Rick Ludwin, an NBC stalwart of three decades who proved his value to the network both as a rare confidante to Johnny Carson and an early champion of Jerry Seinfeld, died Sunday in Los Angeles, according to the network. He was 71.
Ludwin launched his show-biz odyssey with one legendary funnyman — the future executive did some joke-writing for Bob Hope — and later cemented his legacy with another comedy icon by supporting the game-changing Seinfeld when other executives at NBC were skeptical of airing a show that was infamously “about nothing.”
Seinfled (1989-1998) became one of the most lucrative primetime ventures in television history but Ludwin’s primary focus at NBC was guiding the network’s specials and late-night programming. Taking over the speciality in 1989, Ludwin held the high-profile post through 2011. That 22-year tenure made him a linchpin figure for Saturday Night Live — it also put him in the crossfire of the late-night wars era as the network liaison for The Tonight Show and the Late Show.
Ludwn’s tenure with The Tonight Show began in the twilight of the Carson era and endured through the arrival of the venerable show’s current host, Jimmy Fallon. The SNL cast when Ludwin’s tenure began: Dana Carvey,Mike Myers, Nora Dunn, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Victoria Jackson, Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Kevin Nealon, Ben Stiller, A. Whitney Brown, Al Franken, and a newcomer named Mike Myers.
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