Carol Leifer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Carol Leifer
Leifer in 2009
Born (1956-07-27) July 27, 1956 (age 67)
East Williston, New York, U.S.
MediumStand-up comedy, television, film, writing
Alma materBinghamton University
Queens College
Years active1977–present
GenresObservational comedy
Subject(s)LGBT, Jewish culture, women's issues, everyday life, parenting
(m. 1981; div. 1987)
Lori Wolf
(m. 2015)
Children1 Edit this at Wikidata

Carol Leifer (/ˈlfər/ LEE-fər;[1] born July 27, 1956) is an American comedian, writer and producer whose career as a stand-up comedian started in the 1970s when she was in college. She has written many television scripts including The Larry Sanders Show, Saturday Night Live and Seinfeld.[2] She has received four Primetime Emmy Award nominations for The Larry Sanders Show, Seinfeld, the 82nd Academy Awards and the 84th Academy Awards. Leifer's inner-monologue driven, observational style is often autobiographical, encompassing subjects about her Jewish ancestry and upbringing, coming out, same-sex marriage, relationships (having been married previously to a man and now married to a woman) and parenting.[2][3][4]

Early life[edit]

Leifer was born in East Williston, New York, to an Ashkenazi Jewish family, the daughter of Anna Leifer, a psychologist, and Seymour Leifer, an optometrist.[5] As a child, Leifer would frequently put on performances for her family and friends in her family's basement.[6] Leifer recalls her family being a significant part of her fondest memories, including her father's well-known jokes amongst family and friends, as well as her brother taking her to see The Beatles in concert at Shea Stadium. She frequently credits her father as the reason she became a comic.[7]


Leifer at the 1995 Emmy Awards

Rise to fame and early career[edit]

While studying for a theater degree at Harpur College (now Binghamton University), Leifer accompanied her then boyfriend Paul Reiser to a comedy club to see him perform at the open mic night at Catch A Rising Star.[8][4] In 1977, she began performing stand-up comedy and transferred to Queens College to be closer to the club scene. Later she tried performing at New York's Comic Strip and was introduced by emcee Jerry Seinfeld.[4]

Stand-up comedy[edit]

Leifer's stand-up comedy career has been well received. Early in her career, a critic from Variety wrote a review on one of Leifer's sets, saying, "She still has much to absorb in operating in the comedic area, but, with further experience, has a good chance at the brass ring."[9] The comedians with experience and skill, she became a successful comic.[10] She has gotten tremendously positive feedback over the years, known for her infectious laugh, witty observational comedy, and clean-cut humor.[10][11] Leifer credits mentor and lifelong friend, David Letterman, with her rise to fame, having performed stand-up comedy on Late Night with David Letterman 25 times. Leifer also appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Dr. Katz, Politically Incorrect, Hollywood Squares, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Her stand-up experience also includes opening for Jerry Seinfeld and Frank Sinatra.

Leifer has also performed and released several stand-up specials. Her stand-up specials, listed chronologically, are:


Leifer's writing career spans several well-known shows, including Seinfeld, Saturday Night Live, It's Like, You Know..., and The Larry Sanders Show. She has written for the Academy Awards for most of the 21st century, as well as the 69th Annual Tony Awards.

Leifer started her comedy writing career at Saturday Night Live. Leifer was hired by Al Franken and Jim Downey to work as a writer for the popular sketch comedy show. Executive producer, Lorne Michaels did not hire Leifer directly, and that became clear.[14] Leifer recalls her time at SNL being a great opportunity to grow and learn as a writer, but the division caused by Michaels' indifference impacted her time working there, as she recalls "it felt like being asked to play on a Beatles album by Ringo."[8] Leifer was not asked to return to the staff for a second season.

Leifer starred in, created, and executive-produced the 1997 WB sitcom Alright Already, which only ran one season. Alright, Already focused on single optometrist Carol Lerner (played by Leifer). Lerner runs her own practice in Miami, Florida while dealing with family, friends, and romance.[15] The show received mixed reviews, saying it lacked an endearing plot and Leifer "squeezed uncomfortably into an uncomfortable sitcom."[16][17]

With Mitchell Hurwitz, Leifer created and was a writer for The Ellen Show (2001). The series was negatively received and only ran one season.[18] Leifer has also written for several television shows, such as Devious Maids, Modern Family, and Rules of Engagement. Leifer's writing credits are listed below:

Writing Credits
Year Program Network Notes ref
1985-1986 Saturday Night Live NBC 18 episodes
1988 Nothin' Goes Right HBO TV Special; Uncredited [5]
1992 Carol Leifer: Gaudy, Bawdy & Blue Showtime TV movie; Also starred as Rusty Berman [5]
1995 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Comedy Central Episode: "Office Management"; Additional material
1993-1996 Seinfeld NBC 6 episodes
Other credits include coproducer, story editor, and executive story editor
Some episodes were co-written with Peter Mehlman and Marjorie Gross
1996 The 48th Primetime Emmy Awards CBS Other writers included Barry Adelman, Jon Macks, Kevin Rooney, and Bruce Vilanch.
1997 The Larry Sanders Show HBO Episode: "The Prank"; co-written with Lester Lewis
The Naked Truth NBC Episode: "The Birds"
Almost Perfect CBS 2 episodes: "Gimme Shelter" and "Datings for Ratings"
1997-1998 Alright, Already The WB 2 episodes: "Again with the Black Box" and "Again with the Billionaire"
Other credits include creator; Also starred as Carol Lerner
1999 It's Like, You Know... ABC Episode: "Twins"
2000 72nd Academy Awards ABC Co-wrote with Bruce Vilanch, Jonathan Tolins, David Steinberg,
Marc Shaiman, Jeffrey Ross, Billy Martin, Jon Macks,
Ed Driscoll, Billy Crystal, Rita Cash, and Dave Boone.
2002 74th Academy Awards ABC Co-wrote with Bruce Vilanch, Dave Boone, Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Henchy,
Jon Macks, Chuck Martin, Rita Rudner, Wanda Sykes, and Jonathan Tolins.
2001-2002 The Ellen Show CBS 5 episodes; Other credits include co-creator. [5]
2003 55th Primetime Emmy Awards CBS
I'm With Her Episode: "The Second Date"
2004 The 76th Academy Awards ABC Co-wrote with Scott Wittman, Norman Steinberg, David Steinberg, Marc Shaiman,
Billy Martin, Ed Driscoll, Dave Boone, Beth Armogida, and Jon Macks.
The Soluna Project N/A Movie; co-written with Jacque Edmonds
2005 The 77th Academy Awards ABC Listed as "Special Material Writer"
2007 The 79th Academy Awards ABC Co-wrote with Bruce Vilanch, Dave Boone, William Coronel, and Jon Macks
Rules of Engagement CBS Episode: "A Visit From Fay"
2010 The 82nd Academy Awards ABC Co-wrote with Bruce Vilanch, Jeffrey Richman, and Jon Macks.
2011 Modern Family ABC Episode: "Two Monkeys and a Panda"
co-written with Elaine Ko
The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards CBS Listed as writing "host material"
2012 The 84th Academy Awards ABC Other writers included Dave Boone and Jon Macks
2014 Devious Maids Lifetime 2 episodes: "You Can't Take it With You" and "Crimes of the Heart"
2015 69th Annual Tony Awards CBS Listed as "Special Material Writer"
2016 MADtv The CW 8 episodes
Writer's Block N/A Short Film
2017 The Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special CBS TV special; Co-wrote with Carol Burnett, Buz Kohan, Jon Macks, and Pasquale Murena
2016-2018 Better Late Than Never NBC 12 episodes
2018 The 90th Academy Awards ABC Other writers include Jon Macks
A Little Help with Carol Burnett Netflix 12 episodes
Mark Twain Prize for American Humor: Julia Louis-Dreyfus PBS Co-wrote with Paul Greenberg, Jon Macks, Sara Schaefer, and Jeff Stilson
2019 The 91st Academy Awards ABC Listed as "Special Material Writer"
2020 Curb Your Enthusiasm HBO Episode: "Artificial Fruit"
2020-2021 B Positive CBS 6 episodes
"Story editor" for 2 episodes: "High Risk Factor" and "Miss Diagnosis"


Carol Leifer joined the Seinfeld writing staff during its fifth season (1993–94), and wrote six episodes for the show between then and its seventh season (1995–96).[19] Alongside being a writer on the show, Leifer was a story editor for 16 episodes from 1993 to 1994 and an executive story editor for 23 episodes from 1994 to 1995. She has been dubbed "the real Elaine", as the series' character, Elaine Benes, was partially based on her.[20] The episodes Leifer wrote, listed chronologically, are:[21]

Seinfeld Episodes
Season Episode Notes
Season 5 "The Lip Reader"
"The Hamptons"
Season 6 "The Secretary"
"The Beard"
The Understudy
Season 7 "The Rye"

Her work on Seinfeld garnered her a Primetime Emmy Award nomination.[22] Leifer recalls when looking for writers for the show, Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, specifically wanted writers who had never written for sitcoms before.[23] Working as a writer for Seinfeld is one of Leifer's favorite credits because of the incredible experiences it gave her as well as the opportunity to work alongside incredible comedians. Leifer speaks highly of her coworkers while working on the show, remembering Jerry Seinfeld as "the hardest working of all the comedians I came up with."[24] One of the most important things she learned as a writer from working on Seinfeld was to "mine your own life for comedy ideas."[23] Leifer's comedy frequently stems from herself and her family, proving what she learned from working on Seinfeld has had a lasting impact on her work.

Acting and appearances[edit]

Leifer appeared as a contestant on the third season of Celebrity Apprentice.[25] Leifer chose North Shore Animal League as her charity because of her and her wife's work for animal advocacy.[26] She was the first to be eliminated, on the premiere episode, which aired on March 14, 2010.[27]

She has also hosted for all four seasons of A&E's Caroline's Comedy Hour, as well as guest appearances on Talk Soup and Later.[28] She was also a guest on Inside Comedy where she was interviewed by David Steinberg.[23]

Leifer wrote and starred in the 1992 Showtime TV film Carol Leifer: Gaudy, Bawdy & Blue, a mockumentary about fictional aged comedian Rusty Berman (played by Leifer), told through interviews and flashbacks. The film had a similar concept to the film Mr. Saturday Night, which had come out several months earlier.[29] She was also part of Superman's 50th Anniversary: A Celebration of the Man of Steel as Beth Lewis, Lois Lane's best friend.[13]

Leifer has also had minor acting and voice-over roles in movies such as Bee Movie, Rules of Engagement, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, Medusa: Dare to be Truthful, and Desperately Seeking Susan.[5][13]


Carol Leifer has written two books. Her first book of humorous essays, entitled When You Lie About Your Age, The Terrorists Win, was released on March 10, 2009.[30][31] Leifer discusses her early life and family, the daunting idea of getting older, outlooks on life, and the moment she discovered she might be gay and how her life changed for the better.[32] Her second book, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying was published in 2014. Considered a "part memoir, part guide to life",[8] Leifer tells the public her journey as a comic and entertainer. She gives tips and guides for working in the entertainment industry. Leifer also talks about her personal work experiences, such as her time writing for Saturday Night Live, working with Jerry Seinfeld, and her career as a stand-up comic.[8]


  • Frank Sinatra praised Leifer as "one funny broad!" and "I wish my mother had been that funny – I wouldn't have had to work so hard."[2]
  • In 1998, Leifer was named by the New York Times as "the only comic among six 'fast-rising artists…to watch' this season"[10]
  • Leifer was nominated for the second annual American Comedy Awards as "Funniest Female Comedy Club Stand-Up Comic."[33]
(Left to right) Linda Hamilton, Jane Lynch and Carol Leifer with their 2016 Williamsburg Independent Film Festival awards. Leifer and Lynch won for their short film Writer's Block and Hamilton won for Shoot me Nicely.[34]
Awards and Nominations
Year Award Category Work Result
1996 Primetime Emmy Awards[22] Outstanding Comedy Series Seinfeld Nominated
1997 Outstanding Comedy Series The Larry Sanders Show Nominated
2010 Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special 82nd Academy Awards Nominated
2012 Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special 84th Academy Awards Nominated
1994 CableACE Awards Best Comedy Special Carol Leifer: Gaudy, Bawdy & Blue Nominated
Best Performance in a Comedy Special Carol Leifer: Gaudy, Bawdy & Blue Nominated
2018 Legionnaires of Laughter Legacy Awards Best Children's Comedy Writer A Little Help With Carol Burnett Nominated
2012 Online Film & Television Association Best Writing in a Comedy Series Modern Family Nominated
2016 Williamsburg Independent Film Festival, US Best Screenplay Writer's Block Won
Best Narrative Short Film Won
2015 Women's Image Network Awards Outstanding Show Produced by a Woman Devious Maids Nominated
2021 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Comedy Series Curb Your Enthusiasm Nominated
2019 Best Comedy/Variety Specials 90th Academy Awards Nominated
2016 Best Comedy/Variety (Music, Awards, Tributes) Specials 69th Tony Awards Nominated
2012 Best Comedy Series Modern Family Won
1995 Best Episodic Comedy Seinfeld Nominated

Personal life[edit]

Previous relationships[edit]

In 1981, Leifer married comic Ritch Shydner, whose gentile status troubled Leifer's father.[26] They divorced in 1987 and have remained friends.[2] Leifer also briefly dated Jerry Seinfeld before working with him on Seinfeld. Elaine Benes is inspired by her. Leifer and Seinfeld dated less than a year and have remained close friends, with Leifer having only positive things to say about him.[24]

Coming out[edit]

Though she had relationships with men and had been married to a man in the past, Carol Leifer identifies as a lesbian. After her divorce from Ritch Shydner, Leifer wanted to explore her sexuality. At age 40, Leifer met her current wife, Lori Wolf, and realized she was gay, not "just looking for a fling" as she originally intended.[24] When coming out, Leifer's family and friends were very supportive, especially her parents. She recalls her father being happy that Lori Wolf was Jewish.[7] When Leifer came out, her comedy and material changed to fit her life, often making jokes about coming out so late in her life and humor based on her and Wolf's relationship. Leifer has faced some negative reception due to her sexuality. After receiving a homophobic letter, Leifer recalls feeling "I thought I was prepared for something like that, but even 13 years in, it's still a kick in the face."[35]

Marriage to Lori Wolf[edit]

In 1996, Leifer met Lori Wolf, a real estate executive, when they shared a table at a Project Angel Food charity dinner in Los Angeles.[7] Leifer was immediately interested and later contacted Wolf through the host of their table, though Wolf initially rebuffed Leifer's overtures because Wolf was in a relationship at the time. Wolf contacted Leifer weeks later, after she had ended her relationship, and began one with Leifer. They moved in together in 2005, and in acclimating herself to Wolf's pets, Leifer became an animal rights activist.[26] That year, Leifer proposed to Wolf over dinner at the Palm Restaurant in Beverly Hills. On December 5, 2015, they were married by Rabbi Ron Stern at the Brentwood Country Club in Los Angeles. In attendance were Jane Lynch, Larry David, Bill Maher, Garry Shandling, Henry Winkler, Larry Miller, Jay Leno and Paul Reiser.[26] They have an adopted son.[citation needed]


In 2007 they purchased a $3.2-million, 5,000-square-foot (460 m2) home in the Santa Monica Hills,[36] as part of their preparations to adopt their nine-month-old son, Bruno Leifer-Wolf, who was born in Guatemala in 2006.[26][37] Leifer was 50 years old at the time, which she felt was the best age for her to have a child, saying "I feel I have a better outlook on life."[35]


Leifer has become vegan, saying "I recently became vegan because I felt that as a Jewish lesbian, I wasn't part of a small enough minority. So now I'm a Jewish lesbian vegan."[38][39] Leifer has been advocate for animal rights and made testimonials for PETA about her decision to become vegan, encouraging others to do the same.[40]


  1. ^ "Say How? A Pronunciation Guide to Names of Public Figures". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 12, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Cantor, Danielle (Spring 2009). "Successful Woman:Carol Leifer". Jewish Woman magazine.
  3. ^ "Women Leaving Men for Other Women" on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" airdate March 25, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America by Lawrence J. Epstein; PublicAffairs, 2002; ISBN 1-58648-162-2, ISBN 978-1-58648-162-9.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Carol Leifer Biography (1956–)". Film Reference. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
  6. ^ Rapp, Linda (2015). "Leifer, Carol (1956-)" (PDF). GLBTQ Archives. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Carol., Leifer (2010), When you lie about your age, the terrorists win, Phoenix Audio, ISBN 978-1-4416-7026-7, OCLC 664247692, retrieved May 8, 2021
  8. ^ a b c d Carol., Leifer (2014). How to succeed in business without really crying. Quirk Books. ISBN 978-1-59474-682-6. OCLC 869310552.
  9. ^ Jose (April 10, 1985). "New Acts: Carol Leifer". Variety.
  10. ^ a b c "Tense and Nervous? If Carol Leifer's Stand-Up Comedy Doesn't Loosen Your Laugh Track, Her Giggle Will". Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  11. ^ Sullivan, Jim (June 4, 1987). "Good, Clean Comedy from Carol Leifer". The Boston Globe.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h "Carol Leifer". Dead Frog. 2004. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  13. ^ a b c "Carol Leifer - Film credits | Acting". Archived from the original on May 11, 2021. Retrieved May 10, 2021.
  14. ^ Leifer, Carol (April 6, 2014). "My Rocky Time as a Woman Writer on SNL". The Daily Beast.
  15. ^ a b "Alright, Already". IMDb. September 7, 1997. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  16. ^ Scott, Tony (September 8, 1997). "TV REVIEWS: Alright, Already". Variety.
  17. ^ Kelleher, Terry (October 6, 1997). "Alright, Already". People Magazine.
  18. ^ The Ellen Show, retrieved May 10, 2021
  19. ^ Lyman, Rick (September 7, 1997). "Touching moments with Leifer? Get real!". The New York Times. Retrieved April 29, 2009.
  20. ^ Cooper, Evan (2013). "I'm a Little Scared of Elaine: Representations of Jewish and Gentile Women on "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm"". Studies in American Humor. 27: 93–115. doi:10.5325/studamerhumor.27.2013.0093. S2CID 246648111 – via JSTOR.
  21. ^ "CAROL LEIFER: EPISODE BY EPISODE". Howard Stern. April 7, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  22. ^ a b . [1]. Emmy Awards website.
  23. ^ a b c Inside Comedy. Episode no. 33, first broadcast May 19, 2015, by Showtime.
  24. ^ a b c Sachs, Andrea (April 30, 2009). "Q&A: Carol Leifer, Late Bloomer". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  25. ^ Starr, Michael (October 17, 2009). "'Celebrity Apprentice 3' cast revealed". New York Post. New York, USA. Retrieved October 17, 2009.
  26. ^ a b c d e Diamond, Jamie (December 11, 2015). "Carol Leifer Proves You Don't Have to Be Unhappy to Be Funny". The New York Times.
  27. ^ Gardiola, Christal (March 15, 2010). "Carol Leifer Fired by Trump". Shalom Life. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011.
  28. ^ admin (December 5, 2014). "Writer / Comedian / Producer Carol Leifer | Film School Radio hosted by Mike Kaspar". Retrieved May 10, 2021.
  29. ^ Carol Leifer: Gaudy, Bawdy & Blue (1992), retrieved May 9, 2021
  30. ^ Shapiro, Gregg (January 28, 2009). "Leifer = laughter: an interview with out comedian Carol Leifer". Chicago Free Press. Archived from the original on April 1, 2009.
  31. ^ Donahue, Dick; Martinez, Juan (January 26, 2009). "Spring 2009 Hardcovers: Biography & Memoir". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on January 30, 2009.
  32. ^ "Carol Leifer On Life, Comedy And Finding Love At 40". NPR. June 19, 2009. Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  33. ^ Ervolino, Bill (May 20, 1988). "Laughing Matters". Back Stage.
  34. ^ Willfilm. "Willfilm Announces Winners of 7th Annual Williamsburg Independent Film Festival Awards". (Press release). Retrieved May 10, 2021.
  35. ^ a b "Carol Leifer on the LAM". May 12, 2009. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  36. ^ Ryon, Ruth (July 30, 2006). "Stand-up adds a new home, baby to routine". The Los Angeles Times.
  37. ^ "Bruno Leifer-Wolf". Variety. March 11, 2007.
  38. ^ "Carol Leifer Gets Weirder: Now Jewish, Lesbian, AND Vegan". Vegetarian Star. July 9, 2009.
  39. ^ "Carol leifer: a vegan and a lesbian". The Howard Stern Show. April 28, 2009. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
  40. ^ "Carol Leifer: Vegetarian Testimonial (Jewish, Lesbian, and Vegan)". PETA. May 17, 2010. Retrieved May 9, 2021.

External links[edit]