With plenty of drinks and food for attendees, some 320 business professionals gathered outside the amphitheater at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on March 27 to network and schmooze, as part of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s fourth annual networking event.
The event was titled Network Event Live, in honor of guest speaker Alan Zweibel, a TV writer, author, producer, director and actor who’s worked on productions including Saturday Night Live and Curb Your Enthusiasm. His latest venture is the TV adaptation of 700 Sundays, the autobiography of fellow comedian and close friend Billy Crystal, which will premiere on HBO April 19.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Zweibel told the crowd. “The irony is, it wasn’t even my idea to become a comedy writer. It was a decision made for me by every law school in the U.S.”
A Long Island, N.Y., native, Zweibel proceeded to talk about his early days and struggles as a comedian, which involved writing jokes for comedians in the Catskills in the early 70s, getting paid $7 a joke, making $2.75 an hour at a Queens deli and performing standup with Billy Crystal in New York City, and critiquing each other’s work afterward.
He then spoke of his fateful meeting at a New York City bar with future SNL creator Lorne Michaels, who eventually hired him as a writer for the show’s first year in 1975. During his five years at SNL, he discussed his strictly platonic friendship with Gilda Radner and writing characters for the late actress, including Roseanne Roseannadanna, whose name drew applause from the audience. He also discussed how working in television, specifically live television, differs from the way shows are currently filmed, citing two instances where he would hand “Weekend Update” anchors jokes from under the desk as they were performing live.
“It was live TV,” said Zweibel. “It was exciting. I really miss that to this day.”
While Zweibel’s monologue was a highlight of the event, the networking element brought in a mix of professionals to mingle, both before the speech with beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres and after with desserts and coffee.
Kevin Fishkind, one of the event co-chairs, called it a great opportunity for people in the community to come out and network both personally and professionally.
Attorney Jason Gold of Wiley Rein described the event as an epitome of the greater Washington Jewish community.
“We’ve been getting more successful each year,” said Gold, a former event co-chair. We’re getting “more participation by business leaders,” and not just those who are Jewish.
Mike Plostock, a 2013 Jerome J. Dick Young Leadership Award recipient and co-chair of the Federation’s Young Leadership board, cited the networking opportunity as a “cross-generational event.” Although it was aimed toward young professionals, people younger and older could be seen mingling in the crowded venue, he pointed out.
“One of the great things [about it] is it brings people together,” said Plostock. It gives attendees a great opportunity to “interact and network with people they might not necessarily get to meet.”