Randy Cohen was born in Charleston, South Carolina and raised in Reading, Pennsylvania. He attended the State University of New York at Albany where, in 2011, he was granted an honorary doctorate. He received an MFA in music composition from the California Institute of the Arts.
His first professional work was writing humor pieces, essays, and stories for newspapers and magazines (The New Yorker, Harpers, the Atlantic, Young Love Comics). His first television work was writing for “Late Night With David Letterman” for which he won three Emmy awards. His fourth Emmy was for his work on Michael Moore’s “TV Nation.” He received a fifth Emmy as a result of a clerical error, and he kept it. He was the original head writer on the “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” for which he also co-wrote the theme music. In 2010, his first play, “The Punishing Blow,” ran at New York’s Clurman Theater.
For twelve years he wrote “The Ethicist,” a weekly column for the New York Times Magazine, an experience he drew on to write his first ethics book, “The Good, the Bad and the Difference.” His new book, “Be Good: how to navigate the ethics of everything,” will be published by Chronicle in September 2012. He is currently the creator and host of “Person Place Thing,” a public radio program produced by WAMC.