The WGA Awards in February will reward Merrill Markoe and Paula Pell with individual honors for their successful careers in comedy writing.
Pell will receive the WGA East’s Herb Sargent Award for Comedy Excellence, presented to writers who embody “the spirit, commitment and comic genius of Mr. Sargent, as well as his dedication to mentoring new writers.”
Pell, a longtime Saturday Night Live writer, also wrote and produced multiple episodes of 30 Rock, as well as the movie Sisters which starred Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Her current credits also include No Activity for CBS All Access and the forthcoming The Mapleworth Murders for Quibi. You may recognize Pell, as well, for her onscreen contributions to A.P. Bio and Wine Country.
“I am truly thrilled and honored to receive the WGA Herb Sargent Award for Comedy Excellence,” Pell said. “I heard many stories of Herb’s legendary work when I joined SNL in 1953,” she joked. “I will proudly put this next to my lifetime achievement award from Clever Matron Magazine.”
Markoe, meanwhile, will receive the WGA West’s 2020 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement, the guild’s highest honor.
“Merrill Markoe’s pioneering work created what was then a new language of comedy in television, and her writing has influenced every comedy variety series in the last three decades. We are truly honored to give her this award,” said WGA West president David A. Goodman.
Markoe’s first big TV writing gig came on Laugh-In, but she’s best known as the first head writer for Late Night with David Letterman, where she can lay credit to creating Stupid Pet Tricks, Stupid Human Tricks, Viewer Mail, and other segments. She won three Emmys working on Late Night. She went on to write for Not Necessarily the News, Newhart, Moonlighting, Sex and the City, The Garry Shandling Show, The Lewis Lectures, TV Nation, Mary, Open All Night, Making the Grade, Sara, The Best Times and Buffalo Bill. She also wrote, directed and starred in several solo HBO specials, including 1988’s Merrill Markoe’s Guide to Glamorous Living, which earned her a 1989 CableACE Comedy Special nomination.
The WGA Awards will be held concurrently on Feb. 1, 2020, in New York City at the Edison Ballroom and at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles.