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Robert Weiskopf; Wrote for Classic TV Sitcoms

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Robert Weiskopf, a comedy writer who penned award-winning scripts for “I Love Lucy,” “Maude” and “All in the Family,” has died. He was 86.

Weiskopf died Tuesday in Los Angeles, said his longtime writing partner, Robert A. Schiller.

Active until a decade ago, Weiskopf and Schiller, often called “the Bobs,” earned Emmys for “The Flip Wilson Show” in 1971 and an episode of “All in the Family” titled “Cousin Liz” in 1978.

They shared Writers Guild awards for work on “I Love Lucy,” “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour,” “Maude” and “All in the Family.”

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In 1988, the writing duo shared the Writers Guild Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television, given to writers who have “advanced the literature of television.”

“Dad and Schiller were joined at the hip,” said Weiskopf’s son, Kim.

When Weiskopf teamed up with Schiller in 1953, he was already a seasoned writer, primarily for radio.

Born in Chicago, Weiskopf grew up at a time when radio ruled, and his favorites were the comedy shows of Ed Wynn, Jack Benny and, particularly, Fred Allen.

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Nevertheless, Weiskopf rejected the suggestion of friends and soon-to-be comedy writers Melvin Frank and Norman Panama that he, too, try writing comedy.

Frank and Panama finally lured him to Hollywood in 1940 and helped him sell a couple of jokes to Bob Hope--Weiskopf’s first professional material on the air.

He quickly landed a writing position with “The Eddie Cantor Show,” then moved to Rudy Vallee’s Sealtest program. During World War II, Weiskopf was hired to write for “The Fred Allen Show” in New York--a job he was able to continue after enlisting in the Army because he was stationed in New York.

After nine years with Allen, Weiskopf moved west again and met Schiller almost by accident. Weiskopf and his wife were searching for a school for their son and were directed to Schiller’s wife. She suggested a school, and then added that her husband needed a writing partner.

Weiskopf and Schiller settled into the newly developing area of television, writing for Danny Thomas’ “Make Room for Daddy” and Eve Arden’s “Our Miss Brooks.”

In 1955 they were put on contract to write for Desilu Studios, eventually working closely with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

First up at Desilu was “I Love Lucy” itself. Other shows included Arnaz’ pet project, his “Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse,” and the unsuccessful “Lucy” spinoff for Vivian Vance, titled “Guestward Ho!”

Weiskopf and his partner wrote for the Harry Morgan series “Pete and Gladys,” then for Red Skelton for three years, and later for Phyllis Diller and Carol Burnett.

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They joined Norman Lear in 1972 to write for “Maude,” starring Bea Arthur as Archie Bunker’s liberal cousin. “Maude” became the writing duo’s favorite assignment.

They had both learned to write for radio, which demanded audible humor, Weiskopf once explained, and Arthur--unlike Ball, who was adept at sight gags--was funniest when just delivering her lines.

Weiskopf and Schiller also created a new Lear show, “All’s Fair,” and in 1977 joined Lear’s writers on “All in the Family” itself.

In addition to his son Kim, Weiskopf is survived by his wife of 60 years, the former Eileen Ito; another son, Walt; and two grandchildren.

Donations may be made to the Bob Weiskopf Memorial at Gifts From the Heart, Habitat for Humanity, 121 Habitat St., Americus, GA 31709.


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