David Steinberg

After a brief stint on Broadway, Steinberg embraced standup comedy in 1968 and for a time he was the hottest and hippest comedian working the clubs and television.

David Steinberg

 David Steinberg, comedian, director (b at Winnipeg 9 Aug 1942). David Steinberg, the son of a rabbi, left home at the age of 15 to study at the Hebrew Theological College in Chicago. The rabbinate, he soon discovered, was not his true calling, and at the age of 19 he entered the master's program in English literature at the University of Chicago. A natural class clown, in his early twenties he caught a performance by the legendary comedian Lenny Bruce and decided to make a living in comedy. He joined Chicago's original improvisational Second City troupe and worked with performers such as Alan Arkin, Robert Klein and Fred Willard.

After a brief stint on Broadway, Steinberg embraced standup comedy in 1968 and for a time he was the hottest and hippest comedian working the clubs and television. He became a regular guest on The Tonight Show, appearing more than 100 times, and would often fill in for the regular host, Johnny Carson. Steinberg's most infamous television appearances were on the popular CBS show The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. His humorous, mildly sacrilegious on-air sermons on the Old Testament, developed during his improv days with Second City, brought CBS more complaints than at any time in its history and eventually led the network to censor the show, forcing its cancellation.

Nevertheless, the sweetly smiling anti-establishment comedian with a sharp tongue was offered The David Steinberg Show by CBS in 1972. It was cancelled after one season. A show with the same name was picked up by CTV for a season in 1976. The Canadian version featured many members of Toronto's Second City troupe prior to the launch of SCTV, including Martin SHORT, Joe FLAHERTY, Dave THOMAS, John CANDY and Andrea MARTIN.

Steinberg turned to directing but his first 2 films, Paternity (1981) with Burt Reynolds and Going Berserk (1983) with John Candy, failed miserably at the box office, so in an unusual move he began to direct television commercials. This led to episodic television and by the late 1980s he had morphed into an in-demand sitcom director. His numerous credits include Newhart, Evening Shade, Seinfeld, Designing Women, Mad about You and Curb Your Enthusiasm. David Steinberg created and hosted Sit Down Comedy with David Steinberg, in which he interviewed famous comedians about their work. He has also directed episodes of Weeds and Living in Your Car.

Over his long career he has been nominated 5 times for Emmys, winning in 1991 and 1992 for outstanding individual achievement in writing in a variety or music program for the Academy Awards broadcasts, awards he shared with his friend Billy Crystal and others, and in 2001 he was nominated for a GEMINI AWARD for directing the short-lived Global sitcom Big Sound. He also received 3 nominations from the Directors Guild of America for his work on Seinfeld (1992), Mad about You (1997) and Curb Your Enthusiasm (2003). He has directed numerous commercials, winning many awards including the Silver Lion at the Cannes International Film Festival. The New York Times placed David Steinberg "among a handful of the best and most creative directors working in television."

Further Reading

  • David Steinberg, The Book of David (2007).