How to Innovate Situational Comedy

Short Circuit: How to Innovate Situational Comedy with 4-Time Emmy Award Winner and Executive Producer of ‘Modern Family’

What is an innovation short circuit?

Innovation SHORT CIRCUITS, delivered by industry experts and influencers, are topic-based conversation sessions that help students gain expertise in innovation mindset, skills and practices.

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Short Circuit: How to Innovate Television Situational Comedy

October 29, 5-7 p.m.
Sponsored by: The Department of Music and Theater and The ISU Student Innovation Center

  • Abraham Higginbotham, Comedy Writer and Community Builder


Who is Abraham Higginbotham?

Writer and Executive Producer on “Modern Family” for ten years

Abraham Higginbotham grew up in the small town of Washington, Pennsylvania. As an undersized and not particularly masculine boy who enjoyed dance class, Abraham learned how to make jokes and run fast. After enduring twelve fairly grueling years of being bullied in school, Abraham moved on to Boston University with a giant smile on his face and graduated with a BFA in Acting in 1992. After college, Abraham moved to New York City where he quickly signed with an agent who did almost nothing for him. He soon realized he didn’t actually want to act, so he turned to political fundraising and activism as a fallback career.

Following a brief stint channeling his anger into the equally bananas world of politics, Abraham moved to Los Angeles for a second crack at his first career choice – movie star. Unfortunately, Hollywood did not agree that Abraham should be a movie star but was kind enough to offer him a few TV spots as ambiguously ethnic bad guys on Aaron Spelling shows. As the years passed, Abraham watched his friends get rich and happy while he searched for loose change in his sofa, on the floor of his car, on random sidewalks. At that point, Abraham did some soul-searching. He tried his hand at comedy writing and was very fortunate to quickly earn a job on the short-lived NBC series A.U.S.A. Fortunately, that job led to more successful writing gigs on shows like “Arrested Development”, “Will & Grace”, “Ugly Betty”, and “Family Guy”. He then served as a writer and Executive Producer on “Modern Family” for ten years, winning four Emmys for Outstanding Comedy Series, two Humanitas Awards, two Writers Guild Awards and a handful of Producers Guild Awards. He feels a little gross including those awards in his bio, but his bossy-slash-supportive life partner made him. Currently, Abraham has a few projects in development, including three young children who are both the love of his life and the reason he’s suddenly aging like a President.



  • What would be your overall hope for the impact and influence of work as a comic writer?
  • What are the risks of innovating in public forums? How did you mitigate and/or address those risks?
  • What are the pathways for aspiring writers and those interested in the entertainment industry?
  • Writing and television is a highly competitive industry–how do you go about differentiating and pitching ideas that are novel, innovative, and relevant?


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