John Bowman, who co-created the Martin Lawrence sitcom Martin, served as lead writer on the groundbreaking I Living Color and worked on other shows, including Saturday Night Live, Murphy Brown and Hughleys, is dead. He was 64.
A producer and Emmy-winning author, Bowman, died suddenly Tuesday at his home in Santa Monica, his son Johnny Bowman Jr. announced.
As chairman of the WGA Bargaining Committee during the 2007-08 writers ‘strike, Bowman helped reach a settlement that, for the first time, shared producers’ Internet streaming revenues with film and television writers.
“In the writing room, John was a mentor to so many young colored writers, many of us who had our first professional concerts with him,” Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley said in a statement. “Outside the room, he was tireless in his efforts to achieve equal working conditions for all writers. What John gave to the writing community will last for decades to come. “
One of six children, John Frederick Bowman, was born in Milwaukee on September 28, 1957. He attended White Fish Bay High School and graduated in 1980 from Harvard, where he was editor of Harvard Lampoon.
After obtaining his master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School in 1985, Bowman went on to work as a junior executive at PepsiCo. “I wanted to be the funniest lawyer or businessman in the room, which brings you nowhere,” he once said.
He joined Saturday Night Live in 1988 and shared the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Selection or Music Program with the likes of Mike Myers, Conan O’Brien, Bob Odenkirk, and Phil Hartman.
In 1990, Bowman became one of the first white writers on I Living Color, the raw Fox sketch comedy series created by Keenen Ivory Wayans, and was promoted to lead writer within a year.
He and Lawrence then created Martin, who played the cartoon as Detroit deejay Martin Payne and aired on Fox for five seasons from 1992-97. It was a big hit – despite interference from standards and practice leaders.
“The language on this show is more uncompromisingly black than it is on any other show,” Bowman said Weekly entertainment in 1992. ”But you are in the most absurd discussions with censors. I think we are all frustrated. “
“John understood my vision,” Lawrence said in a statement. “There was nothing too big or too small that could surprise him, which made it a great experience working together.”
Added Tisha Campbell, who played Gina, Payne’s girlfriend: “John Bowman was one of the sweetest and friendliest producers I’ve ever worked with. I remember the first time I ad-libred on the show, and I ran to John and said : ‘I have a pitch.’ “He was so encouraging. He pressured me to be fearless when it came to comedy. I am so eternally grateful.”
In the 1990s, Bowman also wrote for It’s Garry Shandling’s show, The fresh prince of Bel-Air, Murphy Brown he also served as executive producer for the last four seasons of the original CBS series – and Hughleys.
He co-created two more sketch comedy shows: Fox’s Cedric the Entertainer presents and TBS ‘ Frank TV, starring Frank Caliendo.
In 2006, Bowman was elected to the WGAW Board of Directors. “John was the rare comedy writer with an MBA,” he remarked The Simpsons author George Meyer. “He could tell you exactly how you were scammed.”
Bowman later taught screenwriting and writing sketch comedy as a member of the adjunct faculty at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. His most recent teaching ended just a few weeks ago.
Survivors include his wife of 39 years, Shannon Gaughan, a television writer and producer; children Johnny Jr., Courtney, Nicholas, Alec and Jesse; and siblings William, James Bowman and Susan.
A private fair is scheduled for at. 11.00 on January 8 in St. Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica, with a memorial service being held for the spring.