This Day in Comedy History
February 15 - February 21
1960 - The Danny Thomas Show (aka Make Room for Daddy) airs its 205th episode, in which Danny is given a ticket by a small town sheriff while driving through North Carolina. That may not seem very notable - until you realize that the small town is Mayberry, the sheriff is Andy Griffith, and the spinoff series it sparked would become one of the most successful sitcoms in television history.
1967 - At Last The 1948 Show debuts on ITV, starring Tim Brooke-Taylor, Marty Feldman and Aimi MacDonald. The cast also includes future Pythons John Cleese and Graham Chapman, and the series features many sketches that would also later make their way onto Monty Python’s Flying Circus).
1973 - Television’s Mr. Peepers, Wally Cox, dies of a heart attack at age 48.
1981 - Jim Carrey makes $100 for what he refers to as his "worst professional experience ever” - opening for Canadian band Goddo at the Roxy Theatre in Barrie, Ontario. He was supposed to open Feb. 16 too, but thought better of it.
1984 - Musical comedy star of stage, screen, and large screen, known for It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World, Airplane!, and her signature song There’s No Business Like Show Business, Ethel Merman passes away at age 76, prompting all 36 theatres on Broadway to dim their lights.
1989 - The influential HBO stand-up series One Night Stand makes its debut. The show would feature 30 minute sets by hot-but-not-quite-famous comics and be a huge boost to a number of careers including Bill Maher, Damon Wayans, Paula Poundstone, Norm Macdonald, Ellen DeGeneres, Martin Lawrence, Dana Gould, and Eddie Griffin. The premiere episode features Judy Tenuta.
1991 - When the entire Royal family is wiped out in a freak accident, the only surviving heir - a Las Vegas lounge singer - is put on the British throne. John Goodman, Peter O’Toole, and John Hurt star in King Ralph, which opened on this date in 1991.
1991 - The horror comedy Nothing But Trouble is released, and true to its name and genre description the Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Demi Moore, John Candy film was just that to the studio, making back just over 8 million at the box office out of its 40 million dollar budget.
1996 - Best known as Col. Henry Blake on M*A*S*H, actor McLean Stevenson suffers a fatal heart attack while recovering from bladder cancer surgery. He was 68.
1996 - The film that made Vijay a huge star in Tamil cinema, romantic comedy Poove Unakkaga opens in India.
2001 - Now a long-running event, the bilingual HubCap Comedy Festival kicks off its inaugural year in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.
2006 - A sleeper hit for CBS, the sixth and final season of Yes, Dear wraps up with the episode Should I Bring a Jacket?
2015 - In perhaps the most star-studded collection of comics in history, Saturday Night Live's 40th Anniversary Special airs. Every past host, every cast member and writer who worked on SNL for at least a year, and many musical guests were invited. The show features 300 guests and more than 80 performers, including Candice Bergen, Jim Carrey, Robert DeNiro, Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, Jack Nicholson, Jerry Seinfeld, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake and Betty White. Musical acts include Miley Cyrus, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon and Kanye West. The special also featured Eddie Murphy’s first return to SNL in 31 years, and an in memoriam tribute to SNLers no longer with us… including Jon Lovitz, who was sitting in the crowd.
Born On This Day
1907 - Dashing Latin leading man turned comic actor in films like Marriage On The Rocks, Madigan’s Millions, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, best known as The Joker on the Batman TV series, Cesar Romero is born in New York City.
1916 - Actress from Our Miss Brooks, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and a Lucille Ball neighbour/sidekick in the later years of I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy, Mary Jane Croft is born in Muncie, Indiana.
1918 - Best known for his recurring role as Dr. Sidney Freeman on M*A*SH, actor Alan Arbus is born in New York City.
1927 - The man who could not keep a straight face in the presence of Tim Conway, four-time Emmy Award winner Harvey Korman (The Carol Burnett Show, Blazing Saddles, The Danny Kaye Show) is born in Chicago.
1951 - An acclaimed dramatic actress with a comic bent (The Wedding Crashers, Oh! Heavenly Dog, Head Office, The War With Grandpa) Jane Seymour is born Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg in Uxbridge, Middlesex, England.
1953 - Actress Lynn Whitfield (Madea’s Family reunion, Head of State, Gone Fishin’, In The Army Now, Doctor Detroit) is born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
1954 - Creator and Executive Producer of The Simpsons, Matt Groening is born in Portland, Oregon.
1964 - Tommy Boy and Black Sheep star, and SNL cast member Chris Farley is born in Madison, Wisconsin.
1971 - Long time cast member of MADtv, the voice of Lois Griffin on Family Guy, and a double-Emmy winner for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Alex Borstein born on this day in Highland Park, Illinois.
1957 - Father Knows Best gives us a smooch on the cover of TV Guide.
1988 - The Comedy Company premieres on Australian TV.
1988 - Set in 1962 and tackling issues of body image and racial segregation, the John Waters’ Hairspray has its premiere in his home town of Baltimore (also the setting for the film). The cast includes Ricki Lake, Debbie Harry, Sonny Bono, Jerry Stiller, Ruth Brown, Shawn Alex Thompson, Pia Zadora, and Divine in his last film with Waters. He would pass away three weeks after its release.
1989 - Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles) guest stars as a new member of the group who takes a real shine to John (Judd Hirsch) on the series Dear John. Little would win an Emmy for the appearance.
1995 - Carl Reiner reprises his old Dick Van Dyke Show character on the Mad About You episode The Alan Brady Show.
1995 - On the episode All The Players Came of Martin Lawrence’s show Martin, Martin puts together a 70s themed fundraiser for a local theatre and an impressive list of guests show up, including stars Pam Grier (Foxy Brown), Antonio Fargas (Huggy Bear on Starsky and Hutch), Ja’Net DuBois (Good Times), and Dolemite himself - Rudy Ray Moore.
1996 - The day after McLean Stevenson, who played Col. Henry Blake on the TV series M*A*S*H, died of a heart attack, Roger Bowen, the actor who portrayed Col. Henry Blake originally, in the 1970 film version of M*A*S*H, dies of a heart attack while vacationing in Florida. He was 63.
1996 - Her major film debut, Ellen DeGeneres’ Mr. Wrong opens in theatres. Bill Pullman, Joan Cusack, and Dean Stockwell tag along to share the blame. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKuR9Npr1bY
2000 - The film Hanging Up - a story of three sisters coming together to prepare for their father’s impending death - premieres. It stars Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton and Lisa Kudrow as the sisters, with a supporting cast including Cloris Leachman, Adam Arkin, and Walter Matthau as their father, in his last film role.
2007 - The British cop action comedy Hot Fuzz has its UK opening.
2018 - Argentinian comic Agustin Aristaran’s special Soy Radas is
released on Netflix.
Born On This Day
1903 - One of the biggest radio stars of his or any other era, ventriloquist Edgar Bergen is born in Chicago. Consider that a minute, a ventriloquist starring… on radio.
1935 - Recording artist, producer, but more importantly the shorter host from The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, Sonny Bono is born in Detroit, Michigan.
1946 - Ian Lavender, best known for playing Private Pike, the young and stupid member of the platoon on the BBC long-running sitcom Dad’s Army, is born in Birmingham, England.
1978 - An ensemble comedy featuring Ed Begley Jr, Ruth Buzzi, Sorrel Booke, Frank Gorshin, Ted Lange, Alice Ghostley, Leonard Barr, Rick Dees, Larry Storch, and even Gallagher as employees of a music store, Record City opens in theatres.
1989 - Presenting the joys of suburban life, the Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, Bruce Dern, Rick Ducommun film The ‘Burbs opens.
1995 - A parody of the original television show (while utilizing most of the TV series cast in new roles), the Shelley Long, Gary Cole, Michael McKean film The Brady Bunch opens. I'm wondering... which one of those three is Alice?
1997 - A time honored tradition is celebrated on The Larry Sanders Show episode The Roast, with guests Bill Maher, Dana Carvey, Carl Reiner, Kip Addotta, David Paymer, Norm Crosby, Al Franken, Bruno Kirby, Carrot Top, and Jon Stewart (who Hank heckles).
2006 - Both a parody of the romantic comedy film genre, and one of the worst rated films of all time (for good reason), Date Movie opens in theatres. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23QoNhfK_qg
2014 - The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon debuts on NBC. Jimmy’s inaugural guests include Will Smith and U2, with cameos by Mike Tyson, Lady Gaga, Stephen Colbert, Robert DeNiro, Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan, Seth Rogen, Tina Fey, Mariah Carey, Joe Namath, and Joan Rivers.
2020 - Ja’Net DuBois dies of cardiac arrest. While best known for playing the Evans' family's neighbour, local gossip Willona Woods on Good Times, she also co-wrote and sangthe theme song for The Jeffersons - Movin’ On Up. If that’s not enough, she was also a double Emmy winner for her voice over work on The PJs.
Born On This Day
1934 - Barry Humphries, perhaps better known for his alter egos Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson, was born in Melbourne, Australia.
1935 - Emmy nominated for her role as Ross and Monica’s mother Judy Geller on Friends, and also known for The Wedding Singer and How I Met Your Mother, actress Christina Pickles is born in Halifax, England.
1945 - Actress from films including So I Married An Axe Murderer, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Angels in the Outfield - not to mention an Oscar winner for My Left Foot - Brenda Fricker is born in Dublin, Ireland.
1954 - Rene Russo, known for films including Major League, Get Shorty, Tin Cup, Yours Mine & Ours, and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, is born on this date in Burbank, California.
1956 - Actor Richard Karn, who played Al on Home Improvement and also hosted Family Feud, is born in Seattle.
1963 - Daniel Lawrence Whitney is born in Pawnee City, Nebraska. But you probably know him better as “Larry the Cable Guy”.
1972 - Road warrior comic with four Comedy Central specials, Ralphie May is born in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
1974 - When your first role is as Vern in Stand By Me, it can be tough to follow up - but then there’s Calendar Girl, Jerry Maguire, My Secret identity and the like. The oft-mistaken-for-a-Canadian (not that there's anything wrong with that) actor Jerry O’Connell is born in New York City.
1980 - Actor (and John’s son) Jason Ritter - whose credits include The Class, Parenthood, and Kevin (Probably) Saves The World - is born in Los Angeles.
1952 - Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz host the 4th Emmy Awards from The Coconut Grove in Los Angeles where comedy rules the day. The Red Skelton Show wins Best Comedy Show and Skelton wins as Best Comedian or Comedienne, while Your Show of Shows wins Best Variety Show and its stars Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca take the Best Actor and Actress trophies... By that we mean, not for comedy, actual full-on Best Actor and Actress - beating out the likes of Charlton Heston, Helen Hayes and other big name luminaries of drama.
1957 - The first and only television appearance by all five Marx Brothers; Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Gummo, and Zeppo are interviewed by host Jack Lescoulie on America After Dark.
1983 - The film The Funny Farm, featuring Howie Mandel, Mike MacDonald, Mark Breslin, Howard Busgang, Eugene Clark, Marjorie Gross, Lou Dinos, Tony Molesworth, Ron Vaudry, Peter Aykroyd, Derek McGrath and Maurice LaMarche, opens. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K89_T8rv6o8
1983 - Martin Scorsese’s film The King of Comedy opens in theatres. The dark comedy features Robert DeNiro, Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhard. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wVhCCo02P4
1983 - While the cast included Jackie Gleason, Mac Davis, Teri Garr, Karl Malden, and Oliver Reed, it was clear they were no match for Newman and Redford. After a 10-year wait for a sequel, The Sting 2 opens in New York and Los Angeles, and fades quickly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPKVmzX9EaY
1986 - At WXRK radio in New York City, Howard Stern moves to mornings from the 6am slot.
2000 - The crime comedy The Whole Nine Yards about what can happen when a hired killer moves in next door, opens in theatres. It stars Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Natasha Henstridge, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Amanda Peet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3cEKSODO1M
Born On This Day
1945 - Michael Nader (Peter on Gidget) is born in St. Louis, Missouri.
1946 - French actor Jean-Claude Dreyfus (Delicatessen) is born in Paris.
1948 - Cartoon animator and voice actor Tony Anselmo is born in Salt Lake City, Utah.
1950 - Legendary American film writer, director and producer John Hughes (Pretty In Pink, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Home Alone), is born in Lansing, Michigan.
1950 - Cybill Shepherd, star of the US comedy series Moonlighting and Cybill, is born in Memphis, Tennessee.
1954 - Welcome Back Kotter, Grease, Look Who’s Talking, Hairspray, Get Shorty, Pulp Fiction, Battlefield Earth, Razzie winner, private pilot... this guy can do it all! John Travolta is born in Englewood, New Jersey.
1964 - Matt Dillon (There’s Something About Mary, You Me and Dupree, In And Out, The Flamingo Kid) is born in New Rochelle, New York.
1967 - Stand-up Greg Rogell (Conan, Leno, Half Baked, Louie, The Nanny, The Aristocrats) is born on Long Island, New York.
1968 - Her career began with the series The Facts of Life, and flourished through John Hughes' films Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty In Pink. Actor Molly Ringwald is born in Roseville, California.
1958 - In what some consider to be the first ever “diss track”, the Miracles answer the Silhouettes’ hit “Get a Job” with their first single: “Got a Job”.
1971 - A tobacco company offers 25 million (a huge fortune in 1970s dollars) to any city or town that can stop smoking for 30 days. So goes the Dick Van Dyck, Bob Newhart, Pippa Scott, Tom Poston, Jean Stapleton flick Cold Turkey. To thank the state of Iowa for hosting the filming, four days after its premiere in Des Moines, the film opens in 30 other Iowa communities. It wouldn't open wide until two weeks later. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hDkkgM5Sgs
1972 - After leaving his briefcase in Archie’s cab, Sammy Davis Jr. makes a visit to the Bunker house on one of the most popular episodes of All in the Family ever.
1974 - At just 10 years of age, Tatum O’Neal receives a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for her role in the comedy/drama Paper Moon. She remains this day the youngest person ever nominated in that category.
1977 - The 19th Annual Grammy Awards are presented in front of a star-studded audience at the Hollywood Palladium, with Best Comedy Recording going to Richard Pryor for his celebration of the Bicentennial.
1994 - SNL guest host Martin Lawrence's monologue is so raunchy that parts of it are removed or overdubbed with an announcer’s voice-over for repeats, prompting Lawrence (and reportedly even mention of him) to be banned from the show by Lorne Michaels.
1998 - South Park’s Kenny graces the cover of the Rolling Stone.
1999 - Yeeaah, what's happening? I’m gonna need you to... remember that it was on this date that the Mike Judge film Office Space opened. Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman, Ajay Naidu, Stephen Root and Diedrich Bader star, with Gary Cole as the TPS Report fixated office manager Bill Lumbergh... mmmkay? That'd be terrific.
2012 - The Simpsons 500th episode At Long Last Leave airs.
2012 - Building from Warwick Davis’ appearance on Extras, the Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant fictionalized version of Davis’ life, the series Life’s Too Short has its U.S. debut on HBO.
2013 - The Jeselnik Offensive, a late night series starring stand-up Anthony Jeselnik, makes its debut on Comedy Central.
2015 - Irish comics Dara O’Briain and Ed Byrne hit the road from Arizona to Southern Mexico on the debut episode of the series Dara and Ed’s Great Big Adventure.
Born On This Day
1914 - French actor from films including A Full Days Work, Black and White in Color, Lady L, and Zazie in the Subway, Jacques Dufilho is born in Begles, Gironde, France.
1915 - Star of his own long-running series The Dick Emery Show, as well as lending many voices to The Beatles' film Yellow Submarine, Dick Emery is born in Bloomsbury, London, England.
1924 - Best known for his tough guy roles, he also appeared in comedies including The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday and Donovan’s Reef, and even winning the Best Actor Oscar for his dual roles in Cat Ballou, actor Lee Marvin is born in New York City.
1953 - Stand-up and actor from Fernwood 2 Night and its follow up America 2-Night, Growing Pains and its spin off Just the Ten of Us, Mork and Mindy, and Clueless, Bill Kirchenbauer is born in Salzburg, Austria.
1955 - He’s a stellar dramatic actor, but we’ll always love Jeff Daniels for his idiotic portrayal of Harry alongside Jim Carrey’s Lloyd in the comedy classic Dumb & Dumber. He was born on this day in Athens, Georgia.
1958 - Leslie David Baker (Stanley Baker on the US version of The Office) is born in Chicago.
1966 - Real life sister of Jason, and Alex P. Keaton's sister Mallory on Family Ties, Justine Bateman is born in Rye, New York.
1985 - Haylie Duff, who plays cheerleader Summer Wheatley in the film Napoleon Dynamite, is born in Houston, Texas.
1936 - A Three Stooges film doesn’t need to be all slapstick when you’ve got dialogue like Curly’s “If at first you don’t succeed, keep on sucking til you DO succeed”. The trio’s Del Lord directed Movie Maniacs is released on this day.
1968 - A pre-Python John Cleese marries American actress Connie Booth. They would later go on to co-write and co-star (he as Basil, she as Polly the maid) in one of the greatest British - greatest anywhere, really - sitcoms ever made: Fawlty Towers.
1981 - In one of the more famous live TV “happenings”, while guest hosting ABC's new sketch comedy show Fridays, Andy Kaufman incites a scuffle with cast members during the broadcast's final sketch. Michael Richards is so incensed that 18 years later he would refuse to reenact the scuffle when asked to appear in Jim Carrey’s Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon. Fridays would air a videotaped apology by a “tearful” Kaufman one week later. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN5vhvIAqY8
1992 - The original Darren from Bewitched, actor Dick York passes away aged 63.
1998 - Marlon Wayons tries out experimental drugs for a greater goal but keeps losing one of his five senses in the film Senseless, opening on this date. It also features David Spade, Matthew Lillard, Tamara Taylor and Rip Torn. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6pM-4m7xQ0
2004 - A battle ensues in small town Maine between a former President (Gene Hackman in his final film) settling into retirement and a local plumber (Ray Romano) when both are put up for election after the Mayor’s seat opens up. Oh, and they’re also fighting for the girl (Maura Tierney). With support from Marcia Gay Harden, Rip Torn, Christine Baranski, and Fred Savage, Welcome to Mooseport opens in theatres.
2012 - Based on a book by Steve Harvey, the ensemble comedy Think Like a Man has its premiere at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. The cast is headed up by Kevin Hart, with Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Jerry Ferrera, Regina Hall, Terrance J, Romany Malco, and Gabrielle Union.
2015 - The aptly titled sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 hits theatres. It has everything the first one had - except a good script and John Cusack.
Born On This Day
1936 - Actor, singer, writer known for Gomer Pyle USMC, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, and most of all as Sgt. Carter on Hogan’s Heroes, Larry Hovis is born in Wapato, Washington.
1946 - Sandy Duncan, from the classic U.S. sitcom Hogan’s Family, is born in Henderson, TX.
1950 - Japanese comedian and actor Ken Shimura is born in Higashimurayama, Japan. Fun fact: he dubbed Danny DeVito’s part in the Japanese version of The Lorax.
1950 - John Voldstad is born in Oslo, Norway. He played Larry's brother Daryl, but not his other brother Daryl, in the hit 1980s comedy series Newhart.
1956 - Indian actor Annu Kapoor (Vicky Donor) is born in Bhopal.
1960 - A stand-up (Letterman, SNL, HBO’s Young Comedians special) who would go on to create and originally star in Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel Hodgson is born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
1964 - Actor French Stewart of 3rd Rock from the Sun and Mom fame is born in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
1978 - Stand-up and Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Chelsea Peretti is born in Oakland, California.
1984 - Stand-up, writer and producer best known for taking over as host of The Daily Show after Jon Stewart's departure, Trevor Noah is born in Johannesburg, South Africa.
1980 - Dallas star Charlene Tilton hosts Saturday Night Live and the cast does a parody of that show's famous Who Shot JR? episode. In the closing credits Charlene asks gunshot victim Charles Rocket (in a wheelchair and still in character) “Charlie, how are you feeling after you’ve been shot?” Rocket replies “Oh man, it’s the first time I’ve been shot in my life. I’d like to know who the f*** did it”. The surrounding cast members all showed varied reactions of shock and surprise... but not as much as the network, who chose to bid Charlie adieu soon after.
2001 - Jon Stewart hosts the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in L.A. Best Spoken Word Comedy Album goes to George Carlin for Brain Droppings, his third win.
2003 - With stars Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson, and Vince Vaughn, the Todd Phillips comedy Old School opens in theatres.
2003 - The follow up to Politically Incorrect, Real Time with Bill Maher makes its debut on HBO.
2009 - At the Razzie Awards, Mike Myers and The Love Guru "win" big, taking home Worst Picture, Worst Actor, and Worst Screenplay honours.
2010 - A 9 foot tall statue dedicated to Ernie Wise, featuring his tip-of-the-hat, is placed in his home town of Morley, near Leeds. Wise is best remembered for his work with partner Eric Morecambe in the comedy duo Morecambe & Wise.
2018 - British Comedy Awards winner as Best Actress for her role on The Vicar of Dibley, also known for How Do You Want Me? and as Hugh Grant’s younger sister in Notting Hill, Emma Chambers dies of a heart attack at age 53.
2019 - Peter Tork of The Monkees fame passes away in his Connecticut home, ten years after his initial cancer diagnosis, at the age of 77.
Born On This Day
1934 - An Emmy Award winning actress best known as Vivian Harmon on the series Maude, and as Blanche Devereaux on The Golden Girls, Rue McClanahan is born in Healdton, Oklahoma.
1946 - Anthony Daniels isn’t just the guy who played C3PO. He’s also acted in his fair share of comedies… like the classic 1990 horror spoof I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle. Today is his birthday - in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England.
1946 - Tyne Daly (star of Cagney & Lacey) is born in Madison, Wisconsin.
1946 - Try to forget Hans Gruber and Snape, and remember his best comedy turns in Galaxy Quest, Blow Dry, Dogma, and Love Actually. Alan Rickman is born in Hammersmith, London, UK.
1953 - Actress from Tootsie, Three Men and a Baby, Black Sheep, The Cavanaughs, and Richie Rich, and a co-anchor of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, Christine Ebersole is born in Chicago.
1955 - Dr. Frasier Crane on both Cheers and Frasier, Kelsey Grammer is born in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
1976 - British stand-up and show presenter (Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Michael McIntyre’s Big Show), Trevor Kreelman - sorry, Michael McIntyre - is born in London, England.
1979 - From MADtv to Key and Peele to Oscar winner, Jordan Peele is born on this day in New York City.
1979 - Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt (Can’t Hardly Wait, Heartbreakers, The Tuxedo, Jewtopia) is born in Waco, Texas.
1987 - Juno star Ellen (now Elliot) Page is born in Halifax, Nova Scotia.