Dan Greenburg

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Dan Greenburg
BornJune 19, 1936 (1936-06-19) (age 86)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
(m. 1967; div. 1976)

Suzanne O'Malley
(m. 1980; div. 1998)

(after 1998)

Dan Greenburg (born June 19, 1936)[1][citation needed] is an American writer, humorist, and journalist. His 73 books have been published in 20 languages in 24 countries.[citation needed]

His best-selling books for adults include the non-fiction books How to Be a Jewish Mother: A Very Lovely Training Manual (1964), How to Make Yourself Miserable: Another Vital Training Manual (1966, with Marcia Jacobs), and How to Avoid Love and Marriage (1983, with Suzanne O'Malley) – all satirical self-help books – as well as the novels Love Kills (1978), Exes (1990), and Fear Itself (2014).

He writes four series of children's books, The Zack Files, Secrets of Dripping Fang, Maximum Boy, and Weird Planet.

Writing career[edit]

Dan Greenburg was born on June 19, 1936, in Chicago, Illinois,[1] the son of Samuel (an artist) and Leah Greenburg.[2]

Greenburg studied design at the University of Illinois. While there, he read Catcher in the Rye, which inspired him to become a writer.[citation needed] He received his B.A. degree from the University of Illinois and his M.A. degree from the University of California in Los Angeles.[3]

His first piece of professional writing[citation needed] was "3 Bears in Search of an Author", a retelling of the same story in the voices of J.D. Salinger, Ernest Hemingway, and James Joyce. The piece was published in Esquire magazine, and Esquire commissioned[citation needed] a sequel: "Hansel and Gretel" in the styles of Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac and Samuel Beckett.

After obtaining his M.A. in industrial design, he continued to live in Los Angeles. Dissatisfied with industrial design, he spent three years working at advertising agencies. Meanwhile, his old editor at Esquire, Ralph Ginzburg, had started a new national magazine called Eros and convinced Dan to move to New York and become its managing editor.[4] In New York, Greenburg began to write a satirical non-fiction book entitled How to Be a Jewish Mother, which became the bestselling non-fiction book of 1965.[5]

In September 1969, he published Porno-Graphics: The Shame of our Art Museums, a now scarce and far-out-of-print heavily illustrated book with lift-up vinyl page covers, pull-outs, and copies of famous paintings. In a retrospective interview, Greenburg said, "At the time, I was amused by all the people who were being offended by anything slightly sexual. Usually when something sexual is covered up, it becomes more sexual. I thought it was funny. I had already had some success with a couple of books and Random House said to me 'what else can you do?'"[6]

At present, he is probably most well known for authoring a handful of very popular series of children's books, although he still also writes novels for adults (mostly mysteries and thrillers). He also currently writes for television and movies, and has been regularly published in Life, Time, The New Yorker, and other national publications.

When asked how he keeps in touch with what kids like in an interview in 2005, he responded: "I visit schools constantly. I talk to kids, I try out ideas on them, and I ask them what they like to read. Both boys and girls tell me they love scary stories and funny stories the best, and the boys tell me they love to be grossed out. I've tried to do all three things in these books." When asked where he gets ideas for his books, he replied: "1) inspiration from adventures I've survived; 2) a funny title I think up first ...; 3) asking myself "What if ...?".[7]

Personal life[edit]

Greenburg's first wife was film director and author Nora Ephron (1941-2012). After seven years, their marriage ended in an amicable divorce.

His second wife was writer Suzanne O'Malley, whom he married in 1980; they remained married for fifteen years before they separated, eventually divorcing in 1998. With O'Malley, he had a son, Zack O'Malley Greenburg; Dan Greenburg's children's book series The Zack Files was named for him.

Greenburg's third wife is Judith C. Wilson, a children's book author.[8] They reside in Hastings, Oswego County, New York.

Selected works[edit]

Books for adults[edit]

  • How to Be a Jewish Mother: A Very Lovely Training Manual (1964)
  • Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips (1965)
  • How to Make Yourself Miserable: Another Vital Training Manual (1966)
  • Chewsday (1968)
  • Philly (1969)
  • Porno-Graphics: The Shame of Our Art Museums (1969)
  • Scoring (1972)
  • Something's There: My Adventures in the Occult (1976)
  • Love Kills (1978)
  • What Do Women Want? (1982)
  • How to Avoid Love and Marriage (1983)
  • True Adventures (1985)
  • Confessions of a Pregnant Father (1986)
  • The Nanny (1987)
  • Exes (1990)
  • Moses Supposes: The Bible As Told to Dan Greenburg (1997)

Books for children[edit]


Dramatic works[edit]

Greenburg's plays have been performed on Broadway, off-Broadway, at the American Conservatory Theater, Yale University, and at the Actors Studio, where he was a member of the Playwrights Unit.


Greenburg has also written numerous sitcom pilots for CBS-TV and NBC-TV, including a fireman sitcom[citation needed] for producer-comedian Alan King, which Greenburg researched by spending months with NYC firefighters[citation needed], and a cop sitcom[citation needed] for producer Sonny Grosso, which Greenburg researched by spending months with NYC homicide cops.[citation needed]

Greenburg has also been a television talk show guest on the Today Show, The Tonight Show, Larry King Live, and Late Night with David Letterman. With fellow author Avery Corman, Greenburg has also appeared as a stand-up comedian on television talk shows hosted by Sir David Frost, Dick Cavett, and Merv Griffin, and has performed at the New York Improv comedy club.


More than 150 of Greenburg's articles and humor pieces have appeared in such periodicals as The New Yorker, Playboy, The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, New York, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Time, Life, Newsweek, Ms., Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, and Reader's Digest, and have been reprinted in dozens of anthologies of humor and satire in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.


Greenburg has had small acting roles in several films he has written, including Private Lessons, Private School, and I Could Never.... He also played John Clum in Doc (1971), the Frank Perry remake of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.


  1. ^ a b "Dan Greenburg (Source Material)". Playbill. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
  2. ^ "Greenburg, Dan". Contemporary Authors. April 25, 2022. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  3. ^ "Greenburg, Dan". Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  4. ^ Daniels, Mary (August 11, 1976). "Dan Greenburg Turns Fear Funny Side Up". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Media.
  5. ^ "Bestselling Books". Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  6. ^ "Dan Greenburg: Covering Up Art's Greatest Nudes". Archived from the original on August 23, 2016. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  7. ^ "Interview with Dan Greenburg". Archived from the original on February 6, 2006. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  8. ^ "Weddings; Judith Wilson and Dan Greenburg". The New York Times. October 18, 1998. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  9. ^ "Oh! Calcutta! (Broadway, Edison Theatre, 1976) - Playbill". Retrieved May 13, 2022. (contributor)
  10. ^ "How to Be a Jewish Mother (Broadway, Hudson Theatre, 1967) - Playbill". Retrieved May 13, 2022.

External links[edit]