Calvin Trillin Biography

Journalist (1935–)
Humorist and columnist Calvin Trillin is best known for his food essays, which have been published in collection such as 1974’s American Fried.


Humorist Calvin Trillin was born on December 5, 1935, in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from Yale University. He worked for The New Yorker as a writer and for The Nation as a columnist. He’s best known for his colorful food essays, which have been published in collections such as 1974’s American Fried.

Early Life and Career

Calvin Marshall Trillin was born on December 5, 1935, in Kansas City, Missouri. The son of a grocer, he went on to attend Yale University. Trillin graduated in 1957, then spent two years in the U.S. Army. After his enlistment ended, Trillin worked for Time magazine, filing reports from their Atlanta bureau before relocating to New York City.

Writer and Humorist

In 1963, Calvin Trillin joined The New Yorker magazine as a writer. His first piece for the publication was an article about the desegregation of the University of Georgia. Four years later, Trillin launched his "U.S. Journal" series—for each piece, he would visit a different part of the country to write and research a new story. He wrote these articles until 1982.

Trillin tackled his love of food and interest in regional cuisine in numerous stories, which were collected into 1974's American Fried. Two more funny food-oriented collections followed—Alice, Let's Eat (1978) and Third Helpings (1983). In 1994, all of Trillin's food books were collected together in The Tummy Trilogy.

In 1978, Trillin started writing a humorous political column for The Nation. The column was syndicated in 1985, but ended its run in the mid-1990s. This work was collected in several books, including Uncivil Liberties (1982). In addition to writing, Trillin has performed on stage. He debuted his first one-man show, Calvin Trillin's Uncle Sam, in 1988.

Since 1990, Trillin has contributed funny political poetry to The Nation. His humorous poems have been published in several collections, including Dogfight: The 2012 Presidential Campaign in Verse. Trillin's long career as one of America's most popular humorists was celebrated with the anthology Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff (2011). In 2012, the book received the Thurber Prize for American Humor.


Trillin published the comic novel Runestruck in 1977. His early experiences at Time magazine inspired the 1980 novel Floater. Trillin also wrote Tepper Isn't Going Out (2001), a novel about a Manhattanite with a particular fixation on finding good on-street parking.

Personal Essays

Trillin's wife, Alice, was the voice of reason in many of his food-related columns. His personal life made an appearance in other essays, some of which were collected in Travels with Alice (1989). Trillin continued to find material within his family life with Messages from My Father (1996). In Family Man (1998), he reflected on being a husband to Alice and a father to daughters Abigail and Sarah.

Trillin and his family suffered a tremendous loss when his wife, whom he had married in 1965, died of heart failure in 2001. Trillin later wrote About Alice (2006) as a tribute to her.

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