Carol Leifer took the business of making people laugh very seriously. As one of stand-up comedy's most original female performers, Leifer did not have to look too hard or too far for material for her act. She made people laugh simply by jokes and sharp observations on subjects close to her heart - her Jewish upbringing, relationship issues, and the wacky incidents that occurred in her daily life. Throughout her career, the renowned comedienne headlined numerous comedy specials including "Caroline Doesn't Leifer Anymore" (Cinemax, 1988), "Carol Leifer Comedy Cruise" (Showtime, 1989), and made frequent appearances on "Comedy Central Presents" (1998- ). As a writer, Leifer lent her comedic genius to many hit shows like "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) and "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998), starring her former one-time boyfriend, Jerry Seinfeld. Their relationship triggered longtime rumors that the legendary sitcom's Elaine Benes character was based on Leifer, but she later insisted the rumors were untrue. As an author, Leifer composed the entertaining book of essays, When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win (2009) in which the now 40-year-old came out as gay. Content with her longtime comedic career, a philanthropic Leifer gave Donald Trump a run for his money during her stint on "Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 2009- ) in 2010. Throughout her long career -whether by writing scripts or performing on stage - Leifer kept her audiences in stitches decade after decade by staying true to her comedic roots.
Carol Leifer was born on July 27, 1956 in New York City to Anna Leifer, a psychologist, and Seymour Leifer, an optometrist. As a young girl growing up in Long Island, Leifer became enamored with the art of comedy through her father, who, although an eye doctor by trade, was a comedian by heart. Fascinated by how her father held court by telling jokes to their neighbors, Leifer decided to become a comedian. She began doing stand-up as a theater student at Binghamton University, where she dated fellow comic Paul Reiser, future star of the hit sitcom, "Mad About You" (NBC, 1992-99). As an emerging comic in the fruitful late 1970s, Leifer performed regularly at popular Manhattan comedy clubs including Comic Strip, Catch a Rising Star and the Improv. She became a bit of a trailblazer as stand-up comedy was still relatively uncharted territory for women and male comics were not always accepting of their female counterparts. Around that time, Leifer also began making the connections that would become instrumental throughout her career. During her audition at the Comic Strip and accompanied by then-boyfriend Reiser, Leifer met another comic, Jerry Seinfeld, who happened to be the emcee that night and would prove to be an important person in her life. The year 1979 marked the beginning of Leifer's entry into the big leagues. While doing a routine at the Comedy Strip, David Letterman unexpectedly showed up and caught one of her performances. That surprise visit later led to 25 appearances by Leifer on "Late Night with David Letterman" (NBC, 1982-1993) and numerous other guest appearances on NBC's "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (1962-1992), "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (NBC, 1992- 2009), and other top-rated nighttime and daytime talk shows.
As a stand-up comedian, Leifer dished out clean jokes that consisted mainly of her observations of life's absurdities and relationship issues. Unlike lesser comedians who could not get past the usual comedic fare - such as making fun of their own looks or racial and gender stereotypes - Leifer was an original. She never belittled herself or the opposite sex. In 1988, she starred in her first big solo project, the Cinemax special "Carol Doesn't Leifer Anymore," which was produced by old stand-up buddy Letterman. She followed it with two successful productions; this time for Showtime: "Carol Leifer Comedy Cruise" and "Really Big Show" (1990), in which Leifer elicited laughs by tapping into pop-culture references and sharing funny anecdotes about her Jewish ancestry and upbringing. Leifer also hosted "Caroline's Comedy Hour" (A&E, 1990) for four seasons. She departed, however, from her usually clean comedy act with the special "Gaudy, Bawdy and Blue" (Showtime, 1992), wherein she played a fictional comic named Rusty Berman who happened to be a composite of female comics in the late 1950s and early 1960s who told dirty jokes. "Gaudy, Bawdy, and Blue" also featured Seinfeld and Reiser as themselves talking about Berman. Leifer explored many of the same topics on numerous other specials such as Comedy Central's "Comedy Central Presents," HBO's "Jerry Seinfeld: Stand-Up Confidential" (1987), and the critically-acclaimed but short-lived series "Alright Already" (WB, 1997-98) where she played an optometrist who dealt with bizarre family members.
While Leifer became known for her stand-up routines, she was also a writer of many hit shows including the long-running sketch comedy "Saturday Night Live," wrote and co-produced the late night fictional talk show "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-98), and created the short-lived "The Ellen Show" (CBS, 2001-02), starring Ellen DeGeneres as a former Internet executive trying to adjust to small-town living. She also wrote scripts for the award-winning comedy "Seinfeld," starring her real-life ex-boyfriend as a neurotic New York comic saddled with three equally if not more neurotic friends played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards and Jason Alexander. There was widespread speculation that the character, Elaine Marie Benes (Louis-Dreyfus), was inspired by Leifer, who had briefly dated Seinfeld. But Leifer denied those rumors, telling Entertainment Weekly, "Jerry dated Elaine and is now friends with her, but that's where the comparison ends." What Leifer did as one of the series' rare female writers, however, was to inspire and create some of Elaine's funniest and most authentic moments such as the Barney's "skinny mirrors" skit, where she bought a dress on sale at Barney's because it looked great on in their mirrors but not wearing it anywhere else.
In 2007, Leifer went back behind-the-scenes as producer and writer of the comedy "Rules of Engagement" (CBS, 2007-13), which followed the lives of two couples and their single friend as they dealt with marriage, dating and commitment issues. In 2009, Leifer released When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win, a collection of humorous essays about life after 40, and most importantly, the moment she discovered that she was gay and how her life changed for the better after coming to terms with her sexuality. Leifer, who had previously been married to writer Ritch Shydner, came out when she was 40 years old and began a long-term relationship with real estate agent Lori Wolf, with whom she adopted a three-year-old son, Bruno, in 2006. In 2009, she humorously announced that she had gone vegan because she felt that as a Jewish lesbian, she was not part of a small enough minority. In 2010, inspired by her fellow Jewish comedienne Joan River's season two win, Leifer joined the cast members of NBC's reality competition series, "Celebrity Apprentice," which featured well-known contestants competing in grueling business tasks around New York City to raise money for their favorite charities.
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Special Thanks (Special)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Wrote for "Saturday Night Live" (NBC)
Headlined her own special on Cinemax titled, "Carol Doesn't Leifer Anymore"; produced by David Letterman
Worked as a writer and producer on NBC's "Seinfeld"; reportedly was the model for the character of Elaine (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus)
Was a writer-producer on "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO)
Starred in, created and executive-produced the WB sitcom, "Alright Already"
Co-produced and wrote for the short-lived ABC sitcom, "It's Like, You Know..."
Created the short-lived CBS sitcom, "The Ellen Show"
Was a consulting producer on ABC's "I'm with Her"
Co-executive producer for the first season of "Rules of Engagement" (CBS)
Joined the third season of NBC's "The Celebrity Apprentice"