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Etten was born in a neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. While at Harvard University, he played for the Crimson Hockey team and was editor of The Harvard Lampoon. Beginning as a writer for the Late Show with David Letterman, Etten has since been a part of the crews of the dramedies Ed and Desperate Housewives, the latter for which he also served as a producer. In 2011, Etten began as executive producer of Comedy Central's new show, Workaholics.