Barnet Kellman

Barnet Kellman (born November 9, 1947) is an American television and film director,[2] television producer and film actor.

Barnet Kellman
Born (1947-11-09) November 9, 1947 (age 72)[1]
EducationColgate University (BA)
Yale University (MFA)
Union Institute and University (PhD)
OccupationFilm director, television producer, actor
Years active1980–present


Barnet Kellman (born November 9, 1947) is an American theatre, television and film director,[3] television producer and film actor, and educator, best known for the premiere productions of new American plays, and for the pilots of long-running television series such as Murphy Brown and Mad About You. He is the recipient of two Emmy Awards and a Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy.[4][5]  He is the co-founder and director of USC Comedy at the School of Cinematic Arts, and holds the school’s Robin Williams Endowed Chair in Comedy.[6]

Early Life/EducationEdit

Kellman, who was born and raised in New York City,[1] raised on Long Island, he attended the Colgate University, Phi Beta Kappa and graduated cum laude in 1969. He attended Yale School of Drama, eventually earning his PhD. from Union Institute at Antioch[7] on a Danforth Graduate Fellowship.[8] As a Thomas J Watson Fellow he studied theater and film in Europe[8] and worked with renowned theater pioneer Joan Littlewood at her Theater Royal in Stratford, East London, appearing in her production of The Marie Lloyd Story.


Kellman began as an actor, joining Actors’ Equity at age nineteen. While still at Colgate, was an assistant to director Alan Schneider on the Broadway production of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance. In the1970s Kellman was a mainstay of New York City’s Off-Broadway scene.  He directed productions in the early seasons of Playwrights Horizons, and the Manhattan Theatre Club.[9] His WPA Theatre production of Key Exchange introduced playwright Kevin Wade and moved to the Orpheum Theatre for a year long run, while his acclaimed Circle Rep production of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea introduced playwright John Patrick Shanley and actor John Turturro. For Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival he directed the works of David Rabe and William Hauptman. He was an Associate Director of the Williamstown Theatre Festival and, for ten years a regular director at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center’s National Playwrights Conference associated with works by Shanley, Lee Blessing and Richard Dresser. His Hudson Guild production of Lee Kalcheim’s Breakfast with Les and Bes ran on Broadway at the Lambs Theatre, and featured a breakout performance by Holland Taylor. Other notable premieres include plays by Israel Horovitz and Donald Margulies. He is a past board member of the Society of Directors and Choreographers.

Television and FilmEdit

Kellman got his start in the early 1980s as a director for soap operas such as the NBC-TV daytime soap opera series Another World and CBS's As the World Turns.[1] He directed the Showtime adaptation of the long-running Broadway play, Gemini, and the CBS special Orphans, Waifs and Wards. He made his feature film directorial debut with the 20th Century Fox screen adaptation of Key Exchange  which starred Brooke Adams.

Kellman used the skills he learned on set to become a regular director of many hugely successful TV sitcoms of the 1990s. An opportunity to direct the pilot episodes of half-hour TV comedies brought Kellman to Los Angeles. In his first pilot season he mounted pilots starring George Segal, Oprah Winfrey, Patty Lupone and Kenneth McMillen.  His second pilot season brought real success when his pilots of The Robert Guillaume Show and Murphy Brown were picked up for series orders.[9]

Murphy Brown began a ten-year run, of which Kellman directed seventy-five episodes, and enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with show creator Diane English and star Candice Bergen. Reviewing the second season of the series the New York Times’ John O’Connor observed “Barnet Kellman's direction has become a master course in comic timing.”[10] In 1999 Kellman directed the series “finale”, “Never Can Say Goodbye”. He was the main director for the CBS-TV sitcom series Murphy Brown from 1988 to 1992, and won Emmy Awards in 1990 and 1992 for his work.[1][7]

The success of Murphy Brown established Kellman as a much sought after pilot director.  He directed fifty pilots, half of which went to series, launching long runs such as NBC's Mad About You, Suddenly Susan, George Lopez, For Your Love and My Boys. He also worked on CBS's Designing Women, and Felicity.

Kellman served as a producer on Murphy Brown, Mad About You, and the Gene Wilder series Something Wilder, which he co-created with Lee Kalcheim.  In addition Kellman directed episodes of other series including Designing Women, Alias, E.R., Ally McBeal, My Boys and 8 Simple Rules.[1][7] and The Middle.

Kellman made his feature film directorial debut with the 20th Century Fox screen adaptation of Key Exchange which starred Brooke Adams. He went on to direct Disney’s 1992's Straight Talk starring Dolly Parton as a sultry, wise-cracking DJ., and the Tri-Star release Slappy and the Stinkers for Sony Pictures.[7] in 1998. In 2000 he directed the ABC movie Mary and Rhoda, reuniting Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper.[11]

When Murphy Brown returned to the CBS schedule for an eleventh season in 2018, Kellman returned to direct the season finale.[12]

Teaching careerEdit

In 2008, during a Writers Guild strike, Kellman joined the film faculties of the American Film Institute and the University of Southern California. In 2011 he was awarded tenure at U.S.C. and co-founded the school’s groundbreaking comedy program, USC Comedy at the School of Cinematic Arts.[13] In 2017 the school named him inaugural holder of its Robin Williams Endowed Chair in Comedy.[14]

Personal lifeEdit

Kellman is married to actress and designer Nancy Mette. They live in Los Angeles and have three children, Kate Kellman, Eliza Kellman and Michael Kellman.

Awards and NominationsEdit

Emmy Award: Outstanding Direction of a Comedy Series, Murphy Brown 1992[5]

Emmy Award:  Best Comedy, Murphy Brown  - Producer 1990[4]

Directors Guild Award: Outstanding Direction of a Comedy, Murphy Brown Pilot 1989[15]

Monitor Award: Best Director, Pepsi – To The Victors, starring Martin Sheen 1985

Emmy Nomination: Outstanding Direction of a Comedy Series, Murphy Brown, 1991[5]

Emmy Nomination: Outstanding Direction of a Comedy Series, Murphy Brown 1990[5]

Directors Guild Nomination: Outstanding Direction of a Comedy Series, Murphy Brown, 1990[16]

Emmy Nomination: Best Comedy Murphy Brown  - Producer 1990

Emmy Nomination: Outstanding Direction of a Comedy Series, Murphy Brown 1989[5]

Viewers For Quality Television Award 1989

Media Access Award 1989

Directors Guild Nomination: Outstanding Direction of a Comedy Series, Murphy Brown 1988[17]

Emmy Nomination: Outstanding Direction of a Comedy Series, Murphy Brown 1988

Daytime Emmy Nomination:  Best Direction, Another World 1981

Selected filmographyEdit



  1. ^ a b c d e "Barnet Kellman - Biography". Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  2. ^ Canby, Vincent (August 14, 1985). "Key Exchange (1985) SCREEN: 'KEY EXCHANGE,' A COMEDY". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Canby, Vincent (August 14, 1985). "Key Exchange (1985) SCREEN: 'KEY EXCHANGE,' A COMEDY". The New York Times.[verification needed]
  4. ^ a b "Nominees/Winners". Television Academy. Retrieved 2019-09-09.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Television Academy Emmys Award". Television Academy. Retrieved 2019-09-02.
  6. ^ Saval, Malina; Saval, Malina (2017-07-19). "Robin Williams Chair in Comedy at USC Creates a Home for Students". Variety. Retrieved 2019-09-09.
  7. ^ a b c d "Directory Profile - Barnet Kellman, PhD". USC Cinematic Arts ( weblink. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Barnet Kellman | LATW". Retrieved 2019-09-03.
  9. ^ a b "How I Made It: 'You gotta make a lot of bad jokes to make a good joke,' says USC comedy professor Barnet Kellman". Los Angeles Times. 2016-08-14. Retrieved 2019-09-03.
  10. ^ O'Connor, John J. (1989-11-27). "Review/Television; An Updated Mary Richards in 'Murphy Brown'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-09-03.
  11. ^ "USC Cinematic Arts | School of Cinematic Arts Directory Profile". Retrieved 2019-08-29.
  12. ^ Happy New Year, retrieved 2019-09-03
  13. ^ "Directing Comedy with Barnet Kellman". Peter McGraw. 2018-11-07. Retrieved 2019-09-09.
  14. ^ "USC School of Cinematic Arts announces Robin Williams Endowed Chair in Comedy". USC News. 2017-05-17. Retrieved 2019-09-03.
  15. ^ "Awards / History / 1989". Retrieved 2019-09-02.
  16. ^ "Awards / History / 1990". Retrieved 2019-09-03.
  17. ^ "Awards / History / 1988". Retrieved 2019-09-03.

External linksEdit