TV Writer Ben Gruber '94 on the Rise

Ben Gruber is turning silliness into success.    by George Sapio

Not many new college graduates can boast a corner office in New York City’s famed Chrysler Building. But that’s what happened to Ben Gruber ’94, who, just one year after graduating, found himself deep in the heart of the Big Apple working for an advertising firm.

“It was crazy,” he chuckles. His foray into advertising came after a short stint as a production assistant for the Sesame Street and Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? television shows. “I got fed up being a P.A., because I always wanted to be a writer,” he says. “Advertising seemed more stable.” But Ben soon found out that stability wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. “After six or seven months I thought, ‘I can’t do this,’ ” he says. “I had to wear a tie... and that’s when I ran onto Joe Bouye ’94. He got me a job at Beavis and Butthead.

Ben credits the IC alumni network for many of his initial contacts: “One hundred percent, he says. “Ithaca College people are great. I can actually trace my professional writing career back to that Beavis and Butthead job.” And he returns the favor. “We all try to help each other out when we can,” he says.

Since the early days, Ben’s career has been eclectic. He’s written questions for Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (“I had this weird question-writing skill”), and was named head writer for the updated version of the 1960s cartoon Speed Racer, where he plotted all 26 episodes and wrote 7 of them himself. He even named some of the characters after family members; his brother Jared has been a frequent favorite throughout his work.

One of his recent jobs was writing the 2007 Christmas show for the hit series Monk. “It’s called ‘Monk Shoots Santa Claus,’ ” Ben says, laughing. “It’s a major boost for the old résumé.”

Big boosts like Monk are welcome, but Ben is always developing his own projects. One of the shows he’s conceived and sold is Superjail, which Adult Swim (Cartoon Network’s late-night block of adult programming) picked up for 10 episodes. Another is a pilot for Comedy Central, My Goldfish is a Jerkoff, a live-action show about a human with a goldfish roommate, featuring one of Ben’s favorite playthings: puppets.

“Even though I’m writing all the time... I’m a little bit lazy,” Ben remarks. That’s a bit hard to believe, as his upcoming projects include not one but three movie ideas for Pixar and a live-action romantic comedy.

Ben counts himself lucky to love what he does. “Eighty percent of the time it’s just being silly... like having a puppet goldfish smashing a cupcake into a guy’s face,” he says. “How can that not be fun?”