A nomination for Sunday night’s Emmy broadcast was not a first for comedy writer Jose Arroyo ’86. It was, however, the first time he was nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program for NBC’s “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” In 1998 he won an Emmy with fellow writers for HBO’s “Dennis Miller Live.” This year “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” took home the statuette.
Rare it is that three years out of college one finds himself accepting an Emmy award. Arroyo, who will be beginning his third season at “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” realized his love for comedy when he came to Cornell as a freshman.
“As a freshman at Cornell, he wrote jokes and had a public stand-up performance at a place on West which I don’t think exists anymore,” said Juan Arroyo ’85, one of Jose’s six siblings. Jose, having grown up in Ithaca, attended Ithaca’s elementary, middle and high schools and acted in musicals such as “West Side Story” and “Carousel.” Because he lacked musical training, he was never able to work towards making that a profession.
Instead, as soon as he arrived at Cornell, he joined the “Whistling Shrimp,” a sketch comedy group on campus and began perfecting some of his material.
“His only training was the comedy writing he did in college,” said Juan.
After Jose graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in English, he moved to Washington D.C. to do stand-up.
“He wrote an original routine, did open mics, and worked a day job,” said Juan. “Then he moved to North Carolina and wrote for a theater group in Charlotte called ‘The Perch.'”
After that, Jose married and as his wife went from college to college teaching American history, Jose wrote children’s novels and worked on several long term projects.
Jose wanted a job writing for “Everybody Loves Raymond” so, “in order to try out, he wrote an episode for them. He presented it but it never worked out,” said Juan.
Jose also pitched his own pilot about a family in the moving business. The parents are nearing retirement and they need to figure out which child will get the business.
“All the children have very different personalities, so the whole thing is ‘what will the parents do?'” said Juan.
Jose’s pilot never made it because networks felt the story line was too similar to HBO’s “Six Feet Under.”
In 1997 Jose moved to L.A. and began writing for HBO’s “Dennis Miller Live.” The following year he and his fellow writers received the Emmy award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program.
As a writer for “Dennis Miller Live,” Jose spent most of his time writing one-liners. This was much more limiting than what he has been doing since 2002 for “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”
“Not only is he writing, but he’s acting and producing skits and gags. He acts in some of the skits that he wrote, and others,” said Jose. “He loves it. He’ll stay there as long as they’ll have him. It’s a lot more variation than what he was doing at ‘Dennis Miller Live.'”
In the mean time, Jose has been working on his own screenplay. Next week the piece will begin to be marketed to producers who may, in turn, buy the rights to the script. All Juan divulged is that the screenplay is a family comedy involving a dog.
“Whoever buys the script will have control over who will act in it. They haven’t even chosen a director yet,” said Juan.
Juan said Jose has fond memories of his years at Cornell.
Juan concluded, “He loved acting. He met a lot of people and was exposed to different personalities and types. He has a sense for variety which started when he began encountering people for himself at Cornell.”
Archived article by Jessica Liebman
Sun Staff Writer