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This Day in Comedy History

December 15 - 21

December 15

December 15

1933 - Legendary comedian Tim Conway is born.

1950 - Actress Melanie Chartoff (RugratsParker Lewis Can’t Lose) is born.

1957 - The Jack Benny Program airs the episode Christmas Shopping.

1974 - With a cast including Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars, Madeline Kahn and Gene Hackman, the Mel Brooks horror comedy Young Frankenstein opens.

1984 - The movie The Ratings Game is released, featuring a young Jerry Seinfeld.

1990 - Dennis Quaid hosts Saturday Night Live. Sketches include Sprockets.

1995 - Jumanji, starring Robin Williams, is released.

2008 - Steven Wright becomes the first person inducted into the Boston Comedy Hall of Fame.

2015 - Howard Stern announces he signed a new deal with SiriusXM to continue his radio show until December 2020. The agreement includes a 12-year deal giving SiriusXM the rights to his radio and video archives for a streaming video app, Howard 360.

2016 - With wife Blake Lively and family in tow, Ryan Reynolds receives a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

December 16

December 16

1903 - Actor Hardie Albright is born Hardie Hunter Albrecht in Charleroi, PA. His movies include Hush Money (1931), The Working Man (1933), Women Must Dress (1935), Ladies Love Danger (1935), Bachelor Daddy (1941) and Army Wives (1944).

1959 - The Second City opens up its first home at 1842 North Wells in Chicago. Founded by Paul Sills, Bernie Sahlins, and Howard Alk, the first revue featured a cast of Sills, Alk, Roger Bowen, Severn Darden, Andrew Duncan, Barbara Harris, Mina Kolb, Eugene Troobnick, and Allaudin Mathieu. Admission was $1.50.

1961 - Bill Hicks is born in Valdosta, Georgia

1964 - Classic British sitcom The Likely Lads premieres on BBC-2.

1965 - Comedian JB Smoove (The MillersCurb Your Enthusiasm) is born.

1965 - Britain’s Granada Television airs a special in tribute to the music of Lennon and McCartney. Various artists offer their versions of the duo's songs, The Beatles perform, and Peter Sellers presents his take on A Hard Days Night in the style of Laurence Olivier’s portrayal of Richard III.

1971 - The movie version of The Boy Friend, based on the hit British and Broadway musical, has simultaneous premieres in New York City and Los Angeles, directed by Ken Russell and starring supermodel Twiggy.

1984 - On the second season of Star Search, stand-up Sinbad knocks off defending champion in the comedy category John Mendoza, and goes on a seven week win streak (including a victory over Dennis Miller) that would take him right to the finals.

1988 - Based on the hit Sheb Wooley novelty song of the same title from 1958, which topped the pop charts for three weeks, the film Purple People Eater opened. Directed by American-Canadian filmmaker Linda Shayne, the film stars Neil Patrick Harris, Ned Beatty and Shelley Winters. Also appearing are Dustin Diamond, Peggy Lipton, and Thora Birch in her film debut. Chubby Checker and Little Richard also show up as special musical guests.

1989 - Andie MacDowell hosts Saturday Night Live. Mike Myers’ Sprockets character appears in a very special sketch: Dieter in Space.

1991 - Alfonso Ribeiro (as Carlton Banks) performs The Carlton Dance for the first time on the Christmas Show episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

1994 - The Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels film Dumb and Dumber opens.

2002 - Michael J. Fox receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame.

2005 - Howard Stern hosts his final show on terrestrial radio. A stage was built outside the studio for Stern, his colleagues and Wack Pack members to make their farewell speeches.

2005 - In other radio finale news, the final episode of Marc Maron’s Morning Sedition aired on the liberal talk radio network Air America.

2006 - Justin Timberlake returns to host Saturday Night Live, and plays Robin Gibb to Jimmy Fallon’s Barry Gibb in a third installment of The Barry Gibb Talk Show.

2010 - Duke of Madness Motors: The Complete "Dear Friends" Radio Era is released. The box set includes a book and data DVD collection of the complete works of comedy group the Firesign Theatre's on the 1970s radio shows Firesign Theatre Radio Hour Hour, Dear Friends, and Let's Eat! Firesign producer and archivist Taylor Jessen reportedly spent ten years collecting recordings for the project on various media, even digging one tape up in a shed that had been buried in a mudslide.

2017 - David Grohl becomes the most frequent musical guest in SNL history. It was his 13th time since he first appeared on the show in 1992.

December 17

December 17

1946 - SCTV’s Eugene Levy is born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

1962 - Impressionist Andre Philipe Gagnon is born, possibly while skillfully performing a solo male-and-female duet.

1964 - Harvey Korman guest stars as Lennie Bates in the Family Portrait episode of The Munsters.

1976 - Mother and daughter who constantly quarrel begin to see things another way when they switch into each other’s bodies. Starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster, the original Freaky Friday movie opens in theatres.

1977 - SNL’s season three Christmas episode is hosted by Miskel Spillman, an 80 year old German immigrant from New Orleans who won the show’s "Anyone Can Host" contest. Spillman was paid $3,000 and held the record as SNL’s oldest host (two weeks older than January 22, 1977’s host Ruth Gordon) until an 88 year old Betty White hosted on May 8, 2010. Spillman remains the only non-celebrity to host the program… In the same SNL program, Elvis Costello did his famous “there’s no reason to play this song here” stunt, where he stopped his band in the middle of performing Less Than Zero, as his label preferred, and played Radio Radio instead. He would not be invited back for 12 years… As per the norm for SNL hosts, Spillman attended rehearsals and appeared in some sketches. She was also paid the then-usual host's salary of $3,000 (a fact which had been promoted during the contest's duration).

1977 - The cast of One Day At A Time display their range of emotions on the cover of TV Guide.

1982 - Michael Dorsey is an actor who has been told by his agent “No one will hire you”. What’s a desperate thespian to do? Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange (who would win an Oscar), Bill Murray, Terri Garr, Charles Durning, Geena Davis and Dabney Coleman star in the blockbuster Tootsie, which opened on this date.

1989 - The Simpsons debuts on Fox TV, with a Christmas episode.

1999 - The Robin Williams science fiction comedy-drama Bicentennial Man is released, but unlike his previous collaboration with director Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire) it would prove disappointing at the box office.

2001 - Tom Green and Drew Barrymore file for divorce after five months of marriage, citing “irreconcilable differences”, ironically, the title of one of her earlier films.

2006 - Night at the Museum (Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Dick Van Dyke) is released.

2011 - Multiple former anchors return for a "Weekend Update Joke-Off". Joining current anchor Seth Meyers are Jimmy Fallon (that week’s host), Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey.

2017 - A Christmas Story Live! airs on FOX, based on Bob Clark’s Canadian-U.S. holiday classic A Christmas Story (1983) and its live musical adaptation, A Christmas Story: The Musical. It stars Matthew Broderick, Andy Walken, Maya Rudolph, Chris Diamantopoulos, and Jane Krakowski.

2018 - As an actress she was a regular on the sitcom The Odd Couple before becoming one of the stars of the sitcom Laverne & Shirley, then directed films including Big and A League Of Her Own, Penny Marshall passes away at the age of 75.

December 18

December 18

1896 - Renowned “doubletalk” vaudeville comedian Al Kelly is born, as Abraham Kalish, in Kreva, Russia.

1933 - One of the rare performers from the west allowed to enter the country, Harpo Marx opens a tour of the Soviet Union with a show at the Leningrad Music Hall (advertisement for the show below). The New York Times byline read “Debut in Leningrad Marked By 25-Minute Ovation”.

1942 - Canadian actor from Meatballs, Barney’s Version, Finders Keepers and The King Of Kensington, Harvey Atkin is born in Toronto, Ontario.

1963 - The classic heist comedy that would spawn a thriving film franchise, with a cast that included David Niven, Claudia Cardinale, Robert Wagner, Capucine and Peter Sellers as bumbling Inspector Clouseau, The Pink Panther has its premiere in Italy.

1963 - One Of the biggest film stars of his generation, known for the Oceans films as well as Mr. And Mrs. Smith, Thelma And Louise and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Brad Pitt is born in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

1968 - Peter Sellers and Britt Ekland’s divorce is finalized. It was the second of Sellers’ four marriages that ended in divorce, which led him to later quip that he was the “star of stage, screen and alimony.”

1978 - The Neil Simon comedy California Suite hits theatres.

1982 - Bill and Gail Engvall get married.

1996 - On the Larry Sanders Show, Phil the head writer is having trouble accepting a new writer, played by Sarah Silverman. In the meantime, out of nowhere Todd Barry is also there as a writer, and Hank is getting antsy over how much Kevin Nealon is hanging around. The episode The New Writer airs on HBO.

1997 - Chris Farley passes away, following on overdose.

2013 - The news team goes to New York! The film Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues opens in theatres.

December 19

December 19

1924 – Gary Morton, American “Borscht Belt” comedian Gary Morton was born on this date in 1924. He also worked as a producer, and with his second wife, Lucille Ball.

1979 - With Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine in the lead roles, the political satire Being There opens in theatres.

1980 - Three working women (Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton in her film debut) look for revenge on their boss (Dabney Coleman), 9 to 5 opens in wide release. 

1981 - The Andy Kaufman film Heartbeeps is released.

1983 - The comedy-drama film Reuben, Reuben opens, starring Scottish actor Tom Conti as a hard drinking, womanizing poet and professional leech. He would receive an Oscar nod for his role. Co-stars include Kelly McGillis in her film debut, Roberts Blossom, Cynthia Harris and Joel Fabiani.

1986 - Emmy Award winning Canadian actress from Schitt’s Creek, Annie Murphy is born in Ottawa, Ontario. 

1987 - The youngest of the Cosby crew, Keshia Knight Pulliam cutes up the cover of TV Guide.

2005 - Nine days after his death, BET aired a Richard Pryor special, The Funniest Man Dead or Alive. It featured commentary from fellow comedians, and insight into his difficult upbringing.

2012 - The hit musical from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the team behind South Park, The Book of Mormon comes to Chicago as it premieres at the Bank of America Theatre after a week of previews. It stars Ben Platt and would run until October, 2013.

2013 - Will Ferrell appears as anchorman Ron Burgundy on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and performs "Ride Like the Wind" with Christopher Cross, to promote the film Anchorman 2.

2015 - Tina Fey and Amy Poehler return to SNL as hosts. Sketches include Meet Your Second Wife.

2017 - Reports surface that T.J. Miller had sent film critic Danielle Solzman a transphobic hate email. Solzman had tweeted a screenshot of the email months earlier on Twitter with Miller's name removed for fear of a lawsuit. The email included multiple slurs and Miller called Solzman male and continuously “dead-named” her. According to reports, Miller's tirade was in response to Solzman criticizing his use of the term "Tranny Dumpster Sex" on his website.

December 20

Decembeer 20

1924 – Charlie Callas, American actor and comedian, was born. Callas, a popular stand-up comedian well known to 1970s TV audiences, is best remembered for his collaborations with Mel Brooks as well as Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.

1957 - Joyce Hyser was born in New York City, USA. She is an actress best known for Just One of the Guys (1985) and This Is Spinal Tap (1984).

1967 - Dustin Hoffman plays Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate who returns home unsure of what to do with the rest of his life. One thing is for sure, he’ll listen to a lot of Simon and Garfunkel. With co-stars Anne Bancroft and Katherine Ross, The Graduate premieres in New York City.

1969 - Brian O'Halloran was born in New York City.. He is an actor best known for the Kevin Smith films Clerks 1 & 2, and Mallrats.

1971 - The Ruth Gordon/Bud Cort black comedy Harold And Maude opens in theatres. 

1972 - Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys premieres on Broadway, directed by Alan Arkin and starring Jack Albertson and Sam Levene as a vaudevillian comedy duo (the titular Sunshine Boys) who ceased speaking but reunite to do a TV special. Simon, Arkin and Albertson would be nominated for Tony Awards, and the show would later be adapted for film and television productions.

1983 - Jonah Hill was born.

1986 - In one of the more memorable SNL sketch moments, host William Shatner, appearing in a Star Trek convention sketch, tired of how obsessive the fans are, turns on them with “Before I answer anymore questions there’s something I wanted to say - having received all your letters over the years, and I’m spoken to many of you, and some of you have traveled, you know, hundreds of miles to be here, I’d just like to say………...get a LIFE, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it’s just a TV show. I mean, look at you. Look at the way you’re dressed. You’ve turned an enjoyable little job that I did as a lark for a few years into a colossal waste of time! I mean, how old are you people? What have you done with yourselves? You. You must be almost 30, have you ever kissed a girl?”.

December 21

December 21

1933 - Five-year-old Shirley Temple signed a movie contract with Fox. Her age was later changed to make her appear a year younger.

1950 - Jimmy Stewart stars as Elwood P. Dowd, a likable sort of guy who’s best friend is a 6 foot 3 and a half foot tall invisible rabbit. Josephine Hull (who would win an Oscar and Golden Globe for her performance) plays his elder sister who, given that her brother’s best friend is an invisible rabbit, wants to have him committed. The film Harvey opens in wide release.

1955 - Actress Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle) was born.

1957 - “Everybody Loves the Birthday Boy!” On this day in 1957, Comedian and actor Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond) was born. Born on the same day was Lisa Gerritsen (former child actor from the sitcoms Phyllis and The Mary Tyler Moore Show).

1965 - Comedian and actor Andy Dick (NewsRadio) was born.

1983 - Canadian actor Rod Cameron passes away in hospital in Gainesville, GA, near his home in Lake Lanier, after a prolonged battle with cancer. His movie credits include The Quarterback (1940), Henry Aldrich for President (1941), Honeymoon Lodge (1943), Swing Out, Sister (1945) and Strike It Rich (1948).

1990 - Ivan Reitman’s Kindergarten Cop, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pamela Reed and Penelope Ann Miller, opens in theatres.

2012 - A sort of follow up to Knocked Up, with Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd facing a middle age crisis, Judd Apatow’s This Is 40 opens in theatres.

2013 - In the sixth and (so far) final installment of The Barry Gibb Talk Show on Saturday Night Live, Barry (Jimmy Fallon) and Robin (Justin Timberlake) Gibb’s guests include Madonna - and the actual Barry Gibb, who closes the sketch by singing with them.

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