Dean Young (B.A. ’85, M.A. ’87)
What was your favorite class, professor, or fondest memory of Hofstra?
There were two Hofstra professors who had a significant impact on my decision to become a writer, and thus I found their courses to be the most memorable. The first professor was Peter Koper, who taught a variety of journalism classes. The second was Julia Markus, a creative writing teacher. They both told me that I had a talent to write and gave me the encouragement to cultivate it further. Their words were particularly meaningful since they were professional writers themselves. At a time when I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do professionally, their influence was quite profound. I’m grateful to both of them and look back on their classes with a particular fondness.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
My first job after graduating was working in the production management department at MTV. I think the most valuable thing I learned was how competitive a “real job” can be. If you’re not truly passionate about what you’re doing, it’s nearly impossible to achieve any level of success. It was a job I took because it seemed like a great opportunity, and it was in a lot of ways, but I eventually quit to pursue a writing career. And although the path was a little bumpy at first, I never regretted the decision to pursue what I loved.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
For the last 15 years I’ve written primarily television comedy, working both on staff for existing sitcoms as well as writing pilots for new series. My staff credits include “Mad About You,” “The Drew Carey Show” and “King of the Hill.” It was always my goal to write sitcoms, but I had a unique and circuitous route to get there. My first job was writing for “Love Connection,” which led to a five-year stint writing and producing dating and game shows. Eventually this led to producing “Singled Out” for MTV, and while in that position I was approached by a literary agent who asked me to hire one of his clients. I didn’t end up hiring his writer, but I was able to get him to read the writing samples that I had worked on over the years, which he really responded to. He signed me, and shortly thereafter found me a staff writing position on a sitcom. I worked my way up to co-executive producer level, and from that point I was able to pitch ideas for new series to networks and get commissioned to write pilots. In the past few years I’ve added some movie work, performing punch-up work on a variety of films, and I currently have several movies that I wrote in various stages of development (one is slated to begin production in December 2011).
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
As it pertains to writing, I would say to write a ton. When you have finished one piece, move on to the next… and then to the next. Hopefully you will notice a progression. However, before moving on, make sure that each piece you write is as polished as can be. I read too many scripts that seem rushed and unprofessional. The script that you write as your writing sample (known as a spec script) will be the “resume” you use when you search for agents and jobs so you really need to put your heart and soul into it. As far as pursuing a career as a television writer, I would say to try to get a job as an assistant on a show. You’ll spend some time in the writer’s room, which provides invaluable insight, and when you have finished scripts, you’ll have writers to pass them along to. It’s not easy to get material read, so resourcefully forging relationships with writers is always a good idea.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
How has your degree helped you?
Particularly my M.A. in English literature has helped people realize that I’m a writer who has broad and diverse interests. Also, I’ve been yearning to teach a class or two, and I think my degrees will help to that end.
What is the single most exciting experience in your career thus far?
It’s hard to single out one specific experience – the past 15 years of comedy writing have really been living out a dream – but one thing that stands out was collaborating with Mel Brooks when I was writing for “Mad About You.” I grew up a huge fan of his movies, so working with him was not only great fun, but it also had a great deal of emotional resonance. It was the icing on the cake when he won a Best Guest Actor in a Sitcom Emmy for the episode I wrote for him.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Still writing comedy – both for features and TV.
Dean Young (B.A. ’85, M.A. ’87) moved to Los Angeles shortly after graduating from Hofstra University, to embark on a career as a sitcom writer. During the 23 years that followed, Dean would go on to write and produce television programming for Nickelodeon, MTV, Lifetime, the Disney Channel, UPN, WB, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. In recent years, he’s performed punch-up work on several movies and currently has a feature that he wrote slated to begin production in December 2011.
Dean’s early jobs in Hollywood included both writing and producing dating and game shows. A five-year stint in this genre culminated in his producing the highly successful “Singled Out” for MTV. From the reality world, he transitioned into comedy writing. His writing and producing credits include “Mad About You” (writer/story editor), “King of the Hill” (writer/supervising producer) and “The Drew Carey Show” (writer/co-executive producer). On the development front, Dean has written comedy pilots for CBS, NBC, Fox, Comedy Central and Spike. He has been nominated for two Emmy Awards.