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Kalan grew up in Millburn, New Jersey and graduated from Millburn High School as part of the class of 1999. He attended Tisch School of the Arts, where he majored in screenwriting at the Rita & Burton Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing.
Elliott Kalan began his career at The Daily Show as a production assistant in 2003 before moving up to producer, staff writer, and ultimately head writer.
Kalan was co-founder of comedy group The Hypocrites with fellow television writer Brock Mahan. He also hosted a live talk and variety stage show, The Primetime Kalan (originally The Midnight Kalan and later The New Kalan Show). The show was created by Kalan, producer Erik Marcisak, and director Joe Guercio, and written and performed by Kalan, Marcisak, and Dan McCoy. Many of Kalan's Daily Show co-workers appeared on the show, including Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, and Rob Corddry.
Kalan occasionally appears in bit parts on The Daily Show and has provided voice-over narration for "The Decider" comic-book segments. He was instrumental in putting together the "gay cowboy" montage (a comedic series of clips from classic westerns, illustrating that the gay content in Brokeback Mountain is nothing new), when Jon Stewart hosted the 78th Academy Awards.
From 2006 to 2009, Kalan wrote a weekly column for the free morning daily Metro. Following a column he wrote in the August 3, 2007 issue of the Metro, Kalan was fired for writing a self-deprecating joke about the increasing obsolescence of the newspaper industry. This was followed by a brief article in New York Magazine on August 20, 2007 about the incident, which was heavily publicized on internet blogs including Media Bistro, Huffington Post, and Gawker. Many blog postings about the incident imply that the Metro violated basic principles of journalism and freedom of expression in firing Kalan. Perhaps as a result of this publicity, he was later re-hired. In 2009, he left the Metro of his own accord, saying "Why leave now? It just feels like the right time for me to move on creatively. Or I’m going undercover to deliver Osama bin Laden to justice. Pick whichever reason sounds cooler."
In August 2015 Kalan announced that he had left his position as head writer for The Daily Show.
Along with comedians Dan McCoy and Stuart Wellington, Kalan co-hosts The Flop House podcast, on which the hosts discuss and mock major movies that received poor reviews from critics, such as Gamer and All About Steve. One supplemental episode of the Flop House, in which Kalan improvised a rapid-fire pitch for a film based on the comic Ziggy became a minor viral Internet success after being posted on Gawker. Dan McCoy and Kalan have also been published in comedy magazine Whim Quarterly and film zine I Love Bad Movies.
From early 2009 until April 2012, Kalan hosted the screening series Closely Watched Films at 92YTribeca. These events commonly featured the screening of a rare older film followed by a discussion between Kalan and a celebrity guest who had not previously seen the film.
- Staff. "Danielle Friedman to wed Elliott Kalan, a Millburn High School graduate", Independent Press, November 12, 2009. Accessed March 24, 2015. "The future groom is a graduate of Millburn High School, Class of 1999, and the New York University Tisch School of the Arts."
- Wright, Megh (28 January 2014). "'The Daily Show' Promotes Elliott Kalan to Head Writer". Splitsider. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- "The Hypocrites". Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- "Notes from The Primetime Kalan 9.9.5". The Apiary. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- Rosenblum, Emma (13 August 2007). "'Metro' Columnist Elliott Kalan Fired for Declaring Newspapers Dead". New York Magazine. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- "John Oliver Leads 'The Daily Show' Comedians on Overseas USO Tour". USO. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- "The Astoundingly Good Case For Making A Ziggy Movie". Gawker.
- Ott, John. "Closely Watching Million Dollar Legs". Making the Movie. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- Elliott Kalan at the Internet Movie Database
- Elliott Kalan on Twitter
- The Flop House
- Elliott Kalan's Live-Action Ziggy Pitch
- Every Flop House Movie Mailbag Song by Elliott Kalan
- Biography of Elliott Kalan