But he's not the only family member made immortal on the small screen. His younger brother Ari, a successful Hollywood agent, inspired the acerbic, hyperactive agent portrayed by Jeffrey Piven on the hit HBO series "Entourage." Zeke Emanuel said they grew up in a family where setting high goals and reaching them was just expected.
"We were raised to think that there are bigger things than you," he said, "and you have to justify your place in this world by making it better."
Zeke said Rahm was always the peacemaker growing up. But as the middle child he also learned that to get his way because he had to stand his ground.
"He's not thin-skinned and he wants to hear strong opinions," Zeke Emanuel said. "He likes the give-and-take and it helps him understand situations. If someone is critical of him, he doesn't turn them off. He listens to them."
It's a skill that family and friends say will serve him well in the White House.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., has known Rahm Emanuel for about 30 years. She's got a photo of Emanuel, his wife and kids displayed in her office and Rahm officiated at her stepdaughter's wedding a couple years ago.
"Is Rahm tough?" she asked. "You bet. ... He understands what needs to get done in order to get big things accomplished. Does he have a rough edge sometimes? Yeah, but you have to be tough in this job. This is not a tea party."
Indeed it is not. Emanuel has been tasked with helping President-elect Obama navigate through some of the roughest waters in presidential history. With two wars, a global economic crisis and a long list of campaign promises to keep, the Obama administration has its work cut out for itself.
DeLauro said Emanuel is especially suited to help steer the ship.
"The White House chief of staff has to deliver good news," she said. "And you deliver bad news. In order to be effective and get the job done, you have to be able to say, 'This is the way it is.' The job is about chemistry, and he has good chemistry with the president-elect. That will serve the country well."