What You Should Know About Comedy Writer Jonathan Goldstein


Well, he’s John Francis Daley’s writing partner, for one thing. And they have all these neat new projects going. And…oh, wait, here’s a guy who can tell it even better:


Lasting Laughs
by Lewis Rice

Sometimes attorneys face a pre­cedent that makes it challenging to succeed. Jonathan Goldstein ’95 knows this well. In his case, the precedent was more than 30 years old but still held great influence among people he was trying to persuade. His strategy? Well, it was pretty much what he tries to do in every case.

Be funny.

Over the summer, Goldstein made his directorial debut with the movie “Vacation,” a sequel to the popular 1983 comedy “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” The new film, which he co-wrote and co-directed with his longtime writing partner, John Francis Daley, marks the most high-profile effort yet for Goldstein, who began writing comedy, initially for TV and later for films, shortly after his HLS graduation. For “Vacation,” he wanted to make a movie that stood on its own yet was respectful of the original version for the many people who have fond memories of the Griswolds’ misadventures on a family trip.

“It’s a lot of pressure. We knew that going in,” said Goldstein. “For a lot of the audience, they come in wanting to hate it. You’re so nostalgic about something from your youth and you love it so much, you feel like, ‘This can only be worse.’”

But he approached the assignment—including directing established stars like Ed Helms and Christina Applegate, and the stars of the original version, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo—with the confidence that propelled him to Hollywood in the first place. He had always loved comedy, having grown up devouring Monty Python, Woody Allen and the Marx Brothers. Yet he had no idea how to channel that interest into a career. Instead, he went to Harvard Law, which was like a life insurance policy, he said—a way to acquire a marketable skill.

That seemed to work out when he got a job with a six-figure salary at a large New York law firm. But he soon realized that his interest lay elsewhere, particularly when he heard that his friend Ted Cohen ’95, with whom he had written humorous columns for The Harvard Law Record, had landed a writing gig on the hit TV show “Friends.” So Goldstein quit his job in 1998 and ventured to Los Angeles, where he read scripts for agencies for around $400 a week with no benefits….

Read it all at Harvard Law Today