Born and raised in Oakland, California, with a degree in journalism from San Jose State University in 1960, Gerald Nachman began his professional career his senior year of college, as TV critic and humor columnist for the San Jose Mercury. He later became a feature writer at the New York Post (1963-1966), worked as theater and film critic for the Oakland Tribune (1966-1971) and wrote a syndicated humor column, "Double Take," for the New York Daily News from 1972–1979.
His newspaper and magazine humor pieces are anthologized in two collections, Out on a Whim (Doubleday) and The Fragile Bachelor (Ten Speed Press), which dealt with "The Single Life," a syndicated column he wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle. His first book, Playing House (Doubleday), is a humorous look at marriage--his own and others'.
Nachman was entertainment columnist and theater critic for the San Francisco Chronicle from 1979 to 1993, where he also reviewed films, cabaret and comedy. He has also written for, among other publications, Esquire, Newsweek, Travel & Leisure, GQ, TV Guide, Cosmopolitan, and the Sunday New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Nachman won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his series of columns on Broadway lyricists, as well as a New York Newspaper Guild Page One Award for humor writing. In 1979, he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize selection jury for drama. He is the co-author of three musical revues: Quirks, Aftershocks and New Wrinkles, a show about the comic ravages of middle age that has had some twenty productions in the United States and Canada. He wrote the sketches for all three revues.
His book on radio's golden age, Raised on Radio, was published by Pantheon in 1998, with a paperback edition published by University of California Press in 2000. It was named by the Wall Street Journal in 2008 one of the five best books ever written about radio and that same year by NPR as one of three best books on radio. Nachman's book, Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s, was published by Pantheon in 2003, the first book to focus on a unique, remarkable and revolutionary golden age in American comedy and satire. The book received positive reviews in The New Yorker (a three-page piece by Adam Gopnik), Playboy, the New York Times Daily and Sunday Book Reviews, The Weekly Standard, the New York Observer, The Washington Post, Boston Globe and scores of other newspapers. A paperback edition was published in 2004 by Back Stage Books.
Seriously Funny covers the careers of Mort Sahl, Woody Allen, Shelley Berman, Steve Allen, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Mel Brooks, Jonathan Winters, Tom Lehrer, Bill Cosby, Dick Gregory, Godfrey Cambridge, Bob Newhart, Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, Alan Sherman, Stan Freberg, Jean Shepherd, Bob and Ray, Ernie Kovacs, and other groundbreaking comedians. Nachman co-curated a retrospective exhibit on Enrico Banducci's hungry i nightclub, inspired by his book, which ran for six months at the San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum in 2007. In 2009, he wrote the liner notes for a new box set of the five Mel Brooks-Carl Reiner 2000 Year Old Man albums.
Nachman's book, Right Here on Our Stage Tonight! Ed Sullivan's America, published in 2009 by the University of California Press, is about The Ed Sullivan Show's 23-year saga and its influence on American popular culture. The book has been nominated for the National Public History Award and optioned for a Broadway musical. The paperback edition was published in 2010.
Nachman is at work on his next three books, a collection of his pieces (humor, tributes, reviews, interviews) from the San Francisco Chronicle, a memoir tentatively titled Inklings, and the first definitive biography of Jack Benny.
Nachman is single and lives in San Francisco.