Born to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, Zweibel grew up in the New York City suburbs of Wantagh and Woodmere on Long Island. He graduated from George W. Hewlett High School in 1968 and The University at Buffalo, The State University of New York in 1972.
He co-wrote the movie Dragnet and articles for magazines such as Mad, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly and Esquire. He has written several books including North (which became a movie), Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner — A Sort of Love Story (about to become a feature film for HBO films), the children’s book Our Tree Named Steve and the novel The Other Shulman.
His work has also appeared on Broadway or Off Broadway. His collaboration with Billy Crystal, 700 Sundays, won a Tony Award. Between Cars, Comic Dialogue, Happy and Bunny Bunny were all produced Off Broadway.
On SNL, he helped to create the characters of Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella, both played by Gilda Radner. In fact, on Weekend Update, Radner read letters supposedly from Richard Feder who in real life is Zweibel's brother-in-law and does in fact live in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Zweibel was a feature player on Saturday Night Live for its fifth season (1979-1980 season). His celebrity impersonations include Marlon Brando (as his Colonel Kurtz character from Apocalypse Now), and Gary Morton .
Zweibel has won five Emmies, six Ace Awards, and two Writers Guild of America Awards. In November 2006, he won the Thurber Prize for American Humor for his novel The Other Shulman. But critic Roger Ebert was so infuriated by Zweibel's screenplay for North that he penned a now-famous review, one line from which later served as the title of Ebert's book, I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie; Zweibel carries a clipping of the review in his wallet.
Clothing Optional: And Other Ways to Read These Stories, a collection of Zweibel's essays and short stories, was published in September 2008 by Villard.