Dan Greenburg

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Dan Greenburg
Born Chicago, Illinois, USA
Occupation Writer
Spouse Nora Ephron (1967-1976; divorced)
Suzanne O'Malley (1980-1998; divorced; 1 child)
Judith C. Wilson (1998-present)

Dan Greenburg (born 20 June 1936) is an American writer, humorist, and journalist.[1]

He was born in Chicago, Illinois, got his B.F.A. from the University of Illinois and his M.F.A. from U.C.L.A. His 72 books have been published in 20 languages in 24 countries. His best-sellers for adults include How to Be a Jewish Mother, How to Make Yourself Miserable, Love Kills, Exes, and How to Avoid Love and Marriage. He writes four series of children's books, The Zack Files, Secrets of Dripping Fang, Maximum Boy, and Weird Planet.[2]

Writing career[edit]

Raised to be an artist like his father, Dan studied design at the University of Illinois. While there he read Catcher in the Rye, which turned him towards being a writer. His first piece of professional writing 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 picked up by Esquire Magazine, and Esquire commissioned a sequel: Hansel and Gretel in the styles of Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac and Samuel Beckett.

Dan got his B.F.A. degree and moved to Los Angeles, where he received UCLA's first M.F.A. in industrial design. Dissatisfied with industrial design, Dan spent three years in Los Angeles advertising agencies. Meanwhile, Dan's first editor at Esquire had started a new national magazine and convinced Dan to move to New York and become its Managing Editor. In New York, Dan began to write a satirical non-fiction book entitled How to be a Jewish Mother, which became the bestselling book of 1965 and allowed him to become a full-time author, journalist, and script writer.

Personal life[edit]

Greenburg's first wife was writer and film director Nora Ephron. After seven years, their marriage ended in an amicable divorce. His second wife was writer Suzanne O'Malley, who was married to him for fifteen years before they separated, divorcing five years later. With her he had a son, Zack O'Malley Greenburg, for whom Dan's best-selling series of children's books, The Zack Files, was named. At age five, Zack played the title role of Lorenzo in the film Lorenzo's Oil. Zack is now a staff writer at Forbes magazine and the author of a biography of Jay-Z. Greenburg is currently married to Judith C. Wilson, who as J.C. Greenburg writes children's books, including the 18-volume series Andrew Lost. They live in Westchester, NY with many cats.[3]

Greenburg claims he had over-protective parents and grew up scared of everything. "So I've spent much of my adult life undertaking risky adventures and writing about them," he says, "trying to convince myself I wasn't a coward. Now my adventures are more about adrenaline than fear." Writing of Greenburg's escapades, George Plimpton once said: "I wouldn't dare to try many of Greenburg's adventures ... but I have always envied him his forays into other people's worlds and his wonderful and comic skill at describing them."

Greenburg says his adventures had to fulfill two criteria: "(1) They had to take place in worlds that were exotic to me, with unfamiliar rules and vocabularies, and (2) they had to frighten me physically, emotionally, or both." He has given examples including: accompanying New York homicide cops as they capture a killer, flying upside-down over the Pacific with a stunt pilot in an open-cockpit plane, and learning to discipline tigers and lions in Texas.

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)
  • 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]

The Zack Files chapter books
  • Great Grandpa's in the Litter Box (#1)
  • Through the Medicine Cabinet (#2)
  • A Ghost Named Wanda (#3)
  • ZAP! I'm a Mind Reader (#4)
  • Dr. Jekyll, Orthodontist (#5)
  • I'm Out of My Body ... Please Leave a Message (#6)
  • Never Trust a Cat Who Wears Earrings (#7)
  • My Son, the Time Traveler (#8)
  • The Volcano Goddess Will See You Now (#9)
  • Bozo the Clone (#10)
  • How to Speak Dolphin in Three Easy Lessons (#11)
  • Now You See Me ... Now You Don't (#12)
  • The Misfortune Cookie (#13)
  • Elvis the Turnip ... and Me (#14)
  • Hang a Left at Venus (#15)
  • Evil Queen Tut and the Great Ant Pyramids (#16)
  • Yikes! Grandma's a Teenager (#17)
  • How I Fixed the Year 1000 Problem (#18)
  • The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot (#19)
  • How I Went from Bad to Verse (#20)
  • Don't Count on Dracula (#21)
  • This Body's Not Big Enough for Both of Us (#22)
  • Greenish Eggs and Dinosaurs" (#23)
  • My Grandma, Major League Slugger (#24)
  • Trapped in the Museum of Unnatural History (#25)
  • Me and My Mummy (#26)
  • My Teacher Ate My Homework (#27)
  • Tell a Lie and Your Butt Will Grow (#28)
  • Just Add Water ... and Scream! (#29)
  • It's Itchcraft! (#30)

Secrets of Dripping Fang chapter books

  • The Onts (#1)
  • Treachery and Betrayal at Jolly Days (#2)
  • The Vampire's Curse (#3)
  • Fall of the House of Mandible (#4)
  • The Shluffmuffin Boy is History (#5)
  • Attack of the Giant Octopus (#6)
  • Please Don't Eat the Children (#7)
  • When Bad Snakes Attack Good Children (#8)

Maximum Boy chapter books

  • How I Became a Superhero (#1)
  • The Day Everything Tasted Like Broccoli (#2)
  • Superhero ... or Super Thief? (#3)
  • Invasion from the Planet of the Cows (#4)
  • Maximum Girl Unmasked (#5)
  • Attack of the Soggy Underwater People (#6)
  • Meet Super Sid, Crime-Fighting Kid (#7)
  • The Worst Bully in the Entire Universe (#8)

Weird Planet chapter books

  • Dude, Where's My Space Ship? (#1)
  • Lost in Las Vegas (#2)
  • Chilling with the Great Ones (#3)
  • Attack of the Evil Elvises (#4)
  • Lights ... Camera ... Liftoff! (#5)
  • Thrills, Chills, and Cosmic Spills (#6)


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 led by Norman Mailer.

  • Free to be...You and Me (co-author of revue which ran on Broadway and Off)
  • Oh! Calcutta! (co-author of Kenneth Tynan revue which ran on Broadway for 21 years)
  • Arf! and The Great Airplane Snatch (author of one-acts that ran Off-Broadway)
  • The Restaurant (author of one-act play which ran Off-Broadway)
  • Convention (author of one-act play which ran Off-Broadway)
  • How to be a Jewish Mother (co-author, author of the original book). Stage adaptations of Greenburg's best-selling book have been running in France almost continuously for over 30 years; they've also been produced in Spain, Poland, Israel, Brazil, Holland, Turkey, and have again opened in Brazil. A new adaptation is in the works by Greenburg and British co-author Adam Rolston.


  • Steambath (Greenburg's award-winning Showtime adaptation of the Bruce Jay Friedman play)
  • Murder in Mind (ABC-TV adaptation by Greenburg of his own best-selling thriller, Love Kills)
  • The Zack Files (award-winning 52-episode series based on Greenburg's best-selling book series)
  • Mad About You (story credit on the Paul Reiser series)

Greenburg has also written two dozen sitcom pilots for CBS-TV and NBC-TV, including a fireman sitcom for producer-comedian Alan King (which Greenburg researched by spending months with NYC firefighters) and a cop sitcom for producer and cop-who-broke-The-French-Connection-case Sonny Grosso (which Greenburg researched by spending months with NYC homicide cops).

Greenburg has also been a frequent talk show guest on such programs as 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 TV talk shows hosted by Sir David Frost, Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin, as well as 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 Magazine, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Time, Life, Newsweek, Ms. Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, Readers Digest, and have been reprinted in 44 anthologies of humor and satire in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.


Greenburg has had small acting roles in several films he's written, including Private Lessons, Private School, and I Could Never... He had ten speaking scenes in Doc, the Frank Perry remake of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, playing the role of John Clum, editor of the Tombstone Epitaph. The New Yorker film critic Penelope Gilliatt mentioned Greenburg favorably in her review.


  1. ^ "Dan Greenburg". Movies & TV. The New York Times (nytimes.com). Retrieved 2014-04-17.
  2. ^ "WEDDINGS; Judith Wilson and Dan Greenburg". The New York Times. October 18, 1998. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
  3. ^ Cat People, Bill Hayward, introduction by Rogers E. M. Whitaker, New York: Dolphin/Doubleday, 1978, p. 36.

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