The original off-Broadway production opened at the Joseph Papp Public Theater/Martinson Hall on May 29, 1987, ran for 210 performances and closed November 29, 1987. The Broadway revival opened at the Longacre Theater on March 11, 2007, ran for 121 performances and closed on June 24, 2007 winning the 2007 Tony Award® Best Revival of a Play.
In his research for the film version, actor Eric Bogosian often watched the on-air production of Tom Leykis' talk show, then originating from Los Angeles station KFI. Bogosian's fictional character in the film shares many speech patterns and mannerisms with real-life talker Leykis.
Eric Bogosian wrote the screenplay with help from director Oliver Stone. The screenplay was almost entirely based on Bogosian's original play and some biographical information about Alan Berg, a talk show host in Denver who was murdered in 1984 by white supremacists.
When Barry is bring introduced to the crowd at the SMU basketball game, the Emcee says that "football will be back in the fall". It was during this period that the real SMU football program had received the "death penalty" from the NCAA for recruiting violations, and the program itself had been forced to shut down operations.