Sheldon Keller - Life and Career

Life and Career

Keller was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended University of Illinois, where he began writing comedy with his fraternity brother Allan Sherman. He served in the Pacific Theater with the United States Army Signal Corps during World War II.

After the war, Keller came home and married Bernice "Bitsy" Berkowitz. They had 2 children, Casey and Jamie. In 1951 he borrowed $500 from his father-in-law and moved the family to New York hoping to become an entertainer and comedian. He soon began writing for television.

On Caesar's Hour, Keller worked with notable writers Mel Brooks, Selma Diamond, Larry Gelbart, Mel Tolkin, Michael Stewart and Gary Belkin. In 1956, 1957, and 1958 the show was nominated for Emmy Award for Best Comedy Writing - Variety or Situation Comedy.

Keller also wrote several episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, and M*A*S*H, including For Want of a Boot and The Chosen People Notable screenplays include Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (written with Melvin Frank and Denis Norden) and Cleopatra Jones (with Max Julien). Keller co-wrote the 1979 film Movie Movie with Gelbart, winning the WGA Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen. He wrote specials for Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye and Carol Channing, winning a 1966 Emmy Award with Hal Goldman and Al Gordon for writing An Evening With Carol Channing.

In the early 80's, as his writing career was winding down, Keller formed the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band with friends Conrad Janis and George Segal. Their mix of jazz and comedy made them popular enough to play at Carnegie Hall and on The Tonight Show and led to their own PBS special in 1993, This Joint Is Jumpin'.

In later life, Keller collaborated with his friend Howard Albrecht on Funny Stuff, a newsletter of jokes for radio DJs and public speakers. Keller died at his home in Valencia, California from complications of Alzheimer's disease.

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