Published February 13, 2020
UB alumnus Alan Zweibel, a five-time Emmy Award-winning original writer for “Saturday Night Live,” will inaugurate the College of Arts and Sciences’ Visiting Professor in the Arts endowment with a three-part workshop at UB that will conclude with an artist brunch and student performances inspired by “Bunny Bunny,” Zweibel’s memoir that he later adapted for the New York stage about his friendship with original SNL cast member Gilda Radner.
The performances, which are open to the public, will take place from noon to 3 p.m. May 3 in the Black Box Theatre in the Center for the Arts, North Campus.
Zweibel’s decades-long career has “earned [him] a place in the pantheon of American pop culture,” according to The New York Times.
“The reason I’m coming back to UB is because when I was a student I would’ve loved if someone like me came to teach what the world of professional writing was really like,” says Zweibel (BA ’72). “That, plus it’s been quite a while since I experienced a Buffalo winter and really miss freezing my butt off.”
Zweibel’s creative output is a wide orbit of diverse mediums and disciplines that include television, books of all genres, film and theater, as well as writing, producing and acting. And his workshops — taking place Feb. 21-23, March 27-29 and May 1 and 2 — will use “Bunny Bunny” to encourage students to approach his original text in a manner as varied as his career in order to draw out the limitless possibilities of creative expression.
“What Alan did to transform the original conception of ‘Bunny Bunny,’ taking the memoir’s text and using it as the basis for a stage performance, is similar to what he’s asking students to do,” says Bronwyn Keenan, director of UB’s Arts Collaboratory, an innovative strategic initiative that fosters collaboration and experimentation across the university and Buffalo. “Fourteen UB students will be drawing upon his memoir as a springboard for collaboration. The process is open to creative interpretation, with Alan’s mentorship guiding the way.”
Keenan says the workshops are a collaborative exercise and the students will seek multidisciplinary expertise outside of the classroom and workshops, linking with other students working in various art forms to create something original.
“He wants to challenge the students and bring out the creative power of collaboration, just as his friendships with Gilda, Billy Crystal, Larry David, Martin Short and dozens of others inspired him,” Keenan says. “It’s important to understand that.”
Some of that work is already underway in a class taught by Maria Horne, associate professor of theatre and dance. It’s Horne’s class that will host the workshops and provide the foundation for students’ interpretive work in May.
Zweibel has already prepared video preludes for classroom screenings, including a compilation of Radner’s work on SNL (Zweibel helped create the iconic Roseann Roseannadanna character) and the documentary “Love Gilda,” which he executive-produced with his wife, Robin.
He’ll also stay in touch with students after their May performance, continuing the spirit of his workshops through the rest of their education at UB and early career steps.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for our students to research the groundbreaking SNL tradition with Alan, an expert in his field who is both a UB and SNL alumnus,” said Horne. “I sincerely appreciate Alan’s generosity and his desire to come back and give back, and I’m delighted to be working with him to make it happen.”
In addition to his Emmy Awards and the Tony he shares with Billy Crystal for the Broadway play “700 Sundays,” Zweibel’s iconic work is further distinguished by two Writers Guild of America Awards, a Television Critics of America Award, a Thurber Prize for American Humor for his novel “The Other Shulman,” and a Writers Guild of America East Lifetime Achievement Award.
Zweibel is currently preparing his play “Bunny Bunny” for a return to the New York stage, has written a cultural memoir titled “Laugh Lines – My Life Helping Funny People Be Funnier” that will be published in April, and a new movie he wrote with Billy Crystal titled “Here Today” that stars Crystal and Tiffany Haddish, and will be in theaters next fall.
Major support for the Arts Collaboratory is provided by M&T Bank.