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This Day in Comedy History

February 1 - 7

February 1

 

1894 - John Martin Feeney is born in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. But he’s better known by the name he used professionally - and under which he became one of the most renowned movie directors ever - John Ford. Though doubtlessly most famous for his many classic westerns, he also helmed more than a few comedies, among them Donovan’s Reef (1963), The Quiet Man (1952), Mister Roberts (1955), The Long Gray Line (1955), Tobacco Road (1941), The Last Hurrah (1958), Judge Priest (1934) and The Whole Town’s Talking (1935).

1937 - One of Saturday Night Live’s original “Not Ready for Primetime Players,” Garrett Morris is born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

1938 - Before he was “movin’ on up” to fame on The Jeffersons, Sherman Hemsley was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

1942 - Monty Python troupe member - and director of all three of their feature films - Terry Jones is born in Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire, Wales.

1946 - Bart Braverman (Vega$, The New Odd Couple, Match Game) is born in Los Angeles.

1948 - “Super Freak” singer Rick James is born in Buffalo, NY… We know he’s not a comedian, but we’re including him anyway so we have an excuse to link to one of Dave Chappelle’s hilarious Rick James sketches (as told by Charlie Murphy).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJB0BkJlbbw

1953 - The sitcom Private Secretary premieres, starring Ann Sothern. It ran Sundays on CBS (alternating with the Jack Benny Program at 7:30) until September, 1957. It would air with a new title - Susie - in syndication.

1966 - King of the deadpan expression and unbelievable physical gags, film legend Buster Keaton passes away at the age of 70.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frYIj2FGmMA

1967 - Canadian stand-up and showrunner Jo-Anna Downey is born in Montreal.

1968 - Stand-up comic and range stretching actor (Encino Man, Son In Law, Bio-Dome) Pauly Shore is born a hop, a skip and a jump from the stage of his parents’ club... "buuuuuddy."

1971 - Don Knotts portrays city bookkeeper Hollis Alexander Figg in the film How to Frame a Figg, opening today in theatres. 

1973 - The family comedy The World’s Greatest Athlete has its premiere at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. The Disney flick stars John Amos, Tim Conway, Jan Michael Vincent, Dayle Haddon, Nancy Walker and Roscoe Lee Jones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDITa8DzO-c

1982 - NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman premieres. His first guest is Bill Murray. Murray would also appear on the first Late Show with David Letterman when he moved to CBS in 1993, and be his final guest overall when Letterman calls it quits in 2015.

1984 - Actress from a variety of shows (BoJack Horseman, Portlandia, Drunk History, Curb Your Enthusiasm), but best known as the co-creator, writer, and star of Broad City, Abbi Jacobson is born in Wayne, Pennsylvania. 

2002 - With a cast that includes Jason Segel, Jason Schwartzman, and Laura Prepon, the college blackmail comedy Slackers opens in theatres.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMiUe69TIDI

2005 - Richard Pryor’s final album is released. Evolution/Revolution: The Early Years (1966–1974) includes two CDs culled from almost 40 hours of reel-to-reel analog tape he won legal rights to in 2002 and gave to Rhino Records in 2004.

2007 - The Sarah Silverman Program makes its debut on Comedy Central. Besides Silverman, the show featured her sister Laura, Brian Posehn, Steve Agee and Jay Johnstone, and appearances by Paul F. Tompkins and Tig Notaro.

2008 - Russell Peters plays Madison Square Gardens’ WaMu Theatre. It's the first date of a two night engagement.

2009 - Stand-up comedian Jeremy Hardy dies of lung cancer, aged 57. He is best remembered for his many appearances on radio panel shows such as The News Quiz and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, and as the winner of the 1988 Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

2009 - The highest rated episode of The Office ever, the two-parter Stress Relief has a lot going on: like Stanley suffering a heart attack, a roast of Michael, and the trio of Pam, Jim and Andy watching a bootlegged movie starring Jack Black, Jessica Alba, and Cloris Leachman. Despite those highlights, the boost that gave the show more than 22 million viewers (double the 2nd highest rating) was likely it’s Super Bowl lead-in.

2011 - “Weird Al” Yankovic’s children’s book When I Grow Up is released by HarperCollins. The hero of the story is 8-year-old Billy, who presents to his class the wide variety of imaginative career possibilities he is considering.

2011 - Adam Sandler receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

2014 - The Lego Movie opens.

2019 - Netflix releases season one of the series Russian Doll, created and executive produced by Amy Poehler, Natasha Lyonne (who also stars) and Leslye Headland.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHcKoAMGGvY

 

February 2

1882 - He was a literary genius and humor was a huge part of his oeuvre. One of the most influential authors of the 20th century, James Joyce is born in Dublin. The Irish 's novelists works include Ulysses (1922), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegan's Wake (1939), as well as the short story collection Dubliners (1914).

1914 - Charlie Chaplin (left) makes his first film appearance in Mack Sennett’s one-reeler silent short Making a Living. He would change his wardrobe to a more recognizable look for his second.

1925 - Great lady of the stage, the original Trixie Norton on The Honeymooners, and an Emmy winner for playing Jack’s mother Colleen Donaghy on 30 Rock, Elaine Stritch is born in Detroit.

1937 - The Tom half of The Smothers Brothers, Tommy Smothers is born in New York City.

1944 - British actor Geoffrey Hughes (best known for his role in Yellow Submarine and for playing Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances) is born in Wallasey, Cheshire, England.

1949 - Brent Spiner is born (not programmed) in Houston, TX, and he wasn’t just ST:TNG’s Data. His other works include comedies like The Simpsons, Family Guy, Superhero Movie, and Dude Where’s My Car? He even had a rare turn as a bad guy in Dana Carvey’s Master of Disguise, and provided some comic relief in the blockbuster sci-fi Independence Day movies.

1950 - The panel show What’s My Line? premieres on CBS. It would run until 1967.

1952 - American character actress Carol Ann Susi, whose career spanned more than 40 years and was best celebrated for her final role, a voice only performance as Howard’s overprotective and belittling mother Mrs. Debbie Wolowitz in the hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory, passes away from cancer in Los Angeles at age 62.

1966 - Stand-up and actor (Rescue Me, Nurse Jackie) Adam Ferrara is born in Queens, New York.

1970 - Playwright Neil Simon - the “Last of the Red Hot Playwrights” - appears on the cover of Newsweek.

1974 - Dom DeLuise makes the cover of TV Guide, in promotion of his show Lotsa Luck - the US version of the hit British series On the Buses.

1976 - While a one-off pilot had aired the previous September, The Rich Little Show has its premiere on NBC, with guests Glenn Ford, John Davidson and Susan Saint James.

1976 -  Comic and actress Lori Beth Denberg (Nickelodeon’s All That, The Steve Harvey Show) is born in Northridge, California.

1980 - Diff’rent Strokes stars Conrad Bain, Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman are featured on the cover of TV Guide.

1983 - The Canadian sitcom set in a Laurentian ski lodge Snow Job makes its debut on CTV.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kT9ZNvI6h4U

1995 - Seinfeld: Highlights of a Hundred airs on NBC. A special commemorating the 100th episode of the series, it opened with an intro from Jerry, then showed the best clips from the previous 99 shows, beginning with “salsa”. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwgXrjKsQyo

1995 - Second City alum known for The Red Green Show, T and T, and as Circle Researcher Rory Tate in a long-running campaign for Reese Peanut Butter Cups, Tim Sims passes away at age 33 from AIDS-related causes. Both the Tim Sims Encouragement Fund (continuing Sims' legacy of supporting young comedy talent) and The Tim Sims Playhouse are named in his honour. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83uZRCxPKoA

1996 - The Chris Farley/David Spade flick Black Sheep is released.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=winREZW93z4

2002 - Bernie Mac finds some room on the cover of TV Guide.

2007 - After continually touching fellow guest Ivanka Trump’s legs, arm and hair, despite several requests to stop, and asking her for “a big, fat, sloppy wet kiss right on the lips”, comedian Andy Dick is forcibly removed by security from the Jimmy Kimmel Live set. Kimmel himself carried Dick’s feet.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMZVyR2-adA

2014 - Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG and Academy Award winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose comedy credits include The Big Lebowski, State and Main, Along Came Polly, Pirate Radio, Happiness, Patch Adams, Almost Famous and Punch-Drunk Love, is found dead of acute mixed drug intoxication in the bathroom of his New York apartment. He was only 46.

2015 - At long last, legendary stand-up and activist Dick Gregory receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

2018 - The series Crawford, starring Jill Hennessy and John Carroll Lynch as parents in a dysfunctional family, is released on the CBC Comedy web platform.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=av_xjaGXEd0

2020 - During the Super Bowl, which took place on Groundhog Dog for just the second time in its 54 year history, a Jeep commercial referencing the classic 1993 comedy movie Groundhog Day airs, in which Bill Murry steals the groundhog and drives him to various places in an orange Jeep Gladiator.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xxe_HLixs1Q

2021 - After five seasons the award-winning series starring Carolyn Taylor, Aurora Browne and Meredith MacNeill, The Baroness von Sketch Show, airs its finale on CBC.

February 3

 

1894 - American artist and illustrator Norman Rockwell is born in New York City. He’s best remembered for his Saturday Evening Post magazine covers, which depicted ordinary scenes from small town American life.

1918 - The lone actual comic in the heavily comedic Rat Pack, and author of one of the most famous onstage quips ever, stand-up and talk show host Joey Bishop is born in the Bronx, New York.

1925 - One of the stars of the early age of comedy LPs and winner of the first ever Grammy for Best Comedy Album, stand-up and actor Shelley Berman is born in Chicago.

1944 - Actress and singer Trisha Noble is born in Marrickville, Sydney, NSW. Her credits include numerous appearances on The Dick Emery Show and the movies Carry On Camping (1969) and The Private Eyes (1980).

1950 - While her marriage to Tommy Flanagan is still unconfirmed, her comedy work (Mork and Mindy, Roseanne, Friends, Chuck, Naked Gun 33 ⅓: The Final Insult, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Cybill) has been certified. Morgan Fairchild is born Patsy Ann McClenny in Dallas.

1951 - Peter Sellers - working with creative partners Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan and Michael Bentine - makes a trial tape and sends it to BBC producer Pat Dixon, who eventually accepts it. The tape is called The Goons, and the radio show it spawned (Crazy People, renamed The Goon Show from series two onward) would be one of the most successful and influential comedy series of all time.

1956 - Three time Tony Award winning actor Nathan Lane (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Producers) is born in Jersey City, New Jersey.

1965 - Maura Tierney, of NewsRadio fame, is born in Boston. The Golden Globe winning actor has also appeared in such movies as Liar Liar (1997), Primary Colors (1998), Forces of Nature (1999), Semi-Pro (2008), and Baby Mama (2008).

1970 - For those who have never seen any Star Wars or Harry Potter flicks - and we’re guessing there’s maybe ten of you? - you’ll know him best from the TV shows Extras and Life’s Too Short, and the Leprechaun comedy-horror movie franchise. Warwick Davis is born in Epsom, Surrey, England. FUN FACT: He has been acting since the age of 12, and is the highest grossing supporting actor in the history of cinema. 

1971 - The 21st release in the Carry On film series, Carry On Henry finds the gang in the kingdom of Henry VIII, where bawdy 16th century hijinks predictably ensue.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rmsj7BOxR8

1973 - Bill Cosby makes the cover of TV Guide.

1976 - Australian actor Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers) is born to Scottish parents in Muscat, Oman.

1976 - Jay Leno makes his acting debut on the Good Times episode J.J. in Trouble. FUN FACT: This was during the time that Leno and David Letterman were both writing for Jimmy Walker’s stand-up act.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biu3AjFxMR8

1978 - The Carl Reiner directed, Henry Winkler starring, 1950s set wrestling comedy The One and Only opens in theatres.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fRos7znDUk

1979 - Initially just seen locally before going national on CTV and then internationally on Nickelodeon, the series You Can’t Do That On Television (which was basically a teen and pre-teen version of US sketch shows) makes its debut on Ottawa’s CJOH-TV.  The show would be a starting point for writers, directors, and actors, including a young, pre-angst cast member who would become a world famous singer: Alanis Morissette.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPaPliSW3no

1984 - Matthew Moy (2 Broke Girls) is born in San Francisco.

1989 - The John Candy, Annie Potts, Jeffery Jones comedy Who’s Harry Crumb? opens in theatres.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM6-VeQ_KPk

1991 - Best remembered as Miss Jane Hathaway, the hyper-dedicated and efficient secretary to bank manager Mr. Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies, actress Nancy Kulp passes away in Palm Desert at the age of 69. 

1994 - The Simpsons episode Bart Gets Famous airs, in which Bart gets a job as Krusty the Clown’s assistant then finds himself pressed into duty as a last minute replacement for a sick or dead Sideshow Mel in a TV sketch, and ends up accidentally becoming The “I Didn’t Do It” Kid.

1995 - Aimee Gibbs in the Netflix series Sex Education, British actor Aimee Le Wood born in Stockport, England. 

1995 - The high priests of prank calls hit the big screen, as The Jerky Boys: The Movie opens. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jl7b3E4kbeY

1996 - Five days before her 74th birthday, Audrey Meadows of The Honeymooners fame passes away in a Los Angeles hospital, from lung cancer.

1998 - The comedy troupe Firesign Theatre begin recording their Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death album at Sunburst Recording studios in Culver City, California. They would record until April 1, 1998, and the finished album - a satirical “December 31, 1999” radio broadcast amid Y2K hysteria -  would be released on Rhino Records. It’s the first of Firesign Theatre's millennium CD trilogy We're Doomed, which also  includes the albums Boom Dot Bust and Bride of Firesign.

2003 - B-movie actress Lana Clarkson, known for sword and sorcery movies as well as comedies, is found dead at record producer Phil Spector’s mansion. She began her career in 1982 with roles in My Favorite Year and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and also appeared in Amazon Women on the Moon and made numerous guest starring appearances in sitcoms. Spector would be charged with her murder, and after an initial mistrial would eventually be convicted for her shooting death.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcD3cB4QtrY

2004 - Drew Barrymore gets her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

2005 - Make room, Drew! Comic, impressionist and game show host Fred Travalena receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

2006 - Best remembered for playing Grandpa on the 1960s sitcom The Munsters, Al Lewis passes away at age 82.

2017 - Mexican comic Daniel Sosa’s special Sosafado is released on Netflix.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnIa9y1EjxQ

February 4

 

1923 - Conrad Bain of Maude and Diff'rent Strokes fame, is born in Lethbridge, AB.

1936 - 1970s stand-up icon David Brenner is born in Philadelphia.

1946 - Two legends, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, team up on the cover of Life magazine.

1961 - Beginning, as most stand-up shows should, at midnight, and in the midst of one of New York’s biggest snowstorms in memory, Lenny Bruce makes his Carnegie Hall debut. The now legendary show was recorded and posthumously released in triple-album form.

1963 - Actor Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars, The Wrong Guy, Galaxy Quest, Just Shoot Me) is born in Toronto.

1970 - The “two sets of identical twins historical comedy based on several works of classic literature” film Start the Revolution Without Me opens. It stars Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland with Orson Welles as the narrator, but despite its simple show description, it opens to mixed reviews.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7pAZrOKQq4

1971 - Rob Corddry (Children’s Hospital, The Daily Show, Hot Tub Time Machine, Ballers, The Unicorn) is born in Weymouth, Massachusetts.

1972 - Stand-up comic and television presenter Dara O'Briain is born in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland.

1979 - Based on the success of National Lampoon’s Animal House, all three major U.S. networks tried to capitalize by launching similarly styled sitcoms. For CBS that was the show Co-Ed Fever, which on this date both had its premiere, and was canceled.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhnSvmLOd3Y

1980 - Two years before landing Cheers, Ted Danson guest stars as a possible love interest for Laverne, on the Happy Days spinoff Laverne and Shirley.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IhrG8_cJbc

1982 - SCTV stars Joe Flaherty and John Candy guest on the 4th ever episode of Late Night with David Letterman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVv0Z9YvUAo

1983 - Stand-up comic and actor Hannibal Buress is born in Chicago. 

1983 - Second City alum and one of the stars of the series Superstore, comic and actor Lauren Ash is born in Belleville, Ontario. 

1994 - The film that would launch Jim Carrey to movie stardom, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is released.

1995 - TV Guide’s cover features the star of Seinfeld. (The one who plays Jerry.) The issue also features "Roseanne's strange but true new romance".

1999 - The final episode of the British improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway (which spawned a hellish number of international copies) airs on Channel 4.

2001 - The Simpsons' portentously titled episode Worst Episode Ever airs, in which Comic Book Guy suffers a heart attack (or “episode”), leaving Bart and Milhouse to look after the store. Hank Azaria, the voice of Comic Book Guy, would win an Emmy for the episode.

2013 - A series about an easy going bachelor and sperm donor whose life becomes complicated when he begins to meet those who have benefited from his donations, Seed makes its debut on CityTV.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV9mHxO6ito

2015 - Based on the autobiography of celebrity chef Eddie Huang, the TV series Fresh Off the Boat debuts on ABC. 

2015 - National Medal of Arts and Kennedy Centre Honors recipient, revered activist and actor from Let’s Do It Again, Grumpy Old Men, Bubba Ho-Tep, School Daze, Do The Right Thing, I’m Not Rappaport and Dr. Dolittle, Ossie Davis passes away aged 87. 

2018 - Kim Cattrall tweets to ask the public for help locating her brother, Christopher, who had disappeared in Alberta. Sadly he was found dead several hours later, having taken his own life.

2018 - An actor with credits including Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Say Anything, Moonstruck, Tin Men, The American President, and Reality Bites, but most likely still best known as Frasier and Niles' father Martin Crane on Frasier, John Mahoney passes away at the age of 77. 

2020 - Tom Papa’s special You’re Doing Great! is released on Netflix.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB-L3ffRa5I

February 5

 

1919 - Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and DW Griffith launch United Artists pictures.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEBZU_KHSM0

1919 - A Borscht Belt comic who went to Broadway, won an Oscar, and his own TV Show, he’s still best remembered for his “Never Got a Dinner” appearances on celebrity roasts. Stand-up and actor Red Buttons is born Aaron Chwatt in New York City.

1936 - Charlie Chaplin’s film Modern Times, one of the most revered of his career, is released.

1942 - The award winning Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn rom-com Woman of the Year has its premiere in New York.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e25EgGHdNnQ

1943 - Road to Morocco stars Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour get their hand, foot - and, in Hope’s case, nose - prints immortalized in the concrete at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. 

1948 - Comedian and filmmaker Christopher Guest (SNL, This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman) is born in New York.

1948 - Two-time Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Full Monty) is born in Wharfedale, Yorkshire, England. Coincidentally, he’s born “Full Monty” - in his birthday suit! (Tee-hee!)

1954 - Jack Benny pops up on the cover of TV Guide.

1961 - Tim Meadows - from Saturday Night Live, The Ladies Man, Mean Girls, Son of Zorn and so many other things - is born in Highland Park, Michigan. 

1962 - Actress Jennifer Jason Leigh (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Easy Money, Short Cuts, The Hudsucker Proxy, Childstar, Weeds) is born Jennifer Leigh Morrow in Hollywood, California.

https://youtu.be/inLVUVh_izg?t=34

1964 - She’s been nominated three times for Oscars for her movie roles, which include such comedies as The Savages, Dave, The Truman Show, Hyde Park on Hudson, The Nanny Diaries, Love Actually and Man of the Year. She also works extensively in TV, winning Emmys for her work on Frasier and The Big C while also picking up a Golden Globe for the latter. Actor Laura Linney is born in New York City.

1966 - Larry Hagman and a bottled up Barbara Eden of I Dream of Jeannie fame "blink" their way onto the cover of TV Guide.

1967 - A cast member at SNL for seven seasons before graduating to the role of Dr. Leo Spaceman on 30 Rock, Chris Parnell is born in Memphis, Tennessee. He also voices Cyril on Archer, and Jerry on Rick and Morty.

1967 - The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour premieres on CBS. It would last two seasons before being canceled by the network following a censorship battle.

1968 - Dean Martin reprises his Matt Helm superspy character in the fourth and final film of the Matt Helm series, as The Wrecking Crew opens wide in US theatres. The comedy also features Elke Sommer, Nancy Kwan, Tina Louise, and Sharon Tate in her final role prior to her murder by the Manson Family. It is also notable as being the first film work by future action stars Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=josGhZCiy1Y

1970 - The final Three Stooges film, Kook’s Tour, is released. It was originally intended to be a pilot for a new TV series, but Larry Fine suffered a severe, paralyzing stroke before filming was completed, so that idea was shelved.

1987 - British/Malaysian TV host and actor (Crazy Rich Asians, Last Christmas) Henry Golding is born in Betong, Sarawak, East Malaysia. 

1988 - The first Red Nose Day in Britain is highlighted by the 8-hour Comic Relief telethon. Lenny Henry and Griff Rhys Jones host, with some assistance from Jonathan Ross, as 30 million viewers tune in to the BBC event and it raises more than 15 million for the needy in African and the UK.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d46wDfCF1cY

1990 - The Canadian series Material World, about a fashion designer who starts her own business, debuts on CBC. Stars include Laura Bruneau, Jayne Eastwood, Linda Sorenson, and Karen LeBlanc. It would run for 38 episodes over four seasons.

1993 - A parody of the Lethal Weapon films and others of the genre, National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 opens in theatres. It stars Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson with help from Kathy Ireland, Tim Curry, William Shatner, Denis Leary, F. Murray Abraham and dozens of others in cameos.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ET5XJqPAW0

2016 - The Hannibal Buress special Comedy Camisado is released on Netflix.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QP44uHSCP0Y

2019 - His first special in more than two decades, Ray Romano: Right Here, Around the Corner gets its release on Netflix.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEVO0ucZ_kE

2019 - His first special in more than two decades, Ray Romano: Right Here, Around the Corner gets its release on Netflix.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEVO0ucZ_kE

2020 - Legendary actor whose acting career spanned nearly 65 years, and whose life spanned 103, Kirk Douglas passes away at his home in Beverly Hills. One of the last surviving stars of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” of cinema, the Honorary Academy Award winner and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient had almost 100 acting credits in his career, including such comedies as The Devil's Disciple (1959), There Was a Crooked Man... (1970), The Villain (1979), Home Movies (1979), Tough Guys (1986), Greedy (1994) and It Runs in the Family (2003). He bought the rights to, produced and starred in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1963) on Broadway, then later gave the movie rights to his son Michael, who produced what became just the second movie to sweep all five major Academy Awards, after It Happened One Night (1934), another comedy.

2021 - EGOT winner Christopher Plummer, described by many as "Canada's greatest actor", passes away peacefully in bed in his home in Weston, Connecticut, with his wife of more than 50 years at his side, at age 91. The Oscar, Emmy and Tony winner is remembered for starring in such comedies as Knives Out (2019), The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014), Dragnet (1987), Beginners (2010), Must Love Dogs (2005) and The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017), as well as such animated films as Up (2009), An American Tail (1986) and Rock-A-Doodle (1991).

February 6

 

1911 - Before he was President of the United States, or even Governor of California, he was an actor known for starring in such comedies as Million Dollar Baby (1941), The Voice of the Turtle (1947) and John Loves Mary (1949). Ronald Reagan is born in Tampico, Illinois... His most famous comedy, of course, was Bedtime for Bonzo (1951), in which Reagan played a professor of psychology who hires an actress to pretend to be his chimp’s mother in an attempt to teach said chimp human morals. But when the studio decided to make a sequel for the successful man-and-monkey movie the following year, Reagan had to decline, saying that the premise of Bonzo Goes to College - in which the chimp becomes not just literate but also a star quarterback - was simply "too unbelievable."

1931 - Emmy Award winning comic actor Rip Torn (The Larry Sanders Show, Men in Black, Dodgeball) is born in Temple, Texas.

1939 - Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H, actor Mike Farrell is born in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

1940 - Jimmy Tarbuck, the English comedian whose gap-toothed grin was a fixture on British TV as a presenter from the 1960s-1990s, is born in Liverpool, UK.

1957 - One of the stars of such films as Rat Race, Sister Act and Hocus Pocus, as well as the voice of Peggy on King of the Hill, Kathy Najimy is born in San Diego, California.

1957 - Best known for directing Meteor Man, Hollywood Shuffle, Eddie Murphy: Raw, and The Five Heartbeats, among other film and TV productions, comic, actor and director Robert Townsend is born in Chicago.

1960 - Larry’s wife Jeannie on The Larry Sanders Show, and Dabney Coleman’s love interest on the series Slap Maxwell, Megan Gallagher is born in Reading, Pennsylvania. 

1963 - The acclaimed Dick Van Dyke Show episode It May Look Like a Walnut airs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRjiXTvg9AU

1965 - “Jackie Gleason, Thinker” is featured on the cover of TV Guide.

1971 - TV Guide’s cover gets smoky, thanks to The Odd Couple’s Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.

1974 - At a New York City Burger King, at 47 East 59th Street, Andy Kaufman referees a hamburger eating contest.

1975 - It's the second sequel to The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes: Kurt Russell revisits his role as Dexter Riley in the Walt Disney film The Strongest Man in the World. Also appearing are Joe Flynn, in his final role (he sadly drowned between the completion of shooting and the film’s release), Eve Arden, Cesar Romero, and Phil Silvers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tWFNRvq2GY

1982 - One of the stars of The Jeffersons, Sherman Hemsley “moves on up” to the cover of TV Guide.

1982 - Actress Alice Eve (Before We Go, She’s Out of My League, Sex and the City 2, Men in Black 3, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Entourage) is born in London, England.

1982 - TV comedy legend John Larroquette, best known for playing Dan Fielding in the hit sitcom Night Court, which won him four consecutive Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Emmy Awards, stops drinking. He had suffered with alcoholism since the mid-1970s, and years later would joke on Leno: “I was known to have a cocktail or 60.” He would also star in his own series after Night Court, The John Larroquette Show, as a recovering alcoholic hired as the night manager of a seedy bus depot in St. Lous.

1991 - One of the great pioneers of television and legends of the industry, Danny Thomas passes away at the age of 79. He’s best remembered for his own series, especially the hugely successful Make Room for Daddy (later renamed The Danny Thomas Show).

1998 - The long awaited sequel to The Blues Brothers, Blues Brothers 2000, hits theatres... It’s not quite as classic.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWL2PkJRThU

2004 - The second in the Barber Shop movie series, Barber Shop 2: Back in Business opens in theatres.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BORZRHsk2EA

2005 - American Dad! premieres on Fox following Super Bowl XXXIX. Family Guy, by the same creators, had premiered on the network after Super Bowl XXXIII.

2009 - Produced by Drew Barrymore's Flower Films and Warner Bros. Pictures, the film He’s Just Not That Into You, based on the 2004 self-help book by Liz Tuccillo and stand-up comedian Greg Behrendt, premieres. Barrymore is also part of the movie’s star-studded ensemble cast.

2014 - Jay Leno hosts his final Tonight Show on NBC… no, for real this time!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zF-j3X_5IU8

2017 - “The World’s Foremost Authority,” stand-up “Professor” Irwin Corey passes away at the age of 102 at his Manhattan apartment. He was a mainstay at San Francisco’s famed “hungry i” comedy club, where he perfected his unique improvisational comedy act, and a frequent guest on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.

2018 - Fred Armisen’s special Standup for Drummers debuts on Netflix. Spoiler alert, he does his impressions of a coupla things.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAhvJMcLShU

February 7

 

1885 - Author Sinclair Lewis is born in Saulk Centre, Minnesota. The first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Lewis was known for his satirical works, including Main Street (1920), Babbitt (1922), Elmer Gantry (1927) and Dodsworth (1929).

1914 - The silent film Kid Auto Races at Venice premieres featuring Charlie Chaplin in his first screen appearance as the Little Tramp. He had actually first used the new look while filming Mabel's Strange Predicament, but that one wasn’t released until two days later.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nUptPWbE88

1938 - Winnipeg-born musical comedy star Deanna Durbin leaves her hand and feet prints in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, signing it “TO SID - WITH ALL MY LOVE” and also embedding a coin in the cement, which has since been stolen. In a case of life imitating art imitating life, the event coincides with the premiere the same evening of Durbin’s third film, Mad About Music, in which a star attends her movie premiere at that very same theatre, where the owner - the aforementioned Sid (Grauman), playing himself - asks her to leave her footprint in the cement! The movie would be hugely popular and garner four Academy Award nominations.  You can see Ms. Durbin’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1722 Vine Street.

1944 - Mickey Rooney is nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for his work in the film The Human Comedy, in which he plays a teenaged telegram delivery boy on the home front during WWII. The comedy-drama, which some sources name as MGM head Louis B. Mayer’s own favorite film, was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Direction and Best Cinematography (Black & White), and won the Best Story Oscar for William Saroyan, even though he’d left the project after the studio insisted that his original, 240-page, 4-hour version be cut down to two hours or less.

1956 - Emo Philips is born in Chicago, Illinois... His nurses probably noticed the hair.

1960 - One of Bill Swerski’s Superfans and the creator and cartoonist for TV Funhouse on SNL, as well as Conan's head writer where he wrote, puppeteered and voiced Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, actor, writer, comic and producer Robert Smigel is born in New York City. 

1960 - The creepy guy providing tension in numerous romantic comedies and as Robert California for two seasons on the US version of The Office, James Spader is born in Boston.

1962 - Two time Emmy winner and Tony nominated stand-up and actor Eddie Izzard is born in Aden, Yemen (at the time the Colony of Aden). Izzard has done numerous tours, performing in English, French, German and Spanish. A huge fundraiser for Comic Relief/Sport Relief (running a huge number of marathons) as well as numerous other charities, she’s also an activist and a member of the Labour Party. So yeah, I guess it would be fair to say that Eddie Izzard keeps herself busy.

1965 - Chris Rock is born in Andrews, South Carolina.

1970 - There’s a new husband on Bewitched, as seen on TV Guide: Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick Sargent both find themselves drawn in.

1974 - The Mel Brooks classic Blazing Saddles hits theatres.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKayG1TrfuE

1976 - The cast of Barney Miller follow the clues all the way onto the cover of TV Guide.

1978 - Star of That 70s Show, Punk'd, What Happens in Vegas, and Dude, Where's My Car?, Ashton Kutcher is born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

1996 - The disgraced hockey player turned golfer with a heart of gold film Happy Gilmore has its premiere at the Cineplex Odeon Century Plaza Cinema in Century City.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1emDAYCfVQ

1997 - The Chris Rock Show debuts on HBO. The first episode of the late night talk show features guest Johnnie Cochran (OJ Simpson's lawyer) and musical guest Prince (who at this point is known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince).

2003 - Opening on this date, Matthew McConaughy and Kate Hudson play cute-funny with a bet at stake in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZMGk_Ml1fc

2003 - Sequel to Shanghai Noon, the Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson hit 19th century London flick Shanghai Knights opens in theatres.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QUHogxpXp8

2006 - Recorded at the Vic Theatre in Lake View, Illinois, Jim Gaffigan’s sixth album Beyond the Pale is released on Comedy Central Records. And we’ve got two words… Hot Pockets. 

2009 - Bradley Cooper hosts SNL with musical guest TV on the Radio - but the most memorable musical piece is from this week’s SNL Digital Short. You may recall Andy Samberg winning a trip for three which placed himself, Akiva Schaffer, and T-Pain on some sort of water-based excursion.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iUjx4_X1qA

2010 - In the midst of the talk show wars, a very special promo for The Late Show with David Letterman runs during the Super Bowl.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KSKkmypTZM

2016 - The first original series commissioned by the service, the series Letterkenny has its debut on Crave.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pb0JdutNULs

2020 - Comic, actor, and game show regular Orson Bean is killed after being struck by two separate automobiles while walking at a Los Angeles intersection. He was 91.