Merrill Markoe

Merrill Markoe (born August 13, 1948)[citation needed] is an American author, television writer, and occasional standup comedian.

Merrill Markoe
Born (1948-08-13) August 13, 1948 (age 72)
OccupationAuthor, screenwriter
Alma mater
Notable worksLate Night with David Letterman
Notable awardsFour Emmy Awards; 2020 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement[2]
PartnerDavid Letterman (1978–1988)
Andy Prieboy (2004-present)

Early lifeEdit

Markoe was born in New York City.[3] Her family moved several times including stays in Miami, Florida and San Francisco, California.[4] She attended the University of California, Berkeley, receiving a B.A. in Art in 1970 and an M.A. in 1972. Her first job after leaving the university was teaching art at the University of Southern California.[1]


After auditing scriptwriting classes and doing research for the head writer of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Markoe was hired as writer for the 1977 revival of Laugh-In, joining a team that included Robin Williams.[1] In 1978, she was part of the cast of Mary Tyler Moore's first attempt at a variety show, the eponymous Mary, along with future boyfriend David Letterman.[3] In 1980, Markoe was the head writer for The David Letterman Show, a short-lived live NBC morning show whose writing team was recognized with a Daytime Emmy Award.[citation needed]

Markoe shared in three Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series for her work on Late Night with David Letterman, for which she was the original head writer.[5][6] She engineered most of the original concepts and architecture for the ground-breaking late-night talk show and created the segment "Stupid Pet Tricks",[7] as well as "Stupid Human Tricks" and "Viewer Mail." Many of the ideas behind the remote segments outside the studio came from Markoe, who also won a Writer's Guild award for her writing/performing work on HBO's Not Necessarily the News.[5]

She has also written for television shows such as Newhart, Sex and the City, and Moonlighting.[8] She appeared on-camera as a lifestyle reporter at KCOP-TV in Los Angeles, then for Michael Moore's NBC show TV Nation, and worked on other magazine shows such as Lifetime Magazine. In the early 1990s she wrote and directed a number of HBO and Cinemax comedy specials. She appeared in two episodes of Space Ghost Coast to Coast from 1997–1998 as the unwilling subject of the eponymous late night talk show host's affections.

In 2005, Markoe was a regular panelist on Animal Planet's Who Gets the Dog? She has had a number of columns and written for many periodicals including Rolling Stone, Time, New York Woman, New Woman, U.S. News and World Report, Us, People, Esquire, The Huffington Post, Glamour, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Real Simple, etc. She appears in episode 2 of Friends as irritable museum curator Marsha and can be seen in the movie EDtv as a panelist, as well as in the cast of The Aristocrats.

In 2020, she was awarded the Laurel Award for TV Writing Achievement by the Writer's Guild of America.

Personal lifeEdit

She and David Letterman were involved romantically from 1978–1988,[7] after which Markoe moved to California to pursue a writing career. She wrote about the relationship several years later in essays in the book Cool, Calm, and Contentious, giving him the pseudonym "Bobby".[4]

Markoe lives in Malibu with musician Andy Prieboy and four dogs.[4]



  • It's My F---ing Birthday (2002)
  • The Psycho Ex Game: A Novel (with Andy Prieboy) (2004)
  • Walking in Circles Before Lying Down: A Novel (2006)
  • Nose Down, Eyes Up: A Novel (2008)
  • We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe (2020)


  • Late Night With David Letterman: The Book (with David Letterman) (1985)
  • Merrill Markoe's Guide to Love (1997)

Essay collectionsEdit

  • What the Dogs Have Taught Me: And Other Amazing Things I've Learned (1992)
  • How to Be Hap-Hap-Happy Like Me! (1994)
  • Cool, Calm & Contentious (2011)


  1. ^ a b c "Still revolting, after all these years". University of California, Berkeley. 14 September 2005. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
  2. ^ Press Release. "Television Comedy Writer Merrill Markoe to Receive WGAW'S 2020 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement". Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  3. ^ a b Markoe, Merrill. "Markoe on Markoe". Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Walder, Joyce (26 October 2011). "Merrill Markoe on Puppets and Monkey Portraits". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  5. ^ a b Awards for Merrill Markoe at IMDb
  6. ^ "Awards Search". Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  7. ^ a b Amelia Weiss (1992-06-01). "Pet Tricks". Time Magazine. A review of What the Dogs Have Taught Me
  8. ^ Bello, Grace. "Merrill Markoe, Patron Saint of Women in TV Comedy Writing". The Hairpin.