This Day in Comedy History
April 15 - April 21
1898 - Actress and radio personality best known for her 24 years starring as Molly on the hit radio series Fibber McGee and Molly, Marian Jordan is born in Peoria, Illinois.
1917 - Actor and voice artist known for multiple Disney productions, The Danny Thomas Show and The Patsy, Hans Conried is born in Baltimore, Maryland.
1933 - Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery is born in Hollywood, California.
1957 - He's also Innovative, Inspired and Influential, but Life Magazine decides to go with "Inventive" in describing Ernie Kovacs on their cover.
1958 - Canadian actress Wendel Meldrum, from The Wonder Years, Less Than Kind, and famed “Low Talker” from Seinfeld’s Puffy Shirt episode, is born in Rome, Italy (or possibly Edmonton, Alberta).
1959 - Comedian, vlogger, podcaster and actor best known for his role as various generations of Tannen bullies (Biff, Griff and Buford aka “Mad Dog”) in the Back to the Future trilogy, and for playing Coach Ben Fredricks in the series Freaks and Geeks, Tom Wilson is born in Philadelphia. And just to be clear, we’re talking about Thomas F. Wilson, not the Tom Wilson (1880-1965) who appeared in supporting roles in countless silent film comedies, okay?
1982 - Seth Rogen, known for starring in such films as Knocked Up, Superbad, Neighbors, and 40 Year-Old Virgin, is born in Vancouver, BC... possibly with a bong in each hand.
1984 - Veteran British comedian Tommy Cooper collapses onstage in front of millions of television viewers during a variety performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Westminster, London. While the crowd laughs, he succumbs to a heart attack.
1988 - British actor Kenneth Williams, best known for appearing in 26 of the 31 films in the Carry On series, dies of an overdose of barbiturates at the age of 62.
1990 - Keenen Ivory Wayans' bold new brand of sketch comedy show In Living Color debuts on Fox, with a cast featuring pretty much the entire Wayans family, David Alan Grier, Jamie Foxx, and the man the show would launch to superstardom, Jim Carrey.
1993 - Unhappy at the level of writing on the new Itchy and Scratchy cartoons, Bart and Lisa try their own hands at it and submit the scripts using Grandpa Simpson’s name. The result? Abe wins an award for “Little Barbershop of Horrors” - but is horrified to see clips of what his name has been put on. The Simpsons episode The Front airs on Fox.
2000 - Promoting a new TV Movie about the trio, The Three Stooges take up three TV Guide covers.
2004 - After three series, the 16th and final episode of Black Books airs. In Party, Manny and Fran drag Bernard to a party, but secrets are revealed in its drunken aftermath which leads to bitterness… even more bitterness than usual.
2009 - Live from the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon, Kathy Griffin’s special She’ll Cut a Bitch is broadcast on Bravo.
2010 - After three seasons, the final episode of The Sarah Silverman Program airs on Comedy Central.
2012 - With many elements drawn from her own life, Lena Dunham’s comedy/drama series Girls premieres on HBO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4tY-2PTFPg
2015 - Nashville’s East Room comedy club broke the world record for longest continuous stand-up comedy show (multiple comedians) of 80 hours, which had been held by Hollywood’s Laugh Factory since 2010.
1787 - Believed to be the first American comedy play ever presented, The Contrast makes its debut in New York City.
1889 - One of the biggest superstars of the silent - or any other - film era, Charlie Chaplin is born in Walworth, London, England.
1918 – Hugely influential as the co-creator, head writer and one of the stars of The Goons, writer and comedian Spike Milligan KBE is born in Ahmednagar, India.
1927 - Frequent co-star with her husband Ernie Kovacs, comic and actress Edie Adams is born in Kingston, Pennsylvania.
1932 - Centred around the duo trying to carry a piano up a flight of stairs, Laurel and Hardy’s The Music Box is released by MBM. The Hal Roach production would go on to win the first ever Academy Award presented for Best Live Action Short (Comedy).
1950 - Best known as Sgt. Eugene Tackleberry in the Police Academy film series, David Graf is born in Zanesville, Ohio.
1952 - “Good news, everyone!” Professor Farnsworth himself - talented American voice actor Billy West (Futurama, Ren & Stimpy) - was born on this day in 1952.
1954 - Ellen Barkin, was born on this day. While she found comedic fame in movies like Diner, Ocean’s Thirteen, and Switch, her film debut came in Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke, in the uncredited role of “Woman Playing Guitar”.
1965 - English comedian Sydney Chaplin, half brother and manager of Charlie Chaplin, passed away - on Charlie’s 76th birthday, and one month after his own 80th.
1965 - Actor from Pretty In Pink and Two and a Half Men, Jon Cryer is born in New York City.
1965 - Comic and actor from the Bad Boys, Big Momma and House Party films among others, and the star of his own TV series Martin, Martin Lawrence is born in Frankfurt, West Germany.
1972 - Edinburgh Fringe favourite, theatre touring stand-up, and mainstay on Dara O’Briain television projects, Irish comic Ed Byrne is born in Swords, County Dublin.
2006 - The one hour comedy/drama What About Brian debuts on ABC.
2012 - On what would have been his 128th birthday, 662 Charlie Chaplin lookalikes gather at his former home - and current Chaplin Museum - in Switzerland to set a World Record.
2018 - Sleight-of-hand magician, comic and actor best known for starring as Judge Harry Stone on the NBC series Night Court, Harry Anderson passes away from a combination of strokes and influenza at the age of 65. He also starred as Dave Barry on the CBS sitcom Dave’s World, and had a recurring role as con man Harry “The Hat” Gittes on Cheers.
1896 - Best known for his frequent appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, Spanish ventriloquist and comedian Senor Wences is born Wenceslao Moreno in Salamanca, Spain.
1937 - One of the most famous characters in the entire Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies stable, Daffy Duck debuts in the episode Porky’s Duck Hunt.
1952 - Stand-up, actor and Mel Blanc successor at Warner Brothers - voicing many cartoon characters including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat, Tweety Bird, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Pepé Le Pew, Marvin the Martian, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote and Taz - Joe Alaskey is born in Troy, New York.
1963 - Younger brother of Bill and Brian Doyle known for playing drunken good-time guy Freddie Rumson on Mad Men, starring in Bobcat Goldthwait’s God Bless America, and as one of the members of the Who’s Live Anyway tour with Ryan Stiles and Greg Proops, Joel Murray is born in Wilmette, Illinois.
1967 - Best known for her role as Maria Borges on Head of the Class, Leslie Bega is born in Los Angeles.
1987 - Comic Dick Shawn (The Producers, It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) passes away onstage during his one-man show at the Mandeville Center on the University of California at San Diego campus. Unpredictable as a performer, the crowd sensed nothing unusual when he collapsed, falling forward on the stage. People laughed and cracked jokes for five minutes until a stagehand checked him and called for medical help. After CPR was initiated, the audience was asked to leave the auditorium, but most remained, still assuming that it was all part of Shawn's act. Many began leaving—still unsure of what they had witnessed—only after paramedics arrived. He was 63.
1987 - It’s Joel and Ethan Cohen’s story of a young Southwest couple who will do whatever it takes to have a family, and keep it together. With stars Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter, and featuring John Goodman, Raising Arizona opens in wide release. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AIfVoGUs6c
1996 - Award-winning youth actress best known for her role as Bryana “Baby Girl” Thomkins on The Bernie Mac Show, Dee Dee Davis is born in Culver City, California.
2011 - The 9th Annual TV Land Awards are hosted by Jane Lynch. Winners included The Facts of Life, Family Ties, The Cosby Show and Welcome Back, Kotter. Presenters included Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick, Paul Reiser and Ben Stiller.
2013 - Winnipeg born musical-comedy star and former “highest salaried woman” in the United States - she was 2nd to Bette Davis in 1946, tops in 1947, and then quit the business at just 26 years of age! - Deanna Durbin passes away aged 91 in Neauphle-le-Château, France. During her active years, Durbin boasted the world’s largest fan club.
2014 - While it would come back for an additional year on Yahoo! Screen, five years after its premiere on the network, the final episode of the series Community on NBC airs.
2016 - The TV Land Icon Awards are handed out; hosted by George Lopez they are to date the final TV Land Awards ceremony. Winners included Key & Peele, Norman Lear, John Stamos and Jim Parsons. Presenters included Garry Marshall, Seth MacFarlane and Rob Huebel.
2016 - A five time Emmy Award winner whose television career spanned 7 decades, though she is perhaps best remembered as Ray’s mother Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond, actress Doris Roberts passes away following a stroke at the age of 90.
2020 - The Kenya Barris/Rashida Jones sitcom #blackAF, from the creator of Black-ish, is released on Netflix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-LtbHykms0
1904 - Comic and recording act who would spend years on the chitlin’ circuit and play Harlem’s Apollo Theater possibly more than any other act, before breaking through to a white audience late in his career with frequent appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham is born in Durham, North Carolina. His nickname came from one of his signature routines, in which he refers to himself as "Sweet Poppa Pigmeat".
1918 - A pioneer as a female stand-up in Britain as well as an actress who worked alongside the likes of Frankie Howerd, Arthur Askey, and Terry-Thomas, Avril Angers is born with the full name Florence Avril Angers, in Liverpool.
1953 - SCTV’s Rick Moranis is born in Toronto. Notable movie roles include the first two Ghostbusters films, the cult classic Strange Brew, Spaceballs, Little Shop of Horrors and the Honey I Shrunk the Kids series, in which he notably also expands and shrinks a toddler and himself, respectively.
1966 - At the 38th Academy Awards The Sound of Music and Dr. Zhivago win five each, but the big surprise comes in the Best Actor category where the likes of Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, Oskar Werner, and Rod Steiger watch Lee Marvin take home the Oscar for Cat Ballou, one of the few comedic performances to ever capture the honour.
2004 - At the 2004 British Academy Television Awards, Little Britain wins Best Comedy, Ricky Gervais takes Best Comedy Performance for The Office Christmas Special (which would also win for Situation Comedy) , and Best Entertainment Performance goes to Jonathan Ross for his work on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.
2015 - After a two year hiatus, Terry Crews hosts The 2015 TV Land Awards. Winners included Freaks and Geeks, The Wonder Years, Ally McBeal, Parenthood, Betty White and Donny & Marie Osmond. Presenters included Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick, Martin Sheen, Lauren Graham, Paula Abdul and Carl Reiner.
1858 - Oscar nominated actress whose career came late in life known for roles like Aunt Elizabeth in Bringing Up Baby, Ma Manell in The Kid from Kokomo, and the title character in Granny Get Your Gun, Mae Robson is born in Moama, New South Wales, Australia.
1898 - A star of the silent age who preferred subtle comedy over the favoured slapstick of the era, and practiced it through more than 80 films, actress Constance Talmadge is born in Brooklyn, New York.
1920 - A regular on The Bob Hope, Jack Benny and Ed Sullivan Shows, best known for his Crazy Guggenheim character in The Jackie Gleason Show’s Joe the Bartender sketches, and a voice-actor whose own voice has been the inspiration for a wide range of characters from Pete Puma in Bugs Bunny cartoons to The Simpsons' Barney Gumble, comic Frank Fontaine is born in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
1927 - Having been found guilty of “obscenity and corrupting the morals of youth” for her play Sex, Mae West is sentenced to 10 days in jail. She had the opportunity to avoid the jail sentence by instead simply paying a fine, but shrewdly anticipated that the stint in lockup would be worth much more in publicity. She was right and the time behind bars helped cement her bad girl reputation which she would play on for the rest of her career. Ironically, she was released after only eight days in the stir - a reward for her good behaviour :)
1933 - Sex symbol and star of stage, screen, and nightclubs known for films including Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, The Girl Can’t Help It, and Promises! Promises!, Jayne Mansfield is born Vera Jayne Palmer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
1987 - The first Simpsons short airs as part of The Tracy Ullman Show on Fox. It soon becomes a half hour primetime series on the network, and the rest is history.
1992 - British comic known for That Was The Week That Was and The Frankie Howerd Show as well as both the “Carry On” and “Up The” film franchises, Frankie Howerd dies of heart failure at the age of 75.
2002 - It began as a screenplay that she couldn't get read without an agent - then it was a solo show she performed in a theatre she rented herself - before finally evolving into a box office giant... Canadian actress and writer Nia Vardalos’ My Big Fat Greek Wedding opens in theatres.
2009 - A statue of the legendary comedy duo Laurel and Hardy is unveiled in front of a large crowd in Stan Laurel’s hometown of Ulverston, England. Along with the two famous comics, the statue also features a small dog biting at Oliver Hardy’s pant leg.
1959 - Younger brother to Ron, known for The Waterboy, Ice Cream Man, Gung Ho, and Parenthood, as well as notable recurring roles on My Name Is Earl and Arrested Development, actor Clint Howard is born in Burbank, California.
1964 - Crispin Glover, who rose to comedic fame as George McFly in Back to the Future, sort of screwed up that fame with a bizarre appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, then won much of it back in films like Charlie’s Angels and Hot Tub Time Machine, is born in New York City.
1976 - A week into their run at New York’s City Center 55th St. Theatre, Monty Python have a guest drop in quietly. Without fanfare, introduction, or even acknowledgement, former Beatle George Harrison joins the Mountie chorus for The Lumberjack Song.
2001 - Horrible or horribly misunderstood? What many people still consider to be quite possibly the very worst film ever made, Tom Green’s Freddy Got Fingered opens in theatres. Critics universally panned it, but Roger Ebert’s infamously scathing review perhaps summed it up best: "This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels." The film would go on to be nominated for eight Razzie awards and win five, including Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Actor and Worst Director for Tom Green.
2016 - British comedian and actor Victoria Wood passed away aged 62 in Highgate, London, England. She was one of the UK’s most popular comedians of the 1980s, and in 2006 came in tenth on ITV’s poll of Britain’s 50 Greatest TV Stars.
1910 - At this point the reports were no longer greatly exaggerated. Referred to as “the greatest humorist the United States ever produced”, Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens) dies of a heart attack.
1951 - Tony Danza, of Taxi, Who’s the Boss, and The Tony Danza Show is born in Brooklyn, NY. And before you start cracking jokes about how his characters always had to be named “Tony”, let me remind you that he played a garbage man named Barney in the made for TV movie The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon… Maybe now you’ll have a little more respect for his work.
1970 - It's a double-birthday! The Daily Show, SNL, and The Hangover actor Rob Riggle is born in Louisville, Kentucky. On the same day, Nicole Sullivan, of MAD-TV and The King of Queens fame is born in New York City.
1977 - Annie opens on Broadway. Based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie, the show would prove to be a hit and run for nearly six years, setting a record for the Neil Simon Theatre (at the time called Alvin Theatre) and winning seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
1999 - A day after the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado, Howard Stern draws criticism for saying "There were some really good looking girls running out with their hands over their heads...Did [the suspects] try to have sex with any of the good looking girls?...At least if you are going to kill yourself and kill all the kids, why wouldn't you have some sex?...If I was going to kill some people, I'd take them out with sex.” Stern dismisses the criticism as overly sensitive.
2001 - Adam Sandler’s Little Nicky is released on DVD, featuring Harvey Keitel, Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans, Reese Witherspoon, Rodney Dangerfield, Robert Smigel, Tiny Lister, Kevin Nealon, Dana Carvey and Michael McKean, with cameos by Rob Schneider, Jon Lovitz and Henry Winkler. Despite all the talent involved, the film did poorly with critics and audiences alike.
2002 - At The British Academy Television Awards from the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Best Comedy (Programme or Series) goes to The Sketch Show, while Ricky Gervais wins Best Comedy Performance for The Office, which also takes Best Situation Comedy.
2010 - With voices from Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews and John Cleese, the final Shrek film (to this point) Shrek Forever After has its premiere as the opening night film of the Tribeca Film Festival.
2011 - Almost four years after the event, a British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal hearing orders comic Guy Earle to pay a gay audience member $15,000 as compensation for a tirade of insults and offensive comments from the drunken open mic MC, attacking the sexuality of the woman and her partner from the stage, twice at their table, and once again as she was exiting the restroom, where he also broke her sunglasses. The owner of the Vancouver restaurant was also fined for not controlling the situation better.
2015 - The Season 3 premiere of Inside Amy Schumer offers up two of the series’ most memorable sketches. The Friday Night Lights parody Football Town Nights, where guest Josh Charles tries to implement a no raping rule for his high school team, and Last F**kable Day, with guests Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey and Patricia Arquette.
2019 - It’s a rare case of life imitating art imitating life. Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian comic who starred as a high school teacher who becomes the President of Ukraine after a video of him ranting goes viral in the TV series Servant of the People, becomes the actual President of Ukraine! We're guessing Vladimir Putin didn't like the sitcom so much...