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Born in Dayton, Ohio to Richard ("Rich") Unger and Eleanor ("Ellie") Oprea, Brian Unger grew up in Granville. He graduated from Ohio University in 1987, where he majored in communication. He had worked on a television show called Fridays Live, an OU student-produced comedy show airing on WOUB-TV, the local PBS affiliate. Unger recently returned to make a cameo on the show's Season 17 finale. Unger has Romanian ethnic heritage.
Unger was an original correspondent and producer on The Daily Show, from 1996-99. While working for The Daily Show in 1998, he was named one of Entertainment Weekly's "100 Most Creative People in Entertainment." Unger's other television appearances include O2Be on Oxygen, the Comedy Central shows Reno 911! and The Man Show, various I Love the... shows on VH1, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Hollywood Off-Ramp on E!, as well as appearances on NBC's The Jay Leno Show and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!, NBC's Later, E!'s Talk Soup, the syndicated entertainment newsmagazine Extra, the stand-up comedy DVD Zach Galifianakis Live at the Purple Onion.
He provided regular commentary ("The Unger Report") for the NPR show Day to Day from its launch in 2003 until its cancellation, making his final "Unger Report" on March 16, 2009. He currently provides regular commentary to NPR's All Things Considered.
He has hosted on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Discovery Channel show Some Assembly Required (with University of Virginia Professor of Physics Lou Bloomfield; and then solo in its final season). Unger was one of the co-hosts for the pilot of a new PBS series, Wired Science, which aired in January 2007 and was subsequently picked up to debut later in the year, though Unger did not remain involved with the show.