Gene Perret, Emmy-Winning Writer on 'The Carol Burnett Show', Dead at 85

The prolific TV writer also penned jokes for Bob Hope for almost three decades Gene Perret
Gene Perret. Photo: Obituary

Gene Perret, Emmy-winning writer and legendary joke writer, has died. He was 85.

His daughter Linda Perret told The Hollywood Reporter that he died on Nov. 15 of liver failure at his home in Westlake Village.

Over the course of his five-decade career, the professional comedy writer wrote for The Carol Burnett Show — for which he won three Emmys for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Series — as well as hit shows All in the Family; Welcome Back, Kotter; and Three's Company, among others.

According to the late comedian's website, he wrote jokes for Phyllis Diller, Bob Hope, Carol Burnett, Bill Cosby, Tim Conway, and many others. Perret wrote for Hope from 1969 until the legendary performer retired, serving as head writer during Hope's last 15 years performing.

Perret, who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, wrote more than 45 books on comedy and contributed to many publications including Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping, Toastmaster and Arizona Highways.

In an interview with The Writer magazine in 2016, Perret was asked how he knows something is funny on the page.

"You really don't," he answered honestly. "Comedy writers depend on a sense of humor and experience to determine what's funny. But basically we're only guessing. Many times a joke that you love is rejected by the client or the rest of the writing staff. Writers must go with their instincts, but ultimately it's the audience that determines what's funny."

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 1: Pictured from left is Rock Hudson, Carol Burnett, Ken Berry and Frank Gorshen for THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, 1971, (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

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When asked how he learned to be funny, Perret referenced those he looked up to. "Just as youngsters learn to play sports by watching their idols, comedians and writers learn to be funny by imitating their idols," he explained.

"Bob Hope admits that he copied the style of vaudevillian Frank Fay. Woody Allen has stated that he used the screen persona of Bob Hope in his films. Johnny Carson was reminiscent of Jack Benny and proud of it. I always enjoyed comedy, so I began being funny. It was practically unavoidable," Perret said.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Perret is survived by his wife of 64 years, Joanne, and children Joe, Terry, Carole and Linda — a fellow comedy writer — as well as six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

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