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This Day in Comedy History

December 22 - 31

December 22

December 22

1944 – Harry Langdon, American actor, comedian, and vaudevillian, passes away.

1962 - Actor Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes of Grand Budapest Hotel fame - who, for some reason, prefers to go by the shorter, showbiz name Ralph Fiennes - is born in Suffolk, England.

1982 - Brooke Nevin is born in Toronto. She’s best known for roles in comedies like Call Me Fitz and The Comebacks.

1995 - The Mel Brooks directed, Leslie Nielsen vampire comedy Dracula: Dead And Loving It is released.

1997 - Steve Martin’s "Drivel" is published in The New Yorker.

December 23

December 23

1943 - Credibility Gap, SNL and Simpsons star Harry Shearer is born.

1973 - This date in 1973 was opening night for the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. Dean Martin was the featured performer.

1996 - The 14th and final episode of Ben Elton’s police sitcom The Thin Blue Line, starring Rowan Atkinson, airs on BBC, ending the show’s run after two series.

1997 - Chris Farley’s funeral takes place at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Over 500 people attended, including many comedians and SNL alum, such as Dan Aykroyd, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Lorne Michaels, John Goodman, George Wendt and Phil Hartman. His best friend David Spade did not attend because he found it too painful.

2000 - Prolific actor well known to comedy audiences for his TV and film work, whose career spanning seven decades earned him a spot on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, Billy Barty passes away from heart failure in Glendale, CA at the age of 76. Barty was also a prominent activist for dwarfism who founded the Little People of America organization in 1957.

2003 - Thirty-seven years after his death, New York Governor George Pataki grants Lenny Bruce a posthumous pardon for his 1964 conviction, following what was deemed an obscene performance at the Cafe A Go Go.

2008 - Three time Gold Logie winning Australian TV host and comedian Rove McManus makes his hosting debut on US television, as the host of the ABC (US) special, The List.

December 24

December 24

1945 - Steve Smith (Red Green) is born in Toronto, Canada… probably with a roll of duct tape in his hand.

1945 – Legendary vaudeville comedienne Josephine Sabel passes away at age 79 in a care home in Patchogue, NY. Though billed as “Queen of Song” her act was primarily humour-based, and featured her yelling songs more than singing them, in a typically racist act for her era. She was also notable as a fashion icon for always wearing the latest dresses from her connections in Paris, and continued performing as a “nostalgia act” into the 1930s.

1955 - The Danny Kaye medieval, costume, musical comedy The Court Jester has its World Premiere in Japan.

1973 – Ranting English comedian Paul Foot is born.

1983 - The cast of The Love Boat sail onto the cover of TV Guide.

1991 - Sofia Black-D'Elia is born in Clifton, New Jersey. She played Tea Marvelli in the US version of Skins, and co-starred as Sabrina in the FOX sitcom The Mick

2006 - SNL comedian Chris Kattan and his future wife, model Sunshine Deia Tutt, become engaged at her grandparents' home in Gainesville, Texas.

2009 - The Joe Rogan Experience debuts on Spotify.

2012 - Golden Globe winner Jack Klugman, the Oscar Madison half of TV’s The Odd Couple, passes away.

December 25

December 25

1946 - Vaudevillian, sublime juggler, Broadway actor, screenwriter (he wrote many of his biggest films under pseudonyms) and one of the biggest comedy stars of the 1930s and early '40s, W.C. Field passes away aged 66.

1948 - Singer and actress Barbara Mandrell, host of the 1980s comedy-variety series Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters, is born in Houston, Texas.

1973 - The 1930s grifter comedy/drama The Sting opens in wide release. With Paul Newman and Robert Redford together again, and a stellar supporting cast including Robert Shaw as the villainous Doyle Lonnegan, Eileen Brennan, Charles Durning, Harold Gould, Ray Walston and Robert Earl Jones, the film would be a box office monster and win 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Direction and Writing.

1975 - Fred Williamson, Richard Pryor and James Brown star in the western comedy Adios, Amigo.

1977 - The biggest star of the silent movie era - and one of Hollywood’s biggest stars ever, period - Charlie Chaplin passes away in his home in Switzerland of a stroke. The comedy legend was 88. His funeral, a private Anglican ceremony, took place two days later.

April 10 - Charlie Chaplin at 1972 Academy Awards, honorary Oscar, returns to 12 min ovati

1995 - Dean Martin, who had rejected surgery after being diagnosed with lung cancer, passed away in his Beverly Hills home, 29 years to the day - and almost to the minute - since his mother’s passing.

1998 - The touching and hilarious Robin Williams film Patch Adams is released to theatres.

2003 - Beginning in 1981 and running for years as a series, before turning into a number of Christmas specials, the beloved British show Only Fools and Horses airs for the last time on BBC1.

2010 - The feature film Gulliver’s Travels is released across North America.

2021 - Betty White suffers a stroke.

December 26

December 26

1927 - Stand-up, actor, and longtime host of the Friars Club roasts, Alan King is born in New York City.

1933 - In Waltham, Massachusetts, legendary puppeteer Carroll Spinney, who was the man behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on the beloved PBS children’s series Sesame Street (1969-2018), is born.

1940 - A Philadelphia socialite (Katharine Hepburn) is planning on getting married, two suitors (Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant have other plans. Ranked #5 on the AFI’s list of Best Romantic Comedies, the film that rescued and rehabilitated Hepburn’s career and gave Stewart his only Best Actor Oscar, The Philadelphia Story premieres in New York.

1954 - Tony Rosato, one of only three performers to be a cast member on both SCTV and Saturday Night Live born in Naples, Italy.

1956 - David Sedaris, American comedian, author, and radio host, is born.

1974 - The finale of English sitcom Steptoe and Son aired on BBC, after 8 series over 12 years. The show spawned two films, and a US remake - the Redd Foxx vehicle Sanford and Son.

1974 - Jack Benny, American comedian, vaudevillian, actor, musician and radio legend, passes away.

1999 - Early into the Family Guy’s second season the episode Da Boom marks the first time Mila Kunis voices Meg Griffin PLUS it was the debut appearance of Ernie the Giant Chicken who, to put it lightly, doesn’t really get along with Peter.

2000 - The show that made motorists in Quebec think twice about whether the police stop they were in the middle of was real, prank show Just For Laughs Gags debuts.

2000 - After four years, the Brooke Shields sitcom Suddenly Susan comes to an end on NBC.

2016 – Ricky Harris passes away. The American comedian and actor was best known for playing Malvo in Chris Rock’s TV series Everybody Hates Chris.

December 27

December 27

1905 – Cliff Arquette, American actor and comedian, known for portraying his character Charley Weaver on various television shows, was born.

1928 - After working on the script for almost an entire year, Charlie Chaplin finally begins filming what would become his rom-com classic City Lights.

1947 - Howdy Doody makes his first appearance on US TV screens.

1973 - Stand-up Franklyn Ajaye makes his network television debut on Flip Wilson’s show Flip.

December 28

December 28

1955 - Stephen Frost, English comedian, actor, and screenwriter, is born.

1964 - A Carol for Another Christmas airs on ABC in the U.S. The feature-length United Nations special, urging global cooperation, features Peter Sellers as the King of the Individualists.

1974 - The 59th and final episode of the nationally syndicated National Lampoon Radio Hour (by this time down to 30 minutes) airs. Following its demise, cast and writers John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Anne Beatts, and Brian Doyle-Murray would all find their way to the new Saturday Night Live show, while Joe Flaherty and Harold Ramis would go on to SCTV.

1977 - Guest DJ for KSAN radio in San Mateo, California - serving the San Francisco area - has a guest DJ: Credibility Gap comedian and future SNL and Simpsons star Harry Shearer.

1997 - A self-updated version of Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys, produced by Hallmark Entertainment, airs on CBS, more than a year after its production. The TV movie stars Woody Allen as Lewis, the part he originally wanted to play when he was offered the chance to direct the 1975 movie version, and Peter Falk as Clark, his former comedy partner. Sarah Jessica Parker co-stars, with Michael McKean, Liev Schreiber, Edie Falco and Whoopi Goldberg in supporting roles.

1998 - The final episode of HBO’s Mr. Show airs.

2015 - Actors (and married couple) Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher donate $1 million to charity for Syrian causes. Half goes to Save the Children’s programme to vaccinate children against measles in northern Syria, and the other half goes to the International Rescue Committee to help Syrian refugees.

2017 – Rose Marie, American actress and vaudeville comedienne who began her ten-decade-spanning career as a child actor, passed away.

December 29

December 29

1947 - Edward Bridge (Ted) Danson III, who would rise to fame as Sam “Mayday” Malone on Cheers, is born in San Diego, CA.

1959 - Quirky and conversational stand-up Paula Poundstone is born in Huntsville, Alabama.

1973 - We’re not kidding you, this kid was a comedy star. Just ask the cover of TV Guide.

2003 - English comedian, actor, and game show host Bob Monkhouse passes away.

2006 - Jay Mohr and Nikki Cox are married. Cox wrote much of Mohr’s stand-up comedy material, including his album, which was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album.

December 30

December 30

1940 - Renowned TV comedy producer and director James Burrows (CheersTaxi) is born, probably about ten minutes before winning his first Emmy.

1942 - Singer Mike Nesmith of The Monkees is born.

1955 - Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph (Moesha) is born.

1956 - Actress Patricia Kalembar of the sitcom Sisters is born.

1959 - Best known for her own sketch show The Tracey Ullman Show (that spawned The Simpsons) who would also appear in films I Love You To Death, Small Time Crooks and Bullets Over Broadway, the legendary Tracey Ullman is born in Slough, Buckinghamshire, England.

1976 - On Barney Miller, Wojo’s new girlfriend made some brownies for him to take in to the squad room to share, and soon everyone (except for Barney, watching his diet) begins acting... differently. Is there something in those brownies? Not saying, but I will tell you the episode Hash aired on this date on ABC.

December 31

December 31

1951 - You Bet Your Life star Groucho Marx returns to the cover of Time Magazine.

1958 - Double Emmy and Tony Award winning actress best known for her character Dr. Lilith Sternin on Cheers (and another 12 episodes on Frasier), Bebe Neuwirth is born in Newark, New Jersey.

1962 - The Match Game - the original version - premieres on NBC.

1975 - HBO airs its first ever stand up comedy special An Evening With Robert Klein as the kickoff to their On Location series.

1981 - Hosted by the Smothers Brothers, HBO’s 6th annual Young Comedians special airs featuring young comedians Jerry Seinfeld, Maureen Murphy, Howie Mandel, Richard Lewis, Rick Overton and Harry Anderson.

1988 - After producing nine episodes (and after seven had aired), CBS gives the axe to its new sitcom Raising Miranda. The show was crushed in the ratings by NBC’s hit sitcom Amen, but the grim premise probably didn’t help: James Naughton starred as a Wisconsin man who finds himself parenting a troublesome 15 year old daughter alone after they are abandoned by his wife. Co-stars include Bryan Cranston (in his first regular prime-time TV role) as his brother-in-law, Russell, comedian Miriam Flynn, and Steve Vinovich.

1988 - The Hogan Family’s Sandy Duncan gets co-star Jason Bateman all set for New Year’s on the cover of TV Guide.

1990 - Groucho Marx for a new generation, Bart Simpson is featured on the year end edition of Time Magazine.

1992 -  Versatile English entertainer, comedian and musician Roy Castle is awarded the OBE.

2006 - Did someone say “bonjour la police?” Legendary Québécois sketch troupe Rock et Belles Oreilles reunited for a New Year's Eve special on this day in 2006.

2007 - Chris Rock kicks off his No Apologies tour at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The tour would include dates throughout the U.S. as well as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, The UK, South Africa, and return dates in New York.

2008 - British sketch comedy star Mel Smith ( Not the Nine O'Clock News, Alas Smith and Jones) appears on Celebrity Mastermind despite suffering from severe pharyngitis.

2009 - The final episode of Royal Canadian Air Farce runs on CBC.

2015 - Beth Howland passes away in Santa Monica, CA, aged 76. The American TV and stage actress was best known for playing Vera in the sitcom Alice, the sitcom inspired by the Martin Scorsese film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974). She also originated the role of Amy in the original Broadway cast of Stephen Sondheim's Company.

2015 - Trapper John McIntyre on the sitcom M*A*S*H, Wayne Rogers passes away aged 82. Exactly one year later, on December 31, 2016 William Christopher who played Father Mulcahy on the series dies at the age of 84. 

2020 - HBO Max removes Chappelle’s Show from their service at the request of its creator and star Dave Chappelle. Following the lead of Netflix, HBO (who Chappelle had initially pitched the show to years earlier, only to be asked “Why do we need you?”) took the show down following repeated pleas from the star, who had signed his contract years before there was any such thing as a streaming service. That contract meant his show could be aired an unlimited number of times without the network having to pay Chappelle anything - a situation that prompted the comic to release a set that went into the quandary in pointed depth.

2021 - Just 17 days shy of her 100th birthday, Betty White passes away in her sleep following a stroke she'd suffered on Christmas day.

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