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Leifer, Carol (b. 1956)  
 
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Carol Leifer worked hard to achieve success as a stand-up comedian, writer, actor, and producer. She never anticipated that after the age of forty she would find personal fulfillment by recognizing her lesbianism, becoming a mother, and standing up for glbtq rights.

Humor has been an integral part of life for Carol Leifer from her earliest days. She grew up in East Williston, New York, the city of her birth on July 27, 1956, listening to her father's trove of jokes. In her memoir, When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win (2009), she observes that "he was the reason I wanted to be a comedian and a comedy writer."

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Dr. Seymour Leifer was, however, an optometrist, and so, as his daughter stated in a 1988 interview in People magazine, she initially believed that "comedy wasn't something you could really do for a living."

As a child, Leifer put on shows for family and friends in her basement, and by the time that she was ready for college, she had come around to seeing entertainment as a possible career.

Leifer enrolled in the theater program at the State University of New York at Binghamton, where she dated Paul Reiser, who would also go on to success in acting and comedy. After watching Reiser perform on open mic night at the Catch A Rising Star comedy club in New York, Leifer, then a college sophomore, developed her own routine and also took the stage. The audience loved her, and she loved being there.

In order to have greater access to the clubs of New York, Leifer left Binghamton in 1977 and transferred to Queens College to complete her senior year. After graduating, she continued to work in New York clubs, including the Comic Strip.

The MC on the night of Leifer's audition at the Comic Strip was Jerry Seinfeld, who became and remains an admirer of her talent. The two eventually dated briefly before settling back into a supportive platonic relationship.

David Letterman was in the audience for one of Leifer's performances at the Comic Strip in 1979, and he immediately recommended her to the talent coordinator of the Tonight Show. That did not result in an appearance, but when Letterman became the host of his own late-night show in 1982, he remembered Leifer and has since booked her as a guest more than two dozen times.

From the beginning of her career, Leifer's stand-up routines have been based on events in her own life, including especially her family relationships and encounters with others.

In the early 1980s Leifer made two important changes in her life: she married a comedian named Ritch Shydner in 1981, and she moved to California to pursue a career in television.

The marriage did not last for long. The couple separated in 1985 and divorced two years later.

Leifer's budding television career, on the other hand, was crowned with success. In addition to making appearances doing stand-up routines, she has worked as a writer, an actor, and a producer.

Leifer first wrote for the irreverent comedy show Saturday Night Live in the 1985-86 season and was later invited by Seinfeld to write for his self-titled situation comedy series (1993-1996).

Leifer's employment as a writer on Seinfeld was particularly appropriate since she was the inspiration for one of the principal characters in the show, Elaine Benes. In addition to writing for Seinfeld, she appeared in bit parts on several occasions and produced twenty-two episodes of the show.

Leifer shared an Emmy Award nomination with other writers and producers of Seinfeld for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1996.

The following year Leifer earned another Emmy nomination as both a writer and producer for The Larry Sanders Show.

Leifer combined her writing, acting, and producing talents to launch a situation comedy, Alright Already (1997-98), on the WB network. She starred as an optometrist—an homage to her father—coping with older parents and difficult siblings while trying to have a romantic life of her own.

Leifer told Rick Lyman of the New York Times that she had "seen too many comics who got their own shows and were undone because they worked for an executive producer who didn't understand their comedy or their sensibility" or who were proficient performers but lacked knowledge about production. Given her experience in both areas, she stated, "I really felt that I had the lay of sitcom land, and it was time for me to try to attempt to do my own show."

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A publicity photograph of Carol Leifer created by Harry Langdon.
  
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