As a teenager in Wheaton, Illinois, John loved TV, radio, movies and everything showbiz. Forming a rock band in high school while working part time at the Audio Visual Institute of Du Page County, he performed weekends in competitive Forensic events with Wheaton Central High classmate Jim Belushi. He and Belushi would later form Eggboy Productions to make short films for emerging cable networks.
His first television experience occurred in high school when he volunteered to answer phones for WFLD TV’s “Jerry Lewis Telethon” hosted locally by original “Svengoolie” Jerry G. Bishop. John was seated on camera between legendary Chicago anchorman Fahey Flynn and Hollywood star George Maharis of “Route 66” fame while Playboy Bunnies collected his donation pledge cards. Maharis ignored the bunnies but John was mesmerized.
Leaving Michigan’s Kalamazoo College in 1975, John worked as a production assistant at KTCA, Twin Cities Public Television in St. Paul, Minnesota, and later joined Southwest Michigan ABC affiliate WUHQ TV as promotion manager and on-air film critic. By 1977, John was in Chicago working at “art house” Facets Multi-Media often projecting foreign films for Sun Times movie critic Roger Ebert.
In 1978, he was hired by WTTW Chicago to be a junior member of their documentary film crew. Traveling the country for 3 years working on socially relevant documentaries, he learned a lot from journalists John Callaway, Tom Weinberg, and others before making his own documentaries. Eventually becoming an Associate Producer on “Sneak Previews” with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, John also co-created, executive produced and directed “Wild Chicago”, WTTW’s longest running reality series. He also produced the inaugural episodes of the annual “Illinois Young Performer’s Competition” with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the annual “Ollie Awards For Children’s Television”, the first episode of a monthly documentary series titled “WTTW Journal” and a half hour comedy special with Dan Aykroyd, Del Close and Jim Belushi.
In 1989, after 11 years at WTTW, John left to form Eggboy Productions with partner Jim Belushi and together they made comedy shorts for every emerging cable network and “Saturday Night Live” too. WMAQ’s “Tab Lloyd: Investigative Reporter” was their local half hour satire starring Belushi and featuring SNL vets Tim Kazurinsky, Al Franken, and Tom Davis. Separately, John also produced two NBC Network specials, “Jonathan Brandmeier From Chicago” where his boss was network legend Fred Silverman and “A Comedy Salute To Michael Jordan” hosted by Billy Crystal. In 1990, WFLD FOX tapped John to create and executive produce “The New 9:30”, a comedic take on nightly news hosted by sportscaster Bruce Wolfe and weatherman Dan Dobrowolski. It was kind of a “poor man’s” “Daily Show”.
Moving to Los Angeles in 1991, John accepted a three-year deal from Hearst Entertainment Chief Gerry Abrams (father to JJ) to create “reality” and unscripted television. There he executive produced episodes of “Biography” for A&E (Richard Pryor, Mary Tyler Moore), episodes of “Intimate Portrait” (Yoko Ono, Kathy Lee Gifford) for LIFETIME, and the one hour documentary “Politics and The Games” for ESPN. Joining HBO’s groundbreaking homeless charity COMIC RELIEF as an executive producer, John and then-partner Bob Zmuda expanded the brand beyond HBO, producing numerous prime time specials including the Emmy nominated “A Comedy Salute to Andy Kaufman” for NBC, “Comic Relief’s American Comedy Festival” for ABC, “Hurricane Relief” for SHOWTIME, “Baseball Relief” for FOX, and “The Best of Comic Relief” for A&E and later COMEDY CENTRAL. These programs generated millions for homeless healthcare.
John’s long-time love affair with THE SECOND CITY resulted in his BRAVO interview series “Second City Presents” hosted by Chicago and Rolling Stone scribe Bill Zehme. Partnering with Chicagoan Jill Soloway, John developed and executive produced the NBC summer comedy series “The Rerun Show”. Taking a page from his days with Siskel & Ebert, John created and executive produced AMC’s weekly movie review series “Movie Club” hosted by Oscar winner John Ridley. With Hip Hop mogul Russell Simmons, he created and executive produced “Hip Hop Justice” for Court TV, “It’s Black Entertainment” for SHOWTIME, and with Simmons and Sean “Diddy” Combs, he created and executive produced the NAACP Award winning MTV series “Run’s House” and its spinoff “Daddy’s Girls.” Countless pilots never saw the light of day.
While living and working in Los Angeles, John always kept a Chicago condo and has spent the past ten years, along with producing partner Brian Kallies, writing, producing and directing a steady stream of Chicago-centric documentaries for local and national distribution. “Phunny Business: A Black Comedy”, about Chicago’s first Black-owned comedy club, premiered on SHOWTIME, opened the 2012 EBERTFEST, and was critically acclaimed by The New York Times. “Heroes On Deck: WWII On Lake Michigan,” narrated by Bill Kurtis, aired nationally on PBS and was also critically acclaimed by The New York Times in addition to winning 2 Midwest Emmys. “A City At War: Chicago,” again narrated by Kurtis, premiered on PBS and won both The Chicago International TV Fest Gold Plaque Award and a Midwest Emmy, John’s sixth.
During John’s 45 years in television, he made programs for almost every network and some streamers too. For 30 of those years, he was managed by Sandy Wernick of the legendary Los Angeles talent management company Brillstein Entertainment Partners and was represented in Chicago by attorney Dino Armiros. On one of his last days in Los Angeles, John got a call from the curator of Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema in West Hollywood. The result of that conversation was that John’s early comedy shorts, “The Cleansing” and “Sugar or Plain”, both starring Jim Belushi, will forever be part of Tarantino’s private collection of offbeat cinema and will entertain live audiences for years to come.
John recently moved back to Chicago and commutes now between Chicago and Santa Barbara. On December 22 nd , 2020 his latest and last documentary, “Lincoln Is Crying: The Grifters, Grafters and Governors of Illinois”, about political corruption in the “Land of Lincoln,” premiered on WTTW PBS Chicago. John is currently developing an 8-hour Johnny Carson mini-series titled CARSON THE MAGNIFICENT for NBC UNIVERSAL.