This Day in Comedy History
April 8 - April 14
1892 - Despite being known as “America’s Sweetheart”, one of the biggest stars of the silent-then-sound eras, Mary Pickford, is born in Toronto, Canada. Before her death in 1979, she would ensure her Canadian citizenship had not been revoked because she wished to “die as a Canadian.” She was also known as The Girl with the Curls, and Queen of the Movies.
1984 - The 4th Golden Raspberry Awards were held at Third Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, California. It was a long night for comedy films as drama The Lonely Lady took six “wins,” but it wasn’t a complete shutout thanks to Jim Nabors, who took the Worst Supporting Actor trophy for NASCAR comedy Stroker Ace. Other comedies nominated: Two of a Kind for Worst Picture, Loni Anderson for Worst Actress (also for Stroker Ace), and Richard Pryor’s comical supporting turn in Superman III.
2004 - In Travel Writer, the fifth episode of the third series of Black Books - and the second to last episode overall - Fran and Manny both become enamored with the dashing travel writer who comes to give a talk at the shop, while Bernard contends with a most unorthodox new landlord.
1935 – Avery Schreiber was born in Chicago. The American comedian is best remembered for his 1960s work as half of a duo with Jack Burns, particularly their 1973 variety series The Burns & Schreiber Comedy Hour.
1998 - Rik Mayall is seriously injured after crashing his quad bike near his home in Devon. The accident would leave him in a coma for several days, with doctors worried he could die or be left with permanent brain damage.
2017 – Best known for his collaborations with colleague Bryan Dawe, New Zealand-Australian comedian John Clarke passes away while hiking in Grampians National Park, Victoria, at the age of 68. He was primarily a satirist, and his work includes creating, writing and starring in the hit ABC series The Games.
1915 - Colonel Sherman T. Potter on M*A*S*H and Officer Bill Gannon on the crime drama series Dragnet (a role he would reprise in the Tom Hanks/Dan Aykroyd 1987 comedy flick of the same name), Harry Morgan is born in Detroit.
1963 - Both an iconic training source and launching pad, San Francisco improv troupe The Committee make their debut in a 300-seat Cabaret theater that used to be an indoor bocce ball court in San Francisco's North Beach district. The successful company would later add a Los Angeles theatre. Notable Committee alumni include improv guru Del Close, Howard Hesseman, Peter Bonerz, Leigh French, Barbara Bosson, David Ogden Stiers, Carl Gottlieb, Richard Stahl, Julie Payne, Rob Reiner, Mel Stewart and founder of The Groundlings, Gary Austin.
1972 - After years abroad, Charlie Chaplin returns to the U.S. to receive an Honorary Academy Award. Unsure of what the audience’s reaction will be after so much time away, the Little Tramp is welcomed with a 12-minute standing ovation.
1988 - The 8th Golden Raspberry Awards take place in Hollywood, and Bill Cosby’s Leonard Part 6 was the big “winner” with three trophies: Worst Picture, Worst Actor and Worst Screenplay. Worst Actress went to Madonna (Who’s That Girl?) over Sharon Stone (Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold) ,Worst Director was a tie, going to Ishtar and Tough Guys Don’t Dance, and Worst Song went to George Michael for Beverly Hills Cop II. Also nominated were Garbage Pail Kids, Ernest Goes to Camp (Jim Varney), Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol, Million Dollar Mystery and From the Hip (Judd Nelson).
1997 - With help from a supporting cast that includes David Cross, Andy Dick, Laura Silverman, Andy Kindler, Laura Kightlinger, Chuck Sklar, Kathy Griffin, Marc Maron, and Todd Barry, the debut film by Sam Seder and Sarah Silverman Who’s the Caboose premieres.
2008 - Michael and Jan have some people over to their condo, where Micheal tries to get Jim and Andy to invest in Jan’s candle company, Dwight crashes with his old babysitter, we hear a creepy coming-of-age song by Jan’s old assistant Hunter, a Dundie award is used to smash a plasma TV, and the police are called. The Dinner Party episode of The Office airs on NBC.
1939 - Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman star Louise Lasser is born in New York City. She is also remembered for infamously becoming the first Saturday Night Live host to reportedly be banned from returning following her appearance in the penultimate episode of its first season, in 1976.
1981 - After a month off following the replacement of Executive Producer Jean Doumanian and the firing of many cast members, Saturday Night Live returns with a new episode. The show was hostless but heavy on guests, including a sketch where Chevy Chase tries to explain to the home audience that the show is getting better, but Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve arrive to argue the point, and Irene Cara performs a song about how all her songs sound alike. It also saw the SNL debuts of Robin Duke and Tony Rosato, who would be the first cast members of SCTV to join SNL.
1983 - The 3rd Golden Raspberry Awards were informally held at an Oscar night potluck party. Aussie musical comedy The Pirate Movie took three trophies, for Worst Song, Worst Music Score and Worst Director (tied). The only other “win” to a comedy also went to a musical, as Aileen Quinn picked up Worst Supporting Actress for Annie. Other comedies nominated include Yes, Giorgio; Author! Author!; Deathtrap; A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy and Zapped!
2007 - An Emmy Award winner for his work on The Cosby Show, and known for films including Uptown Saturday Night, The Comedians, The World’s Greatest Athlete, and Jumpin’ Jack Flash, rich-voiced actor Roscoe Lee Browne dies at the age of 79.
2010 - Britain’s Channel 4 released their updated poll of the Top 100 Stand-Up Comics. As he had in their previous 2007 list, Billy Connolly retained the #1 spot with 2 through 10 being Richard Pryor, Ricky Gervais, Bill Hicks, Eddie Izzard, Peter Kay, Bill Bailey, Chris Rock, Michael McIntyre, and Victoria Wood. Just for the heck of it, George Carlin was #28, Eddie Murphy #40, Lenny Bruce #53, Steve Martin #61, Bill Cosby #74, and Bob Newhart #83. Besides Wood at #10, the other women making the list were Jo Brand at #30, Joan Rivers #57, Jenny Eclair #70, and Roseanne Barr at #93.
2019 - British comedian Ian Cognito died of a heart attack during a show in Bicester. He reportedly sat on a chair and laid back for five minutes, with audience members initially believing it to be part of his routine, until the event's compère called an ambulance.
1954 - The man had three things going for him when they were casting the 1977 hockey comedy Slap Shot - he had NHL and WHA experience, he was already playing in Johnstown, PA, where the film was shot, and his last name was already Hanson. One of the three Hanson Brothers, Dave Hanson, is born in Cumberland, Wisconsin.
1976 - Actor from films including It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World and The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, but known as well for playing Colonel John T. Hall on The Phil Silvers Show, Paul Ford passes away of a heart attack at 74.
2007 - The comedy video website Funny Or Die launches. The first video posted is The Landlord, which features one of the website’s founders Will Ferrell having some problems with, you guessed it, his landlord. The clip would register more than 80 million views.
2015 - The 24th MTV Movie Awards take place at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles where Amy Schumer hosts, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne win Best Gut Wrenching Moment for Neighbors, and Jimmy Kimmel presents the Comic Genius Award to Kevin Hart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPJ9j2GaG4E
1925 - 14 years before the release of the timeless Judy Garland classic, the original 1925 film The Wizard of Oz opens, and there are, uh, a few notable differences. First, the story revolves around the Scarecrow character, although he isn’t really a scarecrow - because, he, the Lion and the Tin Man (played by Oliver Hardy of later Laurel & Hardy fame) are all just farmhands in disguise. Following so far? There’s also a trial scene in which the Tin Man turns into a villain, and a big sword fight. Also Dorothy is older. Plus, it being 1925, it’s a silent film, so there’s no dialogue or songs, and it doesn’t turn into colour like the later version... Other than that though? Same film.
1935 - At the suggestion of MGM exec Irving Thalberg the Marx Brothers take to the stage to road test their new picture in front of live audiences, beginning with a run at the Orpheum in Salt Lake City. The end result is a crisper, fuller storied A Night At The Opera - possibly the group’s best film, not to mention one of the best comedy movies of all time.
1945 - Actor Tony Dow, best known as The Beave’s older brother Wally Cleaver in the hit 1957-1963 sitcom Leave It To Beaver, is born in Hollywood, CA. He also works as a writer, director and producer. FUN FACTS: His mother was a stuntwoman in westerns as well as the double for Hollywood’s original “It Girl” Clara Bowe, and Tony was a Junior Olympics diving champion.
1950 - Actor William Sadler is born in Buffalo, New York. He’s best known for his dramatic work but has also appeared in numerous comedies, oddly often as The Grim Reaper, a role which he has played in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey and Bill & Ted Face the Music, the UK/US sketch comedy series Assaulted Nuts, and the comedic horror anthology series Tales from the Crypt.
1961 - At the 3rd Annual Grammy Awards, hosted by Lloyd Bridges in Los Angeles, Bob Newhart wins big, taking the trophies for Album of the Year (The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart), Best Comedy Performance - Spoken Word (The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back), and Best New Artist. The Grammy for Best Comedy Performance - Musical goes to Jo Stafford & Paul Weston for Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris, likely because Bob Newhart never learned to play the piano… Meanwhile, the Best Album Created for Children trophy goes to Ross Bagdasarian Sr. (performing as David Seville and the Chipmunks) for Let's All Sing With the Chipmunks, his third win overall.
1962 - The bawdy comedy Carry On Cruising opens in theatres throughout Britain. The sixth release of the 31 films in the Carry On series, it is the first to be shot in colour. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4-2DSj_a3c
1965 - At the 7th Annual Grammy Awards, the Best Comedy Performance trophy goes to Bill Cosby for I Started Out as a Child, and Best Recording for Children goes to Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Glynis Johns, David Tomlinson & Ed Wynn for Mary Poppins.
1973 - Actor Bokeem Woodbine, whose comedic work includes his acclaimed role in season two of Fargo and films including Gridlock’d, Almost Heroes, Life, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Mom and Dad, Freeway and The Big Hit, is born in Harlem, New York City.
1985 - Christopher Guest hosts SNL’s “Saturday Night News”, which he took over as anchor in December 1984, for the final time. In fact, it was the last time “Saturday Night News” was presented at all, as the segment was renamed “Weekend Update” before it returned with new anchor Dennis Miller.
1993 - Hannah Marks, TV (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Weeds, Awkward, The Real O’Neals) and film (Hard Sell, I Used To Go Here, Banana Split, Accepted, Kristin’s Christmas Past, Slash) actor, is born in Los Angeles, CA.
1904 - From the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to the Old Vic to his own company at the Queen’s Theatre, he was revered as one of the greatest Shakespearean stage actors of his era. He would later take a turn towards film where his comedic work included Oh! What A Lovely War, Around The World In 80 Days, Scandalous, and especially his Oscar winning role as Hobson the butler and valet in Arthur, Sir John Gielgud is born in South Kensington, London, England.
1968 - He was a cast member on Saturday Night Live but is best known for his collaborations with John Hughes, including Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and as Rusty Griswold in the Hughes-penned National Lampoon’s Vacation. Actor Anthony Michael Hall is born (as Michael Anthony Hall) in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.
1977 - Rob McElhenney is born in Philadelphia, which is very fitting considering he’s best known as one of the stars, creators and producers of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. FUN FACT: His birthday is one day after one of his Sunny co-stars, Glenn Howerton.
1979 - He’s a legend, but not on this night… Guest host Milton “Mr. Television” Berle’s episode of SNL goes so badly he is banned from returning and Lorne Michaels even prevents it from being rerun. Berle habitually took control of the show, causing on-set stress, upstaged other actors, mugged for the camera, did spit-takes, inserted his old comedy bits into sketches, engaged in “lewd behaviour” backstage, and ended the show with an earnest jazz number and insisting the audience give "Uncle Miltie" a standing ovation.
1982 - While Loverboy would set a new Junos record in winning 6 awards, the most important moment of the night to comedy fans would undoubtedly come when Bob and Doug McKenzie’s The Great White North won Comedy Album of the Year for SCTV stars Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas.
1995 - Al Franken's SNL character Stuart Smalley gets his own movie, as the Harold Ramis-directed Stuart Saves His Family is released to theatres. Co-stars include Laura San Giacomo, Vincent D'Onofrio, Julia Sweeney, Robin Duke, Joe Flaherty and Richard Riehle.
1996 - Best known for her Oscar-nominated role as Olive Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine, Abigail Breslin is born in New York City. Other comedy roles include: Zombieland, Zombieland: Double-Tap, Rango, Raising Helen, Definitely Maybe, No Reservations, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, and the TV series Scream Queens.