Graden grew up in Illinois and graduated from Hillsboro High School in 1981. He graduated from Oral Roberts University in 1985 with a degree in business, and later graduated with an MBA from Harvard University.
He began working in television, ultimately becoming an executive at FOX, during which time he saw Trey Parker and Matt Stone's animated short film Jesus vs Frosty. He commissioned them to make another film to give as a Christmas card to his friends. The film, The Spirit of Christmas, became well known online and among celebrities and college students. He later helped Parker and Stone develop the animation into the series South Park.
- Oxfield, Jesse, Idov, Michael (March 4, 2007), ‘Out’ Ranks the Top 50 Gays; Anderson Is No. 2, New York Magazine. Retrieved June 28, 2007.
- "Brian Graden: President of entertainment, MTV Networks Music Channels". Tvweek.com. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
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