Kenny Solms tells about success as comedy writer for the stars

If variety is the spice of life, Kenny Solms has tasted great success and writes about it in his memoir, BITS: A Comedy Writer’s Screams of Consciousness.

Touted in his hometown newspaper as “Philadelphia’s funniest person,” he began his career in New York, where he teamed up with New York University classmate Gail Parent to create material for Leonard Sillman’s last Broadway revue New Faces, and sketches for New York’s famed Upstairs at the Downstairs. His collaboration with Parent climaxed with their cocreation of the now legendary Emmy award-winning Carol Burnett Show.

Solms will be discussing his just published memoir. Bits: A Comedy Writer’s Screams of Consciousness on Apr. 9, 8 p.m., at Books and Books, 265 Aragon Ave. in Coral Gables.

Following the runaway success of three comedy albums, including the hilarious spoof of the Luci Baines Johnson Wedding, Our Wedding Album, and a season of Steve Allen’s Comedy Hour, Solms co-created and wrote the first four seasons of the classic Burnett show, for which he also received the Writer’s Guild of America Award.

He wrote numerous specials, including those for Julie Andrews, Ann-Margret, Danny Thomas, The Osmonds, Mary Tyler Moore, Bing Crosby, Second City, Lily Tomlin, Dick Van Dyke, Anne Bancroft, Joan Rivers and Bill Cosby. Sills and Burnett at the Met won him the Peabody Award; Burnett Discovers Domingo, the Montreaux Prize, and he also wrote and produced the Emmy Award-winning Neil Diamond special, Hello Again.

Solms also wrote and produced The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, co-created the critically acclaimed 3 Girls 3, and Home Box Office’s first two original comedy specials starring Carol Burnett and Martin Mull.

Television, however, has never been Solms’ sole domain. Lorelei, starring Carol Channing, lured Kenny and Gail back to Broadway to write the new book for the Jule Styne/ Comden & Green musical based on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. During Lorelei’s two-year Broadway run, he collaborated with Parent on the screenplay for her novel Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York starring Roy Scheider and Jeannie Berlin.

Solms also conceived and wrote, Perfectly Frank, a Frank Loesser revue, which enjoyed a successful run at the Geffen Theatre in Los Angeles before its Broadway run. A year later, he produced it for Showtime starring Cloris Leachman. He conceived and wrote What the World Needs Now, the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, which had its world premiere at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre and recently workshopped Ain’t That a Kick in the Head, based on the songs of Sammy Cahn.

Kenny has been head writer and producer for numerous television variety specials, including Texaco Star Theatre’s Salute to Broadway, Disneyland’s 30th Anniversary Special, Live and In Person, The Homemade Comedy Special, Disneyland’s Summer Vacation Party and Showtime’s Joan Rivers’ Salute to Heidi Abromowitz.

He served as executive producer on Bruce Willis: The Return of Bruno, produced and wrote four This Is Your Life specials for NBC.

His first directorial assignment was an original production of Plaza Suite for ABC, which he also produced starring Carol Burnett, Dabney Coleman, Richard Crenna, and Hal Holbrook. His first foray for Fox Broadcasting was as head writer of The 43rd Annual Emmy Awards, giving Fox its highest rating ever for a special. He served as comedy consultant on King World’s New Candid Camera, and produced and wrote The New Original Amateur Hour, a series for the Family Channel, Carol Burnett…A Reunion for CBS, Legend to Legend for NBC, several This Is Your Life specials for NBC, Kelsey Grammar Salutes Jack Benny for NBC, and episodes for Touched by an Angel, one starring his mentor, Carol Burnett.

In 2010, It Must Be Him, his play, premiered at Playwrights Horizons in New York City. A year later it had a successful eight week run at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica.

His book and comedy album, both titled Bits!, which came out in Feburary, recall his hysterically funny journey through his days of writing jokes for comedians, his trip through the golden age of television and his risky travels down Broadway.

Also out is Kenny’s Web series I. Never at a loss for words, he regales anyone, anywhere, about anything. Tell Me Everything premiered on YouTube in January.

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