Unlike his characters, Crandall seems to have had fun at every stage of his life. He came to UNH because, when he visited on a warm April day, he saw lots of students outside throwing Frisbees and thought, "these people know how to have fun!" As an English major, he toyed with sports writing and broadcasting, journalism, and fiction. But when he needed a job after graduation, he opted to follow his dad into advertising. "I thought, 'You get paid money just to make up funny stuff?' So I put together a portfolio and was lucky enough to get a job," he says.
After a successful advertising career in Boston and New York, he got an offer from an LA ad firm, moved his family to Manhattan Beach, and began writing screenplays for comedies. And while he made his name by focusing on fun, Crandall's most recent work shows off a more serious side. He wrote, directed, and shot the 2013 film "Free Throw"—a documentary about basketball-playing students at Compton (Calif.) High School—in the space of two weeks.
Crandall's oldest son had played basketball for years with kids from Compton, a city known for gang violence and gangsta rap. "I just thought what sweet young kids they were, and they defied any notions you might have of what kids from Compton might be like," he says. The film—framed by a free throw contest
Crandall created in which one of eight seniors wins a $40,000 college scholarship—shows the difficulties facing these students, from poverty to violence to pregnancy, and how hard they have worked to qualify for a college education.
Next up for Crandall are a documentary about a man wrongfully imprisoned for 19 years, a comedy set in Maine, and a pilot for a Fox sitcom—supervised by Mike O'Malley '88. "I'm going to keep writing," he says. "I don't know how to do anything else."
MIKE O'MALLEY '88
MORE THAN A FUNNY FACE: Mike O'Malley '88 and Court Crandall '87 first met in Hunter Hall, where they bonded over their mutual hatred of Sammy Hagar's song, "I Can't Drive 55"—which O'Malley's roommate liked to play at top volume. O'Malley started spending time in Crandall's room, and the upperclassman quickly came to appreciate the freshman's wit. "Mike always had something to say," Crandall recalls. "It didn't matter the subject—he always got me laughing so hard that whatever I was drinking would come out my nose."
The pair became good friends and after graduation followed each other's rising careers. They reconnected when Crandall was working on a big ad campaign for ESPN and persuaded the director to audition O'Malley for the role of "The Rick," a rabid Boston sports fan who lives over his parents' garage. "Mike came in and just crushed it," Crandall says.
Best known for his portrayal of comic characters, O'Malley starred in "Yes, Dear" for six seasons and got a 2010 Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Burt Hummel, the father of a gay student on the popular Fox musical comedy "Glee." But O'Malley is more than just a funny face. He has authored three stage plays, a screenplay, and several episodes of the Showtime series "Shameless." A diehard Boston sports fan, he's now working with Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and LeBron James on a TV movie about two NBA players from a tough neighborhood.
Typically confined to roles as "a middle-aged dad somewhere in America" when he acts, O'Malley loves writing because he can't be typecast. "I get a lot of my creative satisfaction by stretching and doing things that are different," he says. "You're able to have more flexibility when you're a writer."
O'Malley recently starred in another NBC comedy, "Welcome to the Family," where the professional "family" included producer Barbara Stoll '74 and first assistant director Xochi Blymyer '84. The show premiered last fall in the Thursday-night lineup, but NBC cancelled it after only three episodes when it failed to garner good ratings or kudos from critics. O'Malley is philosophical about the cancellation, but it was still hard to say good-bye to the cast and crew. "After the show is over, you'll mostly likely never see them again," he says. "It's like the collegiate experience over and over again: short bursts of intensity, and then it's over."
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