All in the Family

T. Sean Shannon may be an Emmy- nominated writer for Saturday Night Live, but that doesn't mean he's gotten too big for his britches. In the past few years, he's contributed work to an obscure e-zine, Dryhump Magazine, and a letter to the editor of Celebrator Beer News. When the Los Angeles Times ran a story on a comedy gig at a local Laundromat, the reporter was apparently unaware of the former Tonight Show writer's credentials -- his photo caption referenced him only as "T. Sean Shannon of Glendale" (he has residences in California and New York).

And for 12 years, he's been returning to Houston, the town of his comedy beginnings, to join funny forces with his three brothers for a holiday gig called The Shannon Brothers Christmas Show.

Co-star Charlie Shannon is also in the business. He started out writing jokes for T. Sean and other comics around town, but big Charlie finally got the urge to go up on stage himself after a fellow fat man decided not to do his weight jokes. "It was like heroin," Charlie says of the experience. He quit his job loading Rainbo bread onto trucks to tour the country doing standup, and he's now a writer for the new daily-comedy-news-game-show USA Tonight and the robot version of WWF, Battlebots. "You sit around and watch all the fights, and try writing new witty ways to describe a machine trying to kill another machine," Charlie explains.

As for the other two brothers in the show, Pat, although witty, does something boring like international computer sales, and John's a cop. "You laugh because he's a cop," Charlie says. "That's his role."

T. Sean got his big break when he sent some of his work to Quincy Jones. He was hired over the phone to be the head writer for Vibe. Apparently they had assumed from his name that he was black, because T. Sean got some strange looks when he walked in the door. But he didn't let that intimidate him. "We can get down, motherfucker," chimes Charlie, who also did a stint at the TV show. "If you want to do a good black talk show, you hire two Southern white guys," he jokes.

For the Christmas show, the brothers will mix live comedy bits with clips from T. Sean's more notorious SNL sketches, like "Nick Burns: Your Company Computer Guy," as well as some compiled footage of funny items from the news.

The sons of a NASA employee, the Shannon brothers also have a fifth older brother and three sisters. So far none of them has appeared in the show because, as Charlie bluntly puts it, they're not funny. "My dad's a dry wit, and my mom's funny, so we got it from them," Charlie says. "But the girls somehow got skipped by the comedy gene."

His sisters do have funny children, and he's open to one day including them in future productions. The Shannon brothers just may have a comedy dynasty on their hands.

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Dylan Otto Krider