Danny Simon, Neil's Big Brother and a Major Figure in American Comedy Writing, Dead at 85 | Playbill

Obituaries Danny Simon, Neil's Big Brother and a Major Figure in American Comedy Writing, Dead at 85
Danny Simon, a comedy writer and teacher of comedy writing whose talent to amuse ran in the family, died July 26 in Portland, Oregon, according to his brother playwright Neil Simon.

Mr. Simon died following complications from a stroke. The Bronx native was 85.

The son of Mamie and Irving Simon, Mr. Simon and his younger brother Neil began writing together in the late 1940s for a variety of radio and television shows. A fictionalized account of their early creative aspirations was seen in Neil Simon's play, Broadway Bound. The relationship of two men, or brothers, is central to many of Neil Simon's plays, from Come Blow Your Horn to The Odd Couple to Brighton Beach Memoirs and Lost in Yonkers.

"Danny made me laugh...he made everyone laugh," Neil Simon wrote July 26. "He was a character (in more ways than one) in at least nine or ten of my plays, and I'm sure will probably be there again in many plays to come."

The Simon brothers were part of Sid Caesar's legendary team of writers which included Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart , Sheldon Keller, Mel Tolkin and later Woody Allen on "Your Show of Shows" and "Caesar's Hour." The brothers also collaborated on "The Red Buttons Show," "The Phil Silvers Show" and "The Jackie Gleason Show."

Woody Allen once said, "Everything I learned about comedy, I learned from Danny Simon." Danny and Neil Simon continued writing together until 1954 when Neil began devoting himself to writing for the theatre and Danny stayed in television, initially as head writer for NBC's "Colgate Comedy Hour." Later television credits include "Make Room for Daddy," "The Facts of Life" and "Diff'rent Strokes." He also provided material for Joan Rivers' guest-hosting appearances on "The Tonight Show."

"He didn't think his name, Danny Simon, had enough pizzazz for big time television," Neil Simon wrote. "He changed it to Danny Q. Simon. Max Liebman, the producer of 'Your Show of Shows,' refused to put the 'Q' on the credits of such a tony show. Danny turned to me and said, 'If you want the 'Q,' I'll sell it to you...' 'I'll sleep on it,' I said."

In 1980 Mr. Simon accepted an offer to lecture on comedy writing at the University of Southern California. He subsequently gave three-day writing seminars in colleges all across the country.

He told Duke University's The Chronicle in 1987, "A long time ago I realized I didn't like writing. I hate to face blank pages. I would rather face blank actors. I have been teaching for eight years and I love it. The names of my students are on so many comedy credits, and they write me letters I feel like the Mr. Chips of comedy writing."

"Not only did prominent writers flock to his classes, but so did studio heads and major television executives," Neil Simon wrote of his brother. "He knew comedy. He made more friends in Los Angeles than were peopled in countries far and wide."

Mr. Simon also told the Chronicle at the time his greatest contribution to 20th century comedy was giving Neil Simon and Woody Allen their start in comedy.

Neil Simon wrote, "Danny is now pacing somewhere in the Galaxy of Galaxies, making angels laugh and trying to swap the 'Q' for a good pair of wings or golf lessons from Bobby Jones, who is the pro up there."

Mr. Simon is survived by his son, Michael Simon of Portland, OR, and his daughter Valerie Simon of Los Angeles, and two grandchildren.

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