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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

R.I.P. Buck Henry, The Graduate screenwriter and Get Smart co-creator

Illustration for article titled R.I.P. Buck Henry, iThe Graduate/i screenwriter and iGet Smart/i co-creator
Photo: Vince Bucci (Getty Images)

Buck Henry, the screenwriter behind the cultural staple The Graduate and the co-creator of Get Smart, has died. Per The Washington Post, Henry succumbed to a heart attack on January 8 in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. His wife, Irene Ramp, confirmed the loss. He was 89.


Henry established his command of comedy with an early start in improv. He was a go-to host during Saturday Night Live’s first five seasons where he created a number of beloved, returning characters like Mr. Dantley, a returning customer of John Belushi’s Samurai Fatuba, and Marshall DiLaMuca, the father of Bill Murray’s Todd in The Nerds sketches. In 1965 he and Mel Brooks premiered Get Smart, a satirical secret agent comedy series for NBC for which he also wrote. It lasted for five seasons—138 episodes—and resulted in a number of adaptations, including a 2008 film starring Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway.

As a screenwriter, Henry received an Oscar nomination alongside Calder Willingham in 1979 for his adaptation of the 1963 novel, The Graduate. The film would also turn the word “plastics” into a signal of ‘60s counterculture as well as produce some of the most iconic scenes in cinema. 

Henry extended his cross-generational impact with a number of film and TV appearances, including Will & Grace, Murphy Brown, Hot In Cleveland, and The Daily Show. Most notable among them was arguably his multiple appearances on 30 Rock as Liz Lemon’s father. Judd Apatow paid tribute to Henry on Instagram with a caption that reads:

Buck Henry was hilarious and brilliant and made us laugh more times than we even know. I was lucky enough to be on a panel with him at SXSW and he was so funny. He said “I don’t like to write with people because if they aren’t as funny as me I hate them and if they are funnier than me I hate them.” He wrote The Graduate and To Die For and co created Get Smart and was a riot hosting SNL back when they would let a writer host SNL. One of the greats.

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