Dan Greenburg

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Dan Greenburg
BornJune 20, 1936 (1936-06-20) (age 84)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
(m. 1967; div. 1976)

Suzanne O'Malley
(m. 1980; div. 1998)

Judith C. Wilson
(m. after 1998)

Dan Greenburg (born June 20, 1936) is an American writer, humorist, and journalist. His 72 books have been published in 20 languages in 24 countries. His best-selling books 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.

Writing career[edit]

He was born in Chicago, Illinois, and received his B.F.A. from the University of Illinois and his M.F.A. from UCLA. Raised to be an artist like his father, Greenburg 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 published in Esquire Magazine, and Esquire commissioned a sequel: "Hansel and Gretel" in the styles of Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac and Samuel Beckett.

After obtaining his M.F.A. in industrial design, the first such degree bestowed by UCLA, 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.[1] In New York, Greenburg 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.

In 1969, he published Porno-Graphics: The Shame of our Art Museums where famous nudes from the art world are covered up using movable parts. In an interview[2] with AbeBooks, 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?'"

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 Greenburg's children's-book series The Zack Files was named. At age five, Zack Greenburg played the title role of Lorenzo in the film Lorenzo's Oil. Zack Greenburg grew up to become a staff writer at Forbes magazine and the author of a biography of Jay-Z.

Greenburg third wife is Judith C. Wilson, who as J.C. Greenburg writes children's books, including the 18-volume series Andrew Lost.[3] They live in Westchester County, New York.[4]

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]


Most of these films were based on Greenburg novels.

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 numerous 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).[citation needed]

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 has written, including Private Lessons, Private School, and I Could Never... He had speaking scenes in Doc (1971), 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.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Daniels, Mary (August 11, 1976). "Dan Greenburg turns fear funny-side up". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Media. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  2. ^ https://www.abebooks.com/books/features/dan-greenburg-art-book/index.shtml
  3. ^ "WEDDINGS; Judith Wilson and Dan Greenburg". The New York Times. October 18, 1998. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
  4. ^ Cat People, Bill Hayward, introduction by Rogers E. M. Whitaker, New York: Dolphin/Doubleday, 1978, p. 36.

External links[edit]