Midway through her senior year as a communication arts major in the College of Communication and Fine Arts, Gloria Calderón Kellett ’97 was right where any actor would love to be — on stage. She was performing in a female version of “The Odd Couple.”
“It was written in the ’60s, and some of the lines were a little dated,” she recalls, “so I took it upon myself to punch up my jokes. One night my theatre professor said, ‘If you think you’re funnier than Neil Simon, you should be writing.’”
Now one of Hollywood’s most successful comedy writers — her credits include “How I Met Your Mother,” “Rules of Engagement” and “Devious Maids,” the new Lifetime series from “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry — Gloria took that early advice seriously.
She earned a master’s degree in theatre at the University of London, studying both acting and writing, then came back to Los Angeles and landed her first Hollywood job as a second assistant to director Cameron Crowe.
“They really just needed a body to answer the phone and sign for UPS packages,” she says, “so I could write all day.” Crowe noticed. “He said, ‘You like to write these little plays; well, that’s a sitcom.’”
Again, Gloria took the hint. She spent whole days watching old situation comedies at L.A.’s Paley Center for Media, studying the rhythms of comic dialog. And when her first television writing job came along, she quickly learned writing TV comedy is anything but the loneliest job in the world.
“TV writing is a team sport,” she says. “Every experience on every show is different. Some you get to write a lot more, some less. It’s the nature of the job, to adapt and give the creators what they want. And hopefully one day when it’s your turn, you’ll have a writing group that makes your concept come to life.”
Gloria still acts — “I’m the bestie, the fun mom” — whenever parts come up that fit in around her writing and real-life family time with her husband, cartoonist Dave Kellett, and their two children. She writes one-act plays and teaches sitcom writing at the School of Film and Television.
“I’m so lucky to be doing this,” she says. “It’s such a privilege to tell stories that entertain people. I adore acting, but you can’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I’m going to act today.’ You’re reliant on others to create content. I like to be in charge of what I’m putting into the world.”
Sandra Millers Younger is a San Diego-based writer and the author of “The Fire Outside My Window: A Survivor Tells the True Story of California’s Epic Cedar Fire.” She lives in San Diego County, Calif.