Marshall Brickman, born in Brazil of American parents, attended New York public schools and the University of Wisconsin, where he received a double baccalaureate in both science and music.
He entered show business first as a member of the folk group The Tarriers and then, along with John and Michelle Phillips, as one of The New Journeymen, a precursor of The Mamas and the Papas, whose flamboyant life-style and eccentric harmonies defined the post-folk era of tuning up, turning on and cashing in.
Trading in his Gibson Mastertone 5-string banjo for an IBM Selectric, he secured a position as writer/director on Candid Camera, America’s original reality show, a wildly successful early experiment in monetizing public humiliation, for which he hereby apologizes. His stint on Candid Camera lasted just over 3 months, about three days short of a nervous breakdown.
Fleeing Candid Camera as from a burning building, Brickman found solace as a writer and then head writer for Johnny Carson, whose late-night show on NBC emanated from ironically named Radio City in midtown Manhattan, a stroke of luck that allowed him to stay as far from Los Angles as possible while still retaining U.SA. citizenship. In 1970 he left NBC to become producer/head writer of Dick Cavett’s late-night show on ABC. Among the many ground-breaking events that Cavett introduced into the late-night formula was the night presidential hopeful George McGovern was interviewed by last-minute guest host Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics. The result was enlightening, frightening and similar to watching a python ingesting a small cow.
Meanwhile he had started a collaboration with Woody Allen, a young comic who opened for the Tarriers at Fred Weintraub’s Bitter End, the legendary coffee house that provided exposure to upcoming talent in music and comedy. They worked at odd hours on screenplays and material for Allen’s early TV appearances, which provided Brickman with the impetus and economic freedom to pursue work outside the restrictive area of TV. Eagerly seizing the opportunity, Brickman watched Mr. Allen negotiate both the creative and practical issues confronting an artist working in a commercial environment; it was an experience like no other; Brickman learned things that can’t be taught and never laughed as hard as the time spent roaming the city with a certified genius, and discussing art, politics, women, the state of the business, and why Durwood Kirby was considered funny, even by people with college degrees.
Mr. Brickman’s film work as author (or co-author with Woody Allen) includes Sleeper, Annie Hall (Academy Award), Manhattan, (AA nomination) and Manhattan Murder Mystery. As film writer/director): Simon, Lovesick, The Manhattan Project, Sister Mary Explains it All. In television: The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (head writer, 1967-’70); The Dick Cavett Show (head writer/co-producer, 1970-’72).
Brickman’s recording (with ex-Tarrier Eric Weissberg) of the soundtrack of Deliverance, released in 1970, contained the surprise hit “Dueling Banjos,” achieved platinum status, and remains a healthy seller over 40 years later.
His first foray into musical theater resulted in Jersey Boys, which won the Tony, Olivier, Helpmann, Grammy and many other awards worldwide, is in its eleventh year on Broadway, has been seen by twenty million people worldwide and is currently the 10th-longest running show in the history of Broadway.
Mr. Brickman’s other theatrical efforts include “Turn of the Century,” which played to capacity houses in Chicago, and “The Addams Family,” starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, which ran for two years on Broadway and to date has had over four thousand first and second tier productions internationally.
In addition to his work in film and theater, Mr. Brickman has published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Playboy and other periodicals. He is the 2006 recipient of the Writers’ Guild of America Ian McClellan Hunter Award for Lifetime Achievement.
His current project is a stage musical celebrating the life of western star Roy Rogers, scheduled to premiere early in 2017.
After over 40 years in the business, trying to balance talent with opportunity and watching the careers of colleagues, both successful and less so, he can reduce what he’s learned into one succinct bit of wisdom: above all, it’s important to be lucky.