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This Day in Comedy History

January 1 - January 7

January 1

 

1938 - Oscar nominee Frank Langella, star of Robot & Frank, the Jim Carrey series Kidding, and the one-word titled films Dave, Eddie, and Junior, is born in Bayonne, New Jersey.

1943 - The Palm Beach Story has its general release nationwide. The Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor, Rudy Vallee, screwball yarn would be included in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years… 100 Laughs.

1964 - Actress Dedee Pfeiffer (Cybill, For Your Love, Falling Down) is born in Midway City, CA.

1965 - Upset that the network made him work on a holiday, Soupy Sales ends his live children’s show broadcast by encouraging the kids watching to tiptoe into their still-sleeping parents' bedrooms, remove those "funny green pieces of paper with pictures of U.S. Presidents" from their pants and pocketbooks, then "put them in an envelope and mail them to me". Days later, thousands of dollars began arriving in the mail. Sales said that much of it was play money, that he had just been joking, and that the real money he’d been sent would be donated to charity, but enough parents still complained that the station suspended him for two weeks.

1969 - Happy Birthday to voice actor “Mr. Lawrence”, best known for playing Plankton in the SpongeBob TV series and movies... Will he ever get his hands on that Krabby Patty recipe?!

1969 - Verne Troyer, best remembered for playing Mini Me in Mike Myers' Austin Powers movie franchise, is born in Sturgis, Michigan.

 1979 - The film Richard Pryor: Live in Concert is released.

1979 - The M*A*S*H episode B.J. Papa San airs, one of the character’s best. In it, Hunnicutt, who misses his own wife and baby, helps out the family of Su Sing, a Korean man who sells vegetables to the 4077 and who has gotten ill.

1980 - Set in a holiday camp, the series Hi-de-Hi! debuts on BBC1. It would run for eight years and win a Best Comedy Series BAFTA. 

1982 - A year into his Saturday Night Live run, Eddie Murphy makes his Tonight Show with Johnny Carson debut. He performs stand-up and gets some time on the couch. The lead guest on the show is an in-between-projects McLean Stevenson, of M*A*S*H fame.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1TKGtai7og

1983 - Bob Newhart and Mary Frann of Newhart appear on the cover of TV Guide, one of them for the first time. 

1985 - British comedy legend Ernie Wise, of Morecambe & Wise fame, made what was at the time believed to be the first public mobile phone call in the UK, to Vodafone's Headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire.

2000 - Marking the end of the long running cartoon strip, Newsweek magazine features Charlie Brown of Peanuts on its front cover.

2001 - The martian in My Favorite Martian and Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Ray Walston passes away at the age of 86. 

2005 - Britain’s Channel 4 airs the programme The Comedian’s Comedian, in which they they unveil the list of the top all time comics as chosen by “more than 300 comedians, comedy writers, producers, and directors on both sides of the Atlantic”, with Peter Cook taking top place. (His long time comedy partner, Dudley Moore, did not crack the top 50).  Here are the top 20, in case you're curious (and if you're reading this page, you are): 
 

1. Peter Cook
2. John Cleese
3. Woody Allen
4. Eric Morecambe
5. Groucho Marx
6. Tommy Cooper
7. Laurel and Hardy
8. Billy Connolly
9. Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer
10. Richard Pryor
11. Chris Morris
12. Tony Hancock
13. Bill Hicks
14. Peter Sellers
15. Steve Martin
16. Ronnie Barker
17. Steve Coogan
18. Charlie Chaplin
19. Eddie Izzard
20. Paul Merton

2013 - Vanity Fair releases their Special All-Star Comedy Issue! with a variety of different covers!

2017 - Fox’s new sitcom, The Mick starring Kaitlin Olson as an aunt forced to become guardian to her fugitive sister and brother-in-law’s children, debuts on FOX. It would run for two seasons.

2021 - 29 year old Indian stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui is arrested in Indore during his show after allegedly insulting Hindu deities in rehearsals.

 

January 2

1953 - Frank Peppiatt and John Aylesworth’s show After Hours makes its debut on CBC.

1955 - The first midseason replacement series, sitcom The Bob Cummings Show (aka Love That Bob), premieres on CBS and is pretty successful - it would run through 1959.

1968 - Cuba Gooding Jr, whose film career began with him playing a young guy getting a haircut in Coming to America, to 8 years later winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Jerry Maguire, then on to the starring role in Snow Dogs for some reason (piles of cash?), is born in The Bronx, New York.

1969 - Quebec actor Patrick Huard, who rose to fame through the Les Boys film franchise and starred in the blockbuster Bon Cop, Bad Cop, is born in Montreal.

1979 - Herb Gardner’s Broadway dramedy The Goodbye People is given an L.A. production as it opens at the Solari Theatre. Directed by Jeff Bleckner, the cast boasts Peter Bonerz, Herschel Bernardi and Patty Duke.

1981 - An important series in the evolution of stand-up comedy, the showcase show An Evening at the Improv debuts on A&E. 

1983 - He’s best known for his Emmy and WWCA nominated role playing Chechen mobster NoHo Hank in HBO’s hit series Barry, and on the big screen for playing robot Dennis Caleb McCoy in Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020). Anthony Carrigan is born in Boston, MA.

1990 - The SS Minnow’s Skipper brave and sure, who took five passengers and a mighty sailing man of a mate out for a three-hour tour that lasted three years plus three decades and running in syndication, Alan Hale Jr. of Gilligan’s Island fame passes away at age 68.

2010 - Artie Lange attempts suicide for the second time at his home by drinking bleach, slitting his wrists, and stabbing himself in the abdomen nine times. He is found on the floor by his mother who happened to be outside planning an intervention for him with his sister, two uncles, and his friend, fellow comedian Colin Quinn.

2017 - Jen Kirkman’s stand-up special Just Keep Livin? is released on Netflix.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWw9CvqoxEk

2019 - Bob Einstein passes away in Indian Wells, California at age 76. The comic who first came to prominence as a writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (which won him his first Emmy), became better known for his Super Dave Osborne character. In later years he was a recurring actor on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development.

January 3

 

1897 - Actress, comedian, and William Randolph Hearst project Marion Davies is born in Brooklyn, New York.

1909 - The Clown Prince of Denmark, Danish-American comic/pianist Victor Borge is born Borge Rosenbaum in Copenhagen.

1930 - In Staten Island, NYC, Robert Loggia is born. He's most known for portraying tough guys but also often showcased his lighter side in films like The Revenge of the Pink Panther, and especially as toy company head Mr. MacMillan in Big, is born in Staten Island, New York.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CF7-rz9nIn4

1932 - Known for playing boorish a-holes hilariously, Dabney Coleman is born in Austin, Texas. Representative roles include Franklin Hart Jr, the boss from 9 to 5,  director Ron Carlisle from Tootsie, and Bill Bittinger, the talk show host on the series Buffalo Bill. He also stars in the criminally underrated cop comedy Short Time.

1968 - Elke Sommer plays an East German Olympic pole vaulter who vaults the Berlin wall to freedom in the west. Hmmm, political overtones, East vs. West ideologies... who would be a good supporting cast for something like that? Why, Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer, John Banner and Leon Askin from Hogan’s Heroes, of course! The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz opens in theatres.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnGEprM0Ldg

1970 - Davy Jones announced he was leaving The Monkees, a year after Peter Tork left the band.

1972 - German producers had an idea - Monty Python should come to Germany and do a series, but, you know, in German. The result, Blödeln fur Deutschland, the first of the two episodes of Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus, airs on ARD.

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

1983 - Set up as an American version of the great UK show Not the 9 O’Clock News, the satirical sketch series Not Necessarily the News begins its run on HBO. 

1989 - After initially having taken over hosting duties on The Late Show from Joan Rivers, The Arsenio Hall Show debuts on Fox.

1991 - The sitcom Blossom premieres on NBC. Or, as Joey would say: “Whoah!”

2005 - The third installment of The Late, Late Show, this time with Scottish comic Craig Ferguson at the helm. debuts on CBS with guests David Duchovny and Nicole Sullivan.

2012 - Beau Bridges takes over the role of J.B. Biggley from John Larroquette in the hit revival of the Broadway musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

2020 - Following a successful domestic theatre release, the Mexican coming-of-age comedy All the Freckles in the World is released on Netflix.

January 4

 

1930 - Best known as Boss Hogg on the hit '80s series The Dukes of Hazzard, who together with James Best’s Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane formed one of TV’s great comedy duos, actor Sorrell Booke is born in Buffalo, New York.

1962 - The first episode of English sitcom Steptoe and Son airs on BBC, starring Harry Corbett. The show would become a hit, running for eight series over the next 12 years, as well as inspiring two films, a TV special, and a US remake - the hit Redd Foxx vehicle Sanford and Son.

March 21 - Harry Corbett dies (Steptoe and Son) - 1982.png

1963 - Dave Foley of The Kids in the Hall and NewsRadio fame is born in Toronto. He also made the cult hit film The Wrong Guy.

1963 - The Hollywood Palace premieres on ABC. The variety show's first episode features Bing Crosby as host, and featured performers include Mickey Rooney, Bobby Van, The Hardy Family, Gary Crosby, The Amazing Sylvan, Nancy Wilson, The Young Americans and special guest Bob Newhart. And all of it is brought to you by Derma Fresh Hand Lotion - it's "hospital approved!" The well received series would last for 6 years.

1973 - The sitcom Last of the Summer Wine premieres. It would end up staying on the air an incredible 295 episodes, until 2010, making it not only Britain’s longest running comedy series but the world’s longest running sitcom... man, they really must have been nursing that wine!

1979 - Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle opens its doors for the first time, in the basement of a Bloomfield Hills, Michigan restaurant. It has changed locations several times in the decades since, but is still open and is the longest operating comedy club in Michigan.

1984 - Night Court, the legal comedy starring Harry Anderson, makes its debut on NBC. The cast also already includes a few familiar faces, including John Larroquette (who would win 4 Emmy Awards as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series) and Richard Moll. Court would remain in session for the next 9 seasons.

1991 - After appearing as a recurring character in Steve Smith’s previous three comedy series, Red Green finally gets a show of his own as CHCH premieres the first episode of The Red Green Show: The Big Inboard. It would go on to be a massive success, lasting for 300 episodes over 15 seasons. (Plus 11 specials, and a movie!)

2007 - Sacha Baron Cohen does a rare “out of character” interview, with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air radio show.

2008 - The uncomfortable talk show Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis premieres on Funny Or Die.

2018 - The award winning series about a catholic girl’s school during a troubled time in their city, the black comedy Derry Girls debuts on Channel 4.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFmFuXH0IRY

January 5

 

1914 - Charlie Chaplin’s first day of work at Keystone’s studios. He’d end up doing pretty well for himself.

1946 - An Oscar winner for Annie Hall, actress Diane Keaton is born in Los Angeles.

1961 - Say hello to Wilbur - and maybe also Francis the Talking Mule’s legal department - because on this day the talking horse Mr. Ed, along with his affable owner (Alan Young), hits the airwaves for the first time. The horse - of course, of course - would stick around on TV until 1966.

1962 - Five days before her return to television on The Good Years, Lucille Ball drops in on the cover of Life Magazine.

1975 - Bradley Cooper, star of The Hangover 1-3, is born in Philadelphia.

1976 - One of the most revered cult shows ever, the Norman Lear produced, Louise Lasser starring series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman makes its debut.

1982 - Character actor Hans Conried passes away at the age of 64. He was known for roles like Uncle Tonoose on Danny Thomas’s show Make Room for Daddy, and multiple roles on I Love Lucy, though is maybe best remembered as Jerry Lewis’ singing teacher in the film The Patsy.

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

1995 - The Seinfeld episode The Switch airs on NBC. It took 97 episodes, but finally, and with the help of guest Sheree North as his mother Babs, the audience learns Kramer’s given name… But if you missed it, don’t worry - we’re sure it’ll be on again somewhere in the next day or so.

2015 - While hosting at The Local 907 Club in Renton, Washington, Seattle comic Dylan Avila suffered a double concussion and needed two titanium plates put in his head after he was viciously attacked on stage with a baseball bat. The assailant wa an amateur sex prop comic with sex toys, using the stage name “God”, who was apparently angry after being told he was no longer welcome to perform on open mic night.

2015 - Artie Lange launches an uncensored subscription-based podcast titled The Artie Quitter Podcast, recorded in his home in Hoboken, New Jersey.

January 6

 

1912 - Star of night clubs, radio, film, television, fatherhood and philanthropy, comic Danny Thomas is born with the slightly less "showbizzy" name of Amos Muzyad Yacoob Kairouz, in Deerfield, Michigan.

1930 - Known for playing diner owner Mel Sharples on the television series Alice (a role that won him two consecutive Emmys), Vic Tayback is born in Brooklyn.

1944 - Bonnie Franklin, who starred as Ann Romano, the mother on the '70s sitcom One Day at a Time, is born in Santa Monica. Her co-star on the show, Pat Harrington Jr. would pass away on the same date, in 2016.

1955 - Rowan Atkinson is born in Consett, England.

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

1962 - The final episode of the original The Yogi Bear Show airs. Luckily, Ranger Rick had that Yellowstone Park gig to fall back on.

1964 - Both of Corner Gas's constables are born on this day, starting with Lorne Cardinal (who played Quinton Davis) in Sucker Creek, Alberta. His partner, Constable Karen Pelly (Tara Spencer-Nairn) would come 14 years later, in Montreal.

1976 - Actor Danny Pintauro (Who’s the Boss?) is born.

1976 - Actor Danny Pintauro (Who’s the Boss?) is born.

1984 - What television needed in 1984 was another SNL type series, and who better to deliver it than Lorne Michaels? The New Show debuted on this date with all the SNL elements you’d expect, only the sketches were pre-taped. The premiere featured Steve Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Jeff Goldblum, Dave Thomas, Valri Bromfield and Buck Henry, with musical guest New Edition. Despite the proven formula and big name stars, the new show’s nine total episodes would would get the lowest ratings of any TV show in the 1983-84 season.

1984 - Comedian Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live) is born in Sea Cliff, New York.

1985 - On the talent contest show Star Search, there is a very tight battle in the comedy category, where Dennis Miller makes a strong challenge against the defending champion. The judges points have the two tied neck and neck in fact, which means the winner will have to be decided by an audience vote… which isn’t nearly as close. Dennis Miller loses to Sinbad on Star Search.

1995 - Just 10 years after defeating Dennis Miller on Star Search, Sinbad co-stars with Phil Hartman in the new film Houseguest.

1999 - Bob Newhart receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

2000 - Known as “MAD’s Maddest Artist” legendary cartoonist Don Martin passes away at the age of 68. He spent 32 years at MAD magazine, and an additional 6 at arch rival Cracked.

2011 - The new, hugely successful live staged version of The Pee-Wee Herman Show - which had sold over $3 million in advance tickets before relocating to New York for a limited run at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre the previous November - has an added, extra performance, to be taped for broadcast by HBO. The special would air two months later.

2016 - Steve Carell receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

January 7

 

1911 - Influential Jewish comedienne who would have more than 20 Ed Sullivan Show appearances in the '50s and '60s, as well as her own series The Jean Carroll Show, and even be honoured with her own evening at the Friar’s Club in New York, Jean Carroll is born Celine Zeigman in Paris, France. Carroll would later be one of the inspirations for the series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

1920 - Actor Vincent Gardenia is born in Naples, Italy. In addition to his recurring role as Frank Lorenzo, the Bunker’s liberal next door neighbor on All in the Family, he also added his combustible humour to films like The Front Page, Heaven Can Wait, Little Shop of Horrors, Moonstruck, and Skin Deep

1950 - Actress Erin Gray (Silver Spoons) is born in Honolulu, Hawaii.

1964 - Oscar winning and WWCA nominated actor from films including Raising Arizona, Valley Girl, Peggy Sue Got Married, Moonstruck and Honeymoon in Vegas, Nicolas Cage is born in Long Beach, California.

1969 - Doug E. Doug (Cosby, 8 Legged Freaks) is born.

1977 - Actor turned stand-up comedian Dustin Diamond, best remembered for playing Screech on Saved by the Bell, is born in San Jose, California.

1984 - How do you follow up M*A*S*H? For four of its stars the answer was AfterMASH, as TV Guide informed us on its cover.

1988 - Jack Klugman, best known as the Oscar the messy half of TV’s The Odd Couple, and less hilariously so as a coroner on Quincy, gets a star on the Walk of Fame.

1994 - Chris Elliot’s box office bomb remembered as the only film acting appearance of David Letterman (playing the monkey-selling “Old Salt in Fishing Village” and credited as Earl Hofert), Cabin Boy opens in theatres.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmBq41nVrXs

1994 - Kevin Bacon doesn’t want to be an assistant coach anymore so he goes to Kenya, where he grows as a person. The Air Up There opens on North American screens.

2002 - American comedian Avery Schreiber passes away. He appeared in many sitcoms and films but is best remembered for his work in the 1960s, when he teamed up with Jack Burns to form Burns and Schreiber. They would make numerous guest TV appearances and host their own summer replacement series The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour, ya know what I mean?

2005 - Soupy Sales gets his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.