Merrill was born in New York. But, she only lived there 3 years before her family moved away. They would move 5 times before settling near San Francisco.
She attended the University of California at Berkley, where she graduated with a Masters in art. She taught at USC for one year and then began taking film s. She, then, abandoned art and began her writing career for television.
After writing for a string of failed variety shows, Merrill finally hit the big time when she signed on as a writer for David Letterman. She stayed there 6 years before deciding she'd written as many skits as she possibly could.
After examining all of her possible career choices, she began an eclectic career of local news, essay writing, and the occasional TV appearance.