Obituary: Paul D. Zimmerman

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The Independent Online
Paul D. Zimmerman, critic, screenwriter, political activist, born 3 July 1938, married 1965 Barbara Jacobson (one son, one daughter), died New York City 2 March 1993.

PAUL ZIMMERMAN was a rare and special combination of corrosive wit and great humanity, writes Michael Palin. He was sharp, funny, acute and perceptive - one of the shrewdest observers of the United States that I have ever met. He was a constant bubbling well-spring of ideas and observations, alternately delighting and despairing in the absurdities of modern life.

Encounters with Paul were always bracing. He didn't like things to be dull. He would not let a moment of life go by without first giving it due care and consideration. He was tirelessly funny. His humour ranged from dreadful puns to global insights. I shall never forget his explanation of why delicatsessens served such enormous sandwiches - '2,000 years of guilt'.

Paul's wit and wisdom was informed by a fierce morality. He cared deeply about his country - particularly highlighting environmental abuse and political injustice.

The combination of his care, concern and terrific humour should have been the perfect combination for the modern screenwriter, but when it came to the crunch, his work alarmed producers and studio heads. In a world where you're allowed to feel strongly so long as you don't frighten the children, he was never allowed to reach an audience that would undoubtedly have delighted in his work.

He will be justly remembered for his classic screenplay The King of Comedy - one of the most effective movie satires on the values of American showbiz. He could and should have written many more like it.

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