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David Steinberg
David Steinberg 2009 portrait.jpg
Steinberg at the 2009 premiere of Whatever Works
Born August 9, 1942 (1942-08-09) (age 67)
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Medium stand-up, television, film
Nationality Canadian
Years active 1964–present
Genres Observational comedy, Satire
Subject(s) religion, self-deprecation, everyday life
Influences Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Johnny Carson
Influenced John Belushi, Bill Murray, John Candy
Notable works and roles The Second City
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
The David Steinberg Show
Sit Down Comedy with David Steinberg
Emmy Awards
Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program
1991 The 63rd Annual Academy Awards
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Variety or Music Program
1992 The 64th Annual Academy Awards

David Steinberg (born August 9, 1942) is a Canadian comedian, actor, writer, director, and author. At the height of his popularity, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, he was one of the best-known stand-up comics in the United States. He appeared on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show more than 130 times (second only to Bob Hope in number of appearances) and served as guest host 12 times, the youngest person ever to guest-host.[1] Steinberg directed several films and episodes of many of the most successful television situation comedies of the last twenty years, including Seinfeld, Friends, Mad About You, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and more than 35 episodes of Designing Women.



Born the son of Yasha, a strict, Romanian-born rabbi, and Ruth Steinberg in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, David initially studied theology in Israel.[1][2] Later, while studying English Literature at the University of Chicago, he decided to become a comedian after seeing Lenny Bruce perform.[1] He finished school and was discovered by one of the founders of The Second City in Chicago, which he joined in 1964. There he performed with the likes of Robert Klein, Fred Willard, Peter Boyle, and Joe Flaherty. He remained with the group for six years.[1]

One of Steinberg's most notorious performances was in October of 1968 on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, where he gave satirical sermons. The sketch caused CBS to receive a record number of complaints, and, as a result, the network instituted a policy of providing local stations with a closed-circuit telecast of each episode ahead of time so they could choose whether or not to air it.[3] The Smothers Brothers were told by the network that they could have Steinberg on the show again on the condition that he would not repeat the sermons.[4] Nevertheless, Tommy Smothers asked Steinberg to do it again, and he gave a sermon in which he said "The Old Testament scholars say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. The Gentiles, the New Testament scholars say, 'Hold it, Jews, no.' They literally grabbed the Jews by the Old Testament." This incident contributed to the cancellation of the show. The Jonah sketch never aired.[5]

In 1972, Steinberg wrote and starred in The David Steinberg Show in the United States.[6] In a review, TV Guide labelled him "offbeat, racy, outrageous, and establishment-baiting – all of which makes him a particular favorite among the young and disenchanted."[1] Nearly identical in format to Garry Shandling's later effort, The Larry Sanders Show, the series went behind-the-scenes of a fictional TV talk show.[6] The show was re-imagined in 1976 as SCTV in Canada and it helped launch the careers of a number of top Canadian comic actors, including Flaherty, John Candy, Dave Thomas, Andrea Martin, and Martin Short.[1]

Steinberg performed some notable stand-up comedy during the 1970s as well, including "The Incredible Shrinking God" (LP MCA 73013, 1968), which contains ten of his comedic sermons and mini-sermons recorded live during his stand-up routine at Second City. He was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in 2003.[7]

More recently, Steinberg hosted Sit Down Comedy with David Steinberg, an informal, interview-style show in which he talks with famous comedians and comic actors, for two seasons on TV Land in the U.S.[8] The first season featured Mike Meyers, Larry David, Jon Lovitz, Martin Short, Bob Newhart, and George Lopez. The second season featured Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Roseanne Barr, Jon Stewart, Garry Shandling and Ray Romano. The program was filmed before a live audience at UCLA.[9]

His first book, The Book of David (ISBN 0743272323), was published in June 2007 by Simon and Schuster.


  • The Incredible Shrinking God (MCA LP, MCA-73013, 1968)
  • Disguised As A Normal Person (Elektra Records LP, EKS-74065, 1970).
  • Booga, Booga' (Columbia LP, 1974)
  • Goodbye to the '70s (Columbia LP, PC 33399, 1975)


Steinberg has received five Emmy Award nominations, winning two as one of the writers of Academy Awards programs in 1991 and 1992. He received a CableACE Award in 1992 for his stand up comedy Cats, Cops and Stuff. He has been nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award ( for Outstanding Directing – Comedy Series) twice: first in 1991 for the Seinfeld episode, The Tape, and again in 1996 for the Mad About You episode, The Finale: Parts II and III, and has been nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award (2000) and a Gemini (2001), as well.[10] His parody of the novel Ragtime won him a Playboy Humor Award.[1]


External links

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