Dan O’Shannon is a television writer and former executive producer of Modern Family. He was previously executive producer and showrunner of Frasier, and a writer and executive producer of Cheers. Before joining a Smithsonian/Zócalo “What It Means to Be American” panel discussion in Los Angeles asking “Can Television Bring America Together?” he spoke in the Zócalo green room about learning to be funny, the joy of the holidays, and the challenges of being married to Jesus.
You grew up in a town called Euclid, named for the Greek mathematician. Did that matter to you as a kid?
I spent a little time in Euclid, but I mostly grew up in Painesville, in Northeast Ohio. That’s a better profile, for a mentally and emotionally unstable writer like myself.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Funny. I wasn’t. It took me a long time to learn. Much later I wrote a whole book on comedy theory.
In addition to your television work, you’ve published a satirical comic book called The Adventures of Mrs. Jesus. Mrs. Jesus very intentionally doesn’t get a first name. Care to give her one now?
No, she really doesn’t have a name. Thematically she doesn’t have a first name because she feels overshadowed.
What’s your favorite pizza topping?
I used to like sausage and onion but I’m trying to eat less meat, so now it’s mushroom and onion.
What superpower would you most like to have?
It’s a tie between invisibility and flying.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished reading Frederick Douglas’ first autobiography.
What’s your favorite holiday?
I’d say either Halloween or Thanksgiving. I like the whole period of time between Thanksgiving and New Years’. Can that just be one big holiday?
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
What’s the best advice you ever received?
I never got good advice ever. I got steered wrong every step of the way.