This Day in Comedy History
April 1 - April 7
Happy April Fools' Day!
1948 - The first edition of Spring Thaw, the musical sketch revue that would tour Canada coast-to-coast until 1971, helping to develop some of the country’s top comedic talent, is produced by the New Play Society at Toronto’s Museum Theatre.
1957 - The BBC TV news program Panorama pull off their infamous “spaghetti tree” hoax, showing clips of what they claimed to be Swiss farmers harvesting spaghetti from trees, and describing the eradication of “spaghetti weevils”. A large number of people would actually contact the BBC wanting to know how to cultivate their own spaghetti trees.
1962 - Sweden’s national TV network broadcasts a 5-minute special on how one could get color TV by placing a nylon stocking in front of the TV. A rather in-depth, convincing description on the physics behind the phenomenon was included. Thousands of people tried it.
1965 - BBC strikes again with another April Fool's Day prank, as BBC TV TV announce a trial of their new technology: "Smell-O-Vision". Many viewers reportedly contact the BBC to report the trial's success as they could smell objects through their TVs. In 2007, BBC’s website repeated the hoax online; so did Google, as a tribute, in 2013.
1968 - After eight years and 249 episodes, The Andy Griffith Show airs its finale. The beloved sitcom remains popular in reruns today.
1973 - The first Humorina, a community April Fools' Day festival involving dressing up and playing pranks, is celebrated in Odessa, Ukraine.
1976 - The folks at BBC are at it again! As an April Fool’s Day prank, British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore tells his listeners on BBC Radio about the Jovian–Plutonian gravitational effect, insisting that a unique alignment of two planets would result in an upward gravitational pull making people lighter at precisely 9:47am. He invited his audience to jump in the air and experience "a strange floating sensation". Dozens of listeners phoned in to say the experiment had worked, among them a woman who reported that she and her 11 friends were "wafted from their chairs and orbited gently around the room."
1978 - Happy Trails To You airs. It's the finale episode of The Bob Newhart Show, ending Bob Newhart’s first hit TV series after six seasons.
1980 - Boston television station WNAC-TV aired a fake 6 o’clock news bulletin, reporting that Great Blue Hill, in an affluent Boston suburb, was erupting. The prank resulted in panic, with hundreds of phone calls and some residents fleeing their homes. Producer Homer Cilley was fired by the station for “failure to exercise good news judgment" and violating FCC rules.
1984 - The first of “Weird Al” Yankovic's Al TV specials aired on MTV.
1985 - Sports Illustrated publishes George Plimpton’s article about a fictitious baseball player, Hayden Siddhartha Finch of the New York Mets, who could throw the ball 168 miles per hour but played with one bare foot and one hiking boot. Due to its success, Plimpton later expanded the piece into a full-length novel on Finch's life.
1990 - Viacom introduces HA!, a new 24-hour all comedy network designed to compete with The Comedy Channel. Apparently they believed this could only be achieved by airing old sitcoms and rerunning a handful of seasons of Saturday Night Live. This new celebration of comedic excellence, which was about as artistically creative as its logo (see it below to have your mind blown), would last one year.
1995 - The 25th and final Canadian date of Weird Al Yankovic’s "Al-Can Tour" takes place at the Memorial Centre in Peterborough.
1996 - Better run for the border! On April Fool’s Day in 1996, Taco Bell took out full-page advertisements in major newspapers announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to "reduce the country's debt" and renamed it the "Taco Liberty Bell". When asked about the sale, White House press secretary Mike McCurry replied tongue-in-cheek that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would henceforth be known as the Lincoln-Mercury Memorial.
1998 - Boston radio shock jocks Opie and Anthony, while discussing April Fool’s Day pranks, announce several times that Boston mayor Thomas Menino had been killed in a car accident. Menino happened to be on a flight at the time, lending credence to the prank as he could not be reached, and the rumor quickly spread. The pair were fired shortly thereafter.
2000 - Australia's Triple J Breakfast radio show hosted by comedian Adam Spencer announced that the International Olympic Committee had stripped Sydney of its right to host the 2000 Summer Olympics, including a phone conversation with then-New South Wales Premier Bob Carr.
2001 - Rick Mercer’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes spinoff special Talking To Americans draws 2.7 million viewers.
2008 - Canadian comedian Big Daddy Tazz breaks the World’s record for longest stand-up (to that point), with an eight-and-a-half hour set at Winnipeg’s Gas Station Theatre.
2008 - Terry Jones appears in a BBC news report about a newly discovered colony of flying penguins. The elaborate April Fools’ Day report described how the penguins migrate from Antarctica, to the Amazon rainforest, and once again resulted in many calls to the network.
2012 - The Criterion Collection, distributors of "important classic and contemporary films", announce as an April Fool’s Day prank that the Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy Kindergarten Cop had been selected for special release on DVD and BluRay due to “its genre revisionist use of both the police procedural and family comedy genres” in the same film. Their sly prank included a web page dedicated to the special release, advertising extras ranging from “Fingers to Finger-Painting,” an interview with cinematographer Michael Chapman (who had worked with Scorsese), a hilarious new DVD cover, beautiful “hand-painted posters from Ghana,” and a picture of legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa visiting Schwarzenegger on the set of the movie.
2013 - Kristen Schaal's first Comedy Central special, Kristen Schaal: Live at the Fillmore is released.
2014 - "April Fools!" King's College, Cambridge announce their plan to discontinue the use of trebles ('boy sopranos') and instead use grown men who have inhaled helium gas.
1908 – Happy Birthday, Jed! Actor Buddy Ebsen, best known for portraying the patriarch of the Clampett clan in the hit sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, was born on this day in 1908.
1945 - Linda Hunt, best known as a dramatic actress but whose film resume also includes many comedies, including Popeye, Kindergarten Cop, She-Devil, Stranger Than Fiction and Yours, Mine & Ours, is born in Morristown, New Jersey. Fun fact: She is also the first actor to win an Academy Award for portraying a character of the opposite sex (for playing Billy Kwan in 1982’s The Year of Living Dangerously).
1947 - Actor Sam Anderson, best known for portraying Mr. Gorpley in the sitcom Perfect Strangers, and young Forrest Gump's principal, was born in Wahpeton, North Dakota.
1962 - Actor Clark Gregg (The New Adventures of Old Christine) is born in Boston.
1972 - Charlie Chaplin returns to the United States for the first time since being labeled a communist during the Red Scare in the early 1950s.
1974 - At the 46th Academy Awards, 10 year-old Tatum O’Neal becomes the youngest ever Oscar Winner, taking Best Supporting Actress for Paper Moon, 71 year-old John Houseman becomes the oldest Best Supporting Actor winner for The Paper Chase, Groucho Marx accepts an honorary Oscar on behalf of The Marx Brothers, and the grifter comedy/drama The Sting wins seven trophies including Best Picture... Oh, and a streaker runs across the stage prompting co-host David Niven to quip “ The only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWBc-ir6IFM
1981 - Kapil Sharma, Indian comedian and TV host, is born.
2000 - Red tape loving Hermes surprisingly struggles under a new, tough bureaucrat, who - even more surprisingly - loves the filthy, directionless Fry, on the Futurama episode How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back, premiering on this date.
2010 - Carlo Vanzina’s Italian comedy Life is a Wonderful Thing (La vita è una cosa meravigliosa) premieres. The story of a Roman policeman who discovers that his girlfriend is a prostitute then concocts a scheme with a rich banker, the film would mark Italian film and TV actor Vincenzo Crocitti’s last role.
2014 - South African writer Glyn Jones (Here Come the Double Deckers!) passes away in Vamos, Crete, Greece at 82.
1922 - One of the most popular film rom-com stars of the 1950s and 60s, best remembered for Pillow Talk, Move Over Darling, The Pajama Game, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and With Six You Get Eggroll, singer and actor Doris Day is born in Cincinnati, Ohio.
1942 - Star of stage and screen Marsha Mason is born in St. Louis. She has performed many roles on Broadway, TV and in films, where she was nominated four times for Academy Awards, including three comedies - The Goodbye Girl (1977), Chapter Two (1979), and Only When I Laugh (1981). The Goodbye Girl also won her a Golden Globe.
1949 - Comedy team Martin & Lewis debut the TV version of their Martin & Lewis radio show on NBC, with guest Bob Hope. Their inaugural program drew lackluster reviews, prompting the duo to hire new writers, including Norman Lear.
1953 - Putting no pressure at all on a newborn, the very first edition of TV Guide magazine features the child of I Love Lucy’s stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Desiderio Arnaz IV (who would become better known as “Desi Jr.”), with the headline: “Lucy’s $50,000,000 Baby”.
1957 - Canadian character actor Ned Sparks passes away in Victorville, CA. Though best known for his dour, serious roles, he also starred in a number of silent comedies - and is also remembered for a publicity stunt in which $10,000 was offered to anyone who could capture him smiling in a photograph.
1958 - Alec Baldwin, arguably the funniest Baldwin brother, is born.
1959 - The Coasters’ novelty song “Charlie Brown” is banned by BBC Radio because it contains the word “spitball”... We’re guessing they really hated Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-A-Ling”.
1959 - Best known as Fraser’s even more snobby brother Niles Crane, David Hyde Pierce is born.
1961 - Stand-up comedy icon, Saturday Night Live legend and movie superstar Eddie Murphy is born in Brooklyn, NYC.
1968 - British actress best known for Four Weddings and a Funeral and How Do You Want Me?, Charlotte Coleman is born in Islington, London, England.
1973 - Actor Adam Scott, best known from the American sitcom Parks & Recreation, is born.
1975 - Standup comedian and MAD TV cast member Aries Spears is born.
1978 - At the Academy Awards, Richard Dreyfuss takes the Best Actor Oscar for his work in The Goodbye Girl. At 30 years old, Dreyfuss would be the youngest person to take that trophy for 25 years.
1978 - 11 years into his career, Steve Martin is dubbed "Comedy’s New Face" on the cover of Newsweek magazine.
1982 - How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders is born in Vancouver, Canada.
1987 - Actress Rachel Bloom, best known for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, is born.
1993 - Former children’s TV show host Pinky Lee dies of a heart attack at age 85 at his California home.
1995 - Howard Stern makes fun of the shooting of singer Selena by playing a song of hers with gunshot sound effects added, adding: "Spanish people have the worst taste in music. They have no depth. Alvin and the Chipmunks have more soul." Latin Americans called for boycotts and his cancelation, prompting him to issue an apology in Spanish, but not before a warrant for his arrest was issued in Texas for disorderly conduct.
2008 - Chris Rock is declared “the funniest motherf***er in the USA” on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine... We're guessing Will Smith didn't read that issue.
2012 - Weird Al Yankovic launches his new comedic celebrity interview web series Face to Face with 'Weird Al' Yankovic. The series features Al TV-esque fake interviews with movie stars.
1964 - Stand-up comedian David Cross is born in Roswell, Georgia. Cross is best known for his HBO sketch series Mr. Show with Bob and David (with Bob Odenkirk), and for playing Tobias Fünke, the world’s first “analrapist” (part analyst, part therapist), on Arrested Development.
1964 - From The Second City, The Red Green Show, The Producers, and one of the creators of The Drowsy Chaperone, comic actor, improviser, and educator Paul O’Sullivan is born.
1965 - Before he began generating billions in box office revenues as Tony Stark in Iron Man, he was known for films like Weird Science, Chaplin, The Pick-Up Artist, Soapdish, and Tropic Thunder. Robert Downey Jr. is born in New York City.
1967 - The Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller film Eight on the Lam premieres in theatres.
1969 - The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour is abruptly cancelled with an announcement by Walter Cronkite on The CBS Evening News, stating: "CBS announced today that The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour will not be returning to the CBS television network next season. Network president Robert Wood said it became evident that the brothers 'were unwilling to accept the criteria of taste established by CBS.' CBS News’ efforts to reach the brothers for comment have been unsuccessful." It would be replaced on the schedule by Hee Haw. The brothers sued the network (over the cancellation thing, not the Hee Haw thing) and won, but not until four years later, when a federal court ruled on April 6, 1973 that CBS owed the Smotherses $776,300 (equivalent to $4,613,305 in 2020).
1975 - The sitcom The Good Life premieres on BBC. (It’s better known as Good Neighbors on PBS in the United States.)
1999 - Futurama’s second episode - and a favorite of its fans - airs. In The Series Has Landed, Fry and his new future friends make a delivery to the moon, which is now an amusement park. Also premiering on Fox’s animation schedule on this night: Season 10 Episode 18 of The Simpsons, Simpsons Bible Stories.
1991 - The Seinfeld episode The Apartment premieres. Jerry helps Elaine get an apartment in his building, only to quickly regret it after she moves in. Meanwhile, George starts wearing a wedding ring because he thinks it will make him more attractive to women.
2004 - The Eric Bartholomew pub opens in Morecambe, England. Eric Bartholomew is the real name of comedian Eric Morecambe, who took his name from his hometown after he partnered with Ernie Wise to form the legendary comedy team of Morecambe & Wise.
1955 - Best known for This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Codco, Cathy Jones is born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
1959 - In an example of bold booking, the king of the controversial stand-ups, Lenny Bruce, makes his Steve Allen Show debut.
1964 - Comedian, actor and rapper known better as the "Kid" half of Kid n’ Play (of House Party fame), Christopher Reid is born in The Bronx, New York.
1982 - At the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee, after months of public feuding, Jerry Lawler vs Andy Kaufman finally happens with Lawler pile-driving Andy and putting him in the hospital, “seriously injuring” his neck. Because piledrivers are illegal for this match, Kaufman wins and keeps his undefeated streak going. The feud thus continues, leading to the pair’s infamous “slapping” incident on Letterman three months later.
1987 - After its “soft opening” in October, the Fox Network has its “Grand Opening,” unveiling their Sunday night lineup. Married... With Children premieres and stays on the air until 1997, making it the network’s first primetime series and still its longest running. FUN FACT: Despite its popular success, the show’s cast, writers and directors never received a single Emmy nomination. In fact, MWC never won a single Emmy in any category, and only got seven nominations - all for costuming, editing and lighting. Also debuting on this night, after MWC: The Tracy Ullman Show, which would also have a successful run (four seasons)... but much more luck with the Emmy folks.
1989 - The Robert Guillaume Show debuts on ABC. The sitcom runs until August, but is not picked up for a second season.
1991 - The Marrying Man premieres, starring Alec Baldwin as a millionaire playboy who visits Las Vegas and marries a woman he barely knows (Kim Basinger). Robert Loggia also stars.
1991 - John Leguizamo and Doug E. Doug star in Hangin’ With The Homeboys, premiering in theatres on this date.
1991 - Tom Arnold’s comedy special Duck Soup premieres, featuring appearances by Roseanne Barr/Arnold/just Roseanne, Jim Carrey and David Cassidy.
1997 - The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode The She-Creature premieres.
1998 - Phil decides to leave the show early when the network is interested in his TV pilot idea in the Pilots and Pens Lost episode of The Larry Sanders Show, premiering on this date.
1998 - The Trouble With Trillions episode of The Simpsons premieres.
2004 - Three old friends are reunited after one of them ends up in hospital following an accident in the David Jason TV movie The Second Quest, first running on this date.
2011 - Tina Fey’s autobiography Bossypants is released by Little, Brown and Company. The book goes on to sell two and a half million copies and top the New York Times Best Sellers list for five weeks.
2014 - Comedian John Pinette died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the age of 50, of a pulmonary embolism.
2017 - Hank Azaria stars as a once-famous baseball broadcaster on the long road back. With co-stars Amanda Peet and Tyrel Jackson Williams, the sitcom Brockmire debuts on IFC. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axJiHDSObW4
1931 - Based on the Mark Twain novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, the Will Rogers comedy/fantasy A Connecticut Yankee opens in theatres.
1947 - Best known as mail-toting know-it-all Cliff Clavin on Cheers, actor John Ratzenberger is born in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
1959 - Montreal born comedian Mort Sahl is one of the hosts of the Academy Awards, where London, Ontario’s Jack Warner is bestowed with the Irving Thalberg Award.
1969 - Actor from the films Clueless, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and This Is 40, Paul Rudd is born in Passaic, New Jersey.
1984 - Moscow on the Hudson premieres, starring Robin Williams as a Russian circus performer who defects while visiting New York City. Co-stars include María Conchita Alonso, Cleavant Derricks and Yakov Smirnoff.
2000 - Dave Thomas of SCTV fame hosted the inaugural Canadian Comedy Awards at the Masonic Temple in Toronto. Mary Walsh and Rick Mercer both walked away with three unfortunately named “Beavers”, with Mike Myers and Don McKellar each taking home two.
2003 - Johnny English premieres in UK theatres, starring Rowan Atkinson.
2017 - The story of three college dropouts who all live and work together, the sitcom Workaholics debuts on Comedy Central, starring and created by Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine, Anders Holm and Kyle Newacheck, and featuring Jillian Bell, Maribeth Monroe, and Erik Griffin. https://www.imdb.com/video/vi429825305
2017 - Comedy legend Don Rickles passes away, aged 90.
1930 - Best known as Manuel, the Spanish waiter on the classic British series Fawlty Towers, Andrew Sachs is born in Berlin, Germany.
1947 - Radio star Fred Allen makes the cover of Time Magazine.
1970 - At the Academy Awards, Goldie Hawn wins the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Cactus Flower, starring Walter Matthau and Ingrid Berman. As Hawn is busy filming in London, the award is accepted on her behalf by Raquel Welch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVtKnZoKbjs
1976 - The underdog story of a rag tag collection of baseball misfits starring Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal, The Bad News Bears opens in wide release.
1977 - Lily Tomlin makes the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
1995 - Texas Judge Eloy Cano of Harlingen, Texas issues an arrest warrant on Howard Stern for disorderly conduct, after he made fun of the shooting of singer Selena the previous week by playing one of her songs with added gunshot sound effects and bashing Spanish people and their music. The warrant would remain in place for a year after the incident.
2006 - The Red Green Show’s final episode airs on CBC, after 15 seasons.
2012 - Late in season 37, Kate McKinnon makes her SNL debut.
2017 - Carl and Rob Reiner have their handprints immortalized in the concrete of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
2020 - The last ever episode of the series Schitt’s Creek, Happy Ending, airs on CBC in Canada and Logo TV and Comedy Central in the U.S.