-Dryfus hadn’t of honed their talents in college and she never was cast as Elaine. And who knows what would have become of Jerry Seinfeld if there was no Iowa-born Johnny Carson around to give him his big break. Sure, someone of Seinfeld’s talent would have broken down other doors and big rich and famous one way or another, but won’t you give Iowa a small assist in the Jerry Seinfeld you know and love?
BTW— I worked with Kroeger on a commercial when I first came to town and we’ve remained friends ever since. I sent him a message Saturday saying I wanted to interview him for Screenwriting from Iowa and he’s agreed to do it. So if you have a question for him about Saturday Night Live, his career in New York and L.A., or working with Larry David and/or Julia Louis-Dreyfus add them to the comments section and I’ll see if we can get him to answer them.
And finally, tomorrow is the Kickstarter launch for Screenwriting from Iowa…and other unlikely places so please stop by tomorrow and see what that’s all about.
Scott W. Smith
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