John Bowman, Martin co-creator and In Living Color writer, dies at 64



John Frederick Bowman, the Emmy-winning writer and producer, died Tuesday at his home in Santa Monica, California.

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Photo of Johnny Bowman Jr.

Emmy-winning writer and producer John Frederick Bowman died Tuesday at his Santa Monica, Calif., Home, his son Johnny Bowman Jr. announced. Martin co-creator was 64 years old at the time of his death.

Bowman’s death naturally touched many in the film and television industry, especially because he was a major voice during the 2007-08 screenwriters’ strike. Bowman was the chairman of the Writers Guild of America’s negotiating committee and helped secure a settlement that first shared producers’ internet streaming earnings with film and television writers. In 2006, he was also elected to the WGAW Board of Trustees.


John Bowman’s strong and thoughtful leadership on the 2007 WGA Bargaining Committee made him a vocal champion of the membership throughout the talks and the strike we ultimately won … He remained determined to serve the members as a member of the board of directors, fund trustee and negotiator of 2011 committee co-chair. The Guild is stronger today thanks to John’s dedication and devotion to his fellow writers. – Meredith Stiehm, President of the Writers Guild of America West.

Among the many people mourning his passing, Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley, who said in a statement:

In the Writers’ Room John was a mentor to so many young writers of color, many of us who had our first professional concerts with him … Outside the room he was tireless in his efforts to secure fair working conditions for all writers. What John gave to the writing community will last for decades.

Bowman began his television career as a writer in 1988 with Saturday Night Live, something that earned her an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program. He shared this honor with Mike Myers, Conan O’Brien, Bob Odenkirk and Phil Hartman. Subsequently, he joined the crew of Keenen Ivory Wayans comedy series on Fox, In Living Color, as one of the first white writers in 1990.

Perhaps his most notable work, however, is in the series. Martin, which he co-created with actor-comedian Martin Lawrence. The show aired on Fox for five seasons from 1992 to 1997, which was surprising considering how many times the censorship committee took the ax.

John understood my vision … there was nothing too big or too small that could confuse him, which made working together a great experience – Lawrence

During the 1990s, Bowman also contributed to shows like This is the Garry Shandling show, The prince of Bel-Air, and The Hughleys. He has also directed as executive producer the last four seasons of the CBS Original Series. Murphy Brown. He spent the rest of his life as a board member of WGAW and taught screenplay form and comedy sketch writing as an adjunct faculty member at the School of Cinematic Arts at the USC.

Bowman is survived by his wife screenwriter and television producer Shannon Gaughan, children Johnny Jr., Courtney, Nicholas, Alec and Jesse, and siblings William, James Bowman and Susan.

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