Writer, Producer, Director and Songwriter. He is best remembered for writing, producing and directing the television comedy shows, "The Phil Silvers Show" (1954 – 1959) and "Car 54, Where Are You?" (1961 – 1963). Born in Chicago in the Lawndale district where many other Jewish immigrants had settled, he was just six years old when his parents moved to Milwaukee to open a store. Nat began his show business career when he and his father, Max, would perform at friends' parties, with Nat sitting on his father's lap and pretending to be a ventriloquist dummy. As a teenager, he was known for his sense of humor, often making a funny joke out of what was a serious situation, later claiming he inherited his father's sense of humor. In 1932, he joined the University of Wisconsin to study journalism, and soon joined the staff of the campus newspaper, the "Cardinal." During his senior year of college, he created the "Gripper's Club" in the campus paper, doing a mock advice column where students were invited to write in complaints about university life. In reality, Nat made up many of the letters, and gave them humorous responses. Shortly after graduation, Nat moved to Hollywood, to set up a newspaper business writing about Hollywood events and people for publication in the star's hometown newspaper. It was a slow beginning, but when a friend suggested he adapt his "Gripper's Club" format to a radio show, Nat began to produce a new radio show called "The Grouch Club." It was considered a refreshing change from the normal news programs of the day, and by 1938, the show was being broadcast throughout California. As the show grew and caught on, it caught the attention of radio star Fred Allen, who hired Nat Hiken and his friend Roland Kibbee to write for him. Writing radio shows turned out to be a natural for Hiken, and he was soon able to move to New York City to be with Allen. By 1941, Hiken was the lead writer for Fred Allen. During World War II, Hiken joined the Army Air Force, and although he had a private pilot's license and wanted to be a pilot, the military asked him to produce morale boosting fund-raisers on Broadway. At the end of the war, Hiken left the military to return to being a scriptwriter for Fred Allen, but just as quickly, he was ready to try new things in the new media format of television. He began in television writing scripts for comedian Milton Berle, who was initially having difficulty transitioning from radio to television. A year later, he switched to writing for "Four Star Review" (1948), which was soon renamed "All Star Review." Hiken began writing parts for comic Martha Raye, making her a hit for the 1951-52 television season of "All Star Review," and enabling her to start her own program, "The Martha Raye Show." That show was Hiken's first show as Director. In 1954, Hiken was selected to direct a comedy show with actor Phil Silvers; the result was "You'll Never Get Rich," soon to be renamed "The Phil Silvers Show," a comedy about an Army Sergeant who runs a military camp with less than military prowess. The show was initially slow to take off, but within six months it became a hit, and in its first year, won five awards from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Hiken left the show at the end of the second season, and the show continued for two more seasons without Hiken before it was discontinued. It is still considered one of the best comedy shows of the early television days. In 1958, Hiken directed a TV Special, "The Friers Club Man of the Hour" in which the celebrities toasted and roasted guest Ed Sullivan. The format made CBS Staff nervous, and they refused to pick it up as a series, but the show became the forerunner of the "Dean Martin Celebrity Roast" a decade later. In 1961, Hiken started another hit comedy show, "Car 54, Where are You?" in which the cops were not the stereotype hard-bitten professional crime chasers shown in other dramas, but were depicted as ordinary men caught up with finances, wife problems, and other domestic difficulties, all done in a comic format. But after just two seasons, Hiken had burned himself out with writing, directing and producing the show, and dealing with problem actors, and at the end of the second season, he cancelled the show, despite high ratings with the public. Over the next two years, he had difficulty finding work, until actress Carol Burnett asked him to write a comedy special for her. The success of the special brought Hiken back to the attention of the Hollywood bosses, and he was soon asked to write and produce a movie, "The Love God?" (1969), a comedy that would star Don Knotts. In the middle of production, Hiken died of a sudden heart attack at his home in Brentwood, California, at the age of 54. After a series of rewrites and several changes of lead actor, "The Love God?" was finally released, and quickly failed at the box office; without Hiken, it was felt that the film lacked his comic genius. Over his lifetime, Hiken won a total of five Emmy awards, four for the "Phil Silvers Show" and one for "Car 54, Where are You?" He was also nominated for three other Emmy Awards, which did not win.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson