Dan O'Shannon, Executive Producer and Writer for 'Modern Family,' Visits Ithaca College

Emerson Suites was packed on Thursday night, April 4, to see a presentation by this year’s Park Distinguished Visitor. Dan O’Shannon, executive producer and writer for the hit show “Modern Family,” was in Ithaca April 2-4 visiting classes and conducting workshops. His visit culminated with a public presentation moderated by Jack Powers, assistant professor in the Television-Radio Department, which was followed by a question-and-answer session between Dan and students.

Dan has been a successful producer and writer for 20 years. He also published a book about comedy theory entitled, “What Are You Laughing At? A Comprehensive Guide to the Comedic Event.” Dan won an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe, and numerous Writers Guild of America and Producers Guild of America awards, as well as an Academy Award nomination. After an introduction by Powers detailing all of these accomplishments, Dan claimed, “Even I can’t wait to meet me!”

During his presentation, Dan covered everything from what first inspired him to write for comedy to behind-the-scenes looks at the various shows he has worked on. He told an eccentric story about his journey to Los Angeles, where his career began, which involved a one-way plane ticket and a note left on the table for his parents. Dan also doled out professional development advice, speaking about the importance of making a good first impression.

IMC major Chelsea Bell ’13, events team manager for Park Design House, said, “A speaker like Dan appeals to a variety of students. It was great to see all the different types of people who came to hear Dan speak, and everyone seemed to really enjoy it!”

Many aspiring comedy writers were looking for advice about breaking into the industry from Dan during the question-and-answer session. IMC major Leonard Slutsky, ’15, took the conversation in a different direction, however, when he asked about product placement in Dan’s current project, “Modern Family.” Leonard reminded Dan how important advertising was for the funding of the show, to which Dan concluded that Leonard, a future advertiser, should be Dan’s boss! He then explained that product placements in television is something the studio handle, not the writers, admitting that it’s not always the most comfortable fit for the writers.

Students from the Park Design House raffled off a shirt worn by actor Eric Stonestreet in an episode of “Modern Family.” Chelsea worked closely with Melissa Gattine, Marketing Communications and Park Design House manager, to help plan the Park Distinguished Speaker Series. Chelsea played a major role in planning the raffle. Chelsea said, “Since Ithaca College has such a large LGBT community, we thought it would be awesome to use the raffle to raise money for the LGBT community, because the character in ‘Modern Family’ who wore the shirt is gay.” Ultimately, students, faculty and staff raised $366 for a local LGBT youth group downtown with the raffle.

Every year, Ithaca College hosts a professional in the communications industry as part of the Park Distinguished Visitor Series. The Park Distinguished Visitor Series is funded through the generosity of the Park Foundation. Past guests include Randi Zuckerberg, Internet entrepreneur and Facebook’s former director of marketing, as well as Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post. For more information, visit

Contributed by Emily Massaro, IMC major, ’15


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