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This Day in Comedy History

January 15 - January 21

January 15

January 15

1917 – Indian comedian and actor K. A. Thangavelu was born.

1944 - A US Liberty ship named the SS Carole Lombard is launched, named for the famed screwball comedy actress who had died two years prior in a plane crash while returning home from a record-breaking war bond drive. The ship's purpose? To rescue sailors in the Pacific for the duration of WWII.

1947 - American-Canadian actress and writer Andrea Martin of SCTV fame is born in Portland, Maine. Her accolades include two Emmys and two Tony Awards.

1955 - The Benny Hill Show debuts on the BBC. It would run in various forms until 1989.

1974 - The set-in-the-’50s, 1970s sitcom Happy Days makes its debut on ABC with the episode All the Way. Look closely, you’ll catch rare glimpses of both Richie Cunningham’s brother Chuck (who simply disappears a few episodes later), as well as Fonzie wearing a blue cloth jacket (which also soon disappears, replaced by his now iconic leather jacket).

1975 -  Stand-up and actress Phyllis Diller, she of the wild hair and drawn-out cackle, receives a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

1977 - A night of firsts for Saturday Night Live as Bill Murray makes his debut, as do the Coneheads in their first ever sketch. Ralph Nader hosts while the musical guest is George Benson.

1983 - The cast of the TV version of 9 to 5 punch in on the cover of TV Guide.

1988 - Good Morning Vietnam is released, starring Robin Williams as a US Army DJ entertaining the troops during the Vietnam War.

2004 - Best known as Louise “Weezy” Jefferson from the All in the Family spinoff The Jeffersons, Isabel Sanford receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

2010 - Full Frontal host, and past Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee guest stars on Law and Order as Vanessa Carville, a talk show host being blackmailed by a journalist, until the journalist turns up dead.

2012 - Based on the 2004 indie film of the same name, the series Napoleon Dynamite debuted as part of the Fox network’s "Animation Domination" lineup. Whatever level of domination it achieved would come to an end six weeks later.

2019 - Exuberant actress and singer who came to fame on Broadway as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (especially for her performance of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend), and who would win a Tony Award for her next play Hello Dolly!, before moving into film where she would win a Golden Globe and nab an Oscar nomination for Thoroughly Modern Millie - star of stage and screen Carol Channing passes away of natural causes at the age of 97.  The next night the lights of Broadway would be dimmed for one of its most memorable performers.

2019 - Terrorists attack the DusitD2 Hotel complex in Nairobi, killing 20 people. Kenyan comedian Eric Omondi, who had just picked up a parcel at one of the offices there when the shooting began, is lucky to have survived the attack, saying they tried to shoot him but missed.

January 16

January 16

1908 - Andrew Hughes is born Andoryû Hyûzu in the Ottoman Empire. His most notable role was playing Adolf Hitler in the Japanese comedy Crazy Adventure (1965).

1942 - One of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Carole Lombard, dies at just 33 years of age in a plane crash on Mount Potosi in Nevada, on her way back from a war bond rally in her home state of Indiana. Best known for her many roles in screwball comedies, Lombard was Hollywood’s highest paid star of the late 1930s, and is still remembered as a cinema icon as well as a definitive actress of the genre.

1950 - “Comics’ comic” known for his blue material Robert Schimmel is born in The Bronx, New York City.

1975 - Theatre-packing stand-up Danny Bhoy is born Danni Chaudhry in Moffat, Scotland.

1987 - Richard Pryor’s Critical Condition hits theatres.

1989 - Classic, perpetually miffed, character actor from the films Raising Arizona, Bull Durham, Twins, Married To The Mob and Miss Firecracker, Trey Wilson dies of a cerebral hemorrhage at just 40 years of age.

1997 - Comedian Bill Cosby’s 27 year old son Ennis is murdered while repairing a flat tire on Interstate 405 in Los Angeles.

1998 - In the summer of 1997 two films were shooting in Toronto at the same time and staying at the same hotel. One was called Dirty Work and the other was called Half Baked. Guess which one featured Dave Chappelle, Jim Breuer, Tommy Chong, Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson? Half Baked opens in wide release.

2004 - The Ben Stiller/Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy Along Came Polly hits theatres and opens at #1 at the box office. It also stars Alec Baldwin, Hank Azaria, Debra Messing, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as former child star Sandy Lyle.

2013 - Nick Kroll’s show Kroll Show debuts on Comedy Central.

2018 - Shot at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Kat Williams’ special Great America is released on Netflix.

January 17

January 17

1880 - Mack Sennett, legendary founder of Keystone Studios, creator of the Keystone Cops and dubbed “The King of Comedy" by Hollywood, is born in Richmond, Quebec.

1922 - A woman who was nicknamed The Mayor of Hollywood all the way back in 1955 - and just think of everything she’s done since - the incomparable Betty White is born in Oak Park, Illinois.

1949 - The sitcom The Goldbergs premieres. No, you read that right, 1949… this was the first comedy hit called “The Goldbergs” on American TV, based on a long-running radio show. It would air for seven years on television… Also premiering on this day? The variety show Johnny Olson’s Rumpus Room. Sounds fun, don't it?

1949 - Andy Kaufman is born in New York City.

1957 - Stand-up comic, member of the Original Kings of Comedy and game show host Steve Harvey is born in Welch, West Virginia.

1962 - Jim Carrey is born in Newmarket, ON.

1976 - The final episode of one of the worst variety shows of all time, Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell, airs on ABC. Not to be confused with the iconic long-running show which at this point was still entitled NBC’s Saturday Night, this show was hosted by the well known sports broadcaster and was the brain-child of legendary sports producer Roone Arledge - and it was just as funny as you’d expect a comedy show by sports people to be. In addition to the lineup of special guests, the show also had a regular cast of comedy performers dubbed “The Prime-Time Players” (which prompted Lorne Michaels to call his “The Not-Ready For Prime-Time Players”). Three of Cosell’s players - Bill Murray, Brian-Doyle Murray, and Christopher Guest - would all find their way over to that NBC program, which, starting the next season, would be rebranded as Saturday Night Live.

1977 - The Adam Arkin sitcom about a guy who leaves home to experience live on his own, Busting Loose debuts on CBS.

1980 - Actress and singer/songwriter known for the series New Girl and the films Elf, Almost Famous and Our Idiot Brother, Zooey Deschanel is born in Los Angeles.

1987 - Sherman Hemsley is joined by Clifton Davis on his new series and a magazine cover, as Amen is featured on the front of TV Guide.

1997 - The Chris Farley film Beverly Hills Ninja hits the big screens, featuring Chris Rock in a supporting role.

2002 - Cuba Gooding Jr. receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

2003 - The Sean Cullen Show makes its debut on CBC.

2005 - The Colin Farrell/Brendan Gleeson dark hitman comedy In Bruges has its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

2005 - Canada’s CBC airs three sitcom pilots: Hatching, Matching, and Dispatching (pictures), the Mary Walsh created series that also features Mark McKinney, Shaun Majumder, Joel Thomas Hynes, Jonny Harris and Susan Kent would be picked up. As would Getting Along Famously, starring real life couple Colin Mochrie and Debra McGrath. The Peter Keleghan-starring Walter Ego would not be so lucky though.

2013 - As he prepares to take over the 11:30 time slot, Jimmy Kimmel takes over the cover of Rolling Stone.

2014 - The Ice Cube/Kevin Hart buddy cop film Ride Along opens in theatres.

2022 - On what would have been Betty White's 100th birthday, just 17 days after she passed away in her sleep following a stroke, fans still celebrated by honouring her with the #BettyWhiteChallenge. Millions of dollars were raised for various animal rescues and shelters - a cause which was near and dear to her in her life.

January 18

January 18

1892 – The larger and American half of the legendary comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, Oliver Hardy is born in Harlem, Georgia.

1904 - Classic Hollywood movie star and leading man in some of the greatest romantic comedies of all time, including She Done Him Wrong, The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby and Arsenic and Old Lace, Cary Grant is born Archibald Leach in Bristol, England.

1953 – Aussie comedian Peter Moon, best known for the sketch comedy series Fast Forward, is born.

1965 - Rowdy off-colour comic and insomniac Dave Attell is born in Queens, New York.

1975 - The Bunkers' neighbours from All in the Family get their own show, as the spinoff sitcom The Jeffersons debuts on CBS.

1980 - TV’s Marshall Eriksen from the CBS series How I Met Your Mother, and filmdom’s Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Sex Tape, Bad Teacher, and I Love You, Man, comic actor Jason Segel is born in Los Angeles.

1979 - The TV spinoff of the movie Animal House, Delta House makes its debut on ABC. Four of the original characters from the film would come over to the show (Dean Wormer, Flounder, Hoover, and D-Day), but despite having a pilot penned by Harold Ramis, Doug Kenney and Chris Miller (who wrote the film), John Hughes contributing five more of the scripts, and a pre-Scarface, Fabulous Baker Boys and Catwoman Michelle Pfeiffer in the cast, the show would only last 13 weeks.

1983 – Amir Blumenfeld, Israeli-American comedian known for CollegeHumor and as half of the comedy duo Jake & Amir, is born.

1986 - The debut of new series The Redd Foxx Show on ABC has Redd as a diner/newsstand owner who adopts a street wise kid named Toni (played by Pamela Adlon who would go on to fame with roles on King of the Hill, Louie and Californication). Unfortunately, fame would not find this series and it would be gone after 13 weeks.

1990 - Cliff racks up a huge lead only to blow it all in Final Jeopardy on the Cheers episode What Is… Cliff Clavin. Jeopardy host Alex Trebek guest stars.

1998 - The Big Lebowski premieres at Sundance… better go tell The Dude!

2017 - At the 43rd People’s Choice Awards, Ellen DeGeneres becomes the winningest person in the history of the awards by picking up three trophies (Favorite Animated Movie Voice, Favorite Daytime TV Host and Favorite Comedic Collaboration, shared with Britney Spears). Other winners include Bad Moms (Comedic Movie), Deadpool (Action Movie), Ryan Reynolds (Movie Actor), Melissa McCarthy (Comedic Actress), Kevin Hart (Comedic Actor), The Big Bang Theory (TV Comedy), Sofia Vergara (Comedic TV Actress), Jim Parsons (Comedic TV Actor), Baby Daddy (Cable TV Comedy), Fuller House (Premium Comedy), Man with a Plan (New TV Series), Matt LeBlanc (Actor in a New TV Series), Kristen Bell (Actress in a New TV Series, for The Good Place).

January 19

January 19

1908 – Musical comedian Ish Kabibble is born Merwyn Bogue in North East, Pennsylvania.

1920 - Actor/director Nicholas Colasanto, best known as “Coach” Ernie Pantusso on Cheers, is born in Providence, Rhode Island.

1923 - Actress who would win three Emmys for her role as Edith Bunker on All in the Family, Jean Stapleton is born in New York City.

1940 – Actor/comedian Mike Reid is born in Hackney, London, England.

1946 - Country and crossover singing superstar who made her film debut in 1980 along with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in 9 to 5, and followed that up with The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rhinestone and Steel Magnolias, Dolly Parton is born in Pittman Center, Tennessee.

1953 - The I Love Lucy episode Lucy Goes to the Hospital airs to record numbers on CBS. The storyline surrounds Lucy going to the hospital to have her baby boy “Little Ricky”. More than 44 million viewers, almost 74% of US households, watched the show.

1954 - Best known for playing mom Peggy Bundy on the Fox sitcom Married... With Children, Katey Sagal is born in Los Angeles.

1955 – Mexican-American comedian, and star of the Norman Lear series AKA Pablo, Paul Rodriguez is born in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico.

1970 – Japanese comedian and musician Udo Suzuki is born.

1971 - In Living Color star Shawn Wayans is born in New York City.  Coincidentally, original In Living Color star Kelly Coffield Park was born on the same date in 1962.

1974 – American comedian best known for his impersonations on Fox’s MADtv and NFL Sunday, Frank Caliendo is born.

1991 - Mike Myers debuts Coffee Talk with Linda Richman on SNL.

1998 - Steve Martin’s "Changes in the Memory After Fifty" is published in the New Yorker.

2008 - Emily Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show, also known for the films If It’s Tuesday This Must Be Belgium, Support Your Local Gunfighter, Suppose They Gave A War And Nobody Came and Oh, God! Book II, actress Suzanne Pleshette passes away from lung cancer at the age of 70.

2015 - Part Daily Show, part Politically Incorrect, the late night panel talk series The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore premieres on Comedy Central.

January 20

January 20

1896 - George Burns is born. A true entertainer, he would continue to work until shortly before his death 100 years later, in 1996.

1920 - 12-time Academy Award nominee and five time winner, including an Honorary Oscar, Federico Fellini is born in Rimini. Among his many classic films are the comedies La dolce vita (1960), (1963), Juliet of the Spirits (1967), Roma (1972) and Amarcord (1973). FUN FACT: Rimini’s airport is now named in his memory.

1929 - Arte Johnson, the American comedian and actor best known for Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, is born.

1956 - American political comedian and TV host Bill Maher is born.

1965 - Future comedian and actress Victoria Sellers is born to good comedy stock, parents Peter Sellers and Britt Ekland.

1966 - Dwight Schrute himself, Rainn Wilson is born in Seattle.

1971 - Richard Pryor’s movie Dynamite Chicken, a mix of music, sketches and parodies, is released... but do you really need any more reason to see it than the simple fact that it's called "Dynamite Chicke

1973 - Riding the first season success of The Bob Newhart Show, Bob and co-star Suzanne Pleshette make the cover of TV Guide magazine.

1990 - Four days after the divorce from her husband of 16 years is finalized, Rosanne Barr marries Tom Arnold.

1996 - Saturday Night Live features the first Bill Brasky sketch, starring host Alec Baldwin, Will Ferrell, David Koechner, Mark McKinney and Tim Meadows as “The Bill Brasky Buddies”, who exchange drunken, fantastical, frankly unbelievable reminiscences of their superhuman pal.

2011 - New Tonight Show host and amateur figure skater Jimmy Fallon takes to the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.

2014 - The follow-up to Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s The Trip, The Trip to Italy has its premiere at The Sundance Film Festival.

January 21

January 21

1921 - Charlie Chaplin’s first feature film The Kid has its premiere at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Immediately hailed as a screen classic, the showing was done as a benefit for the Children’s Fund of the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

1924 - British comedy legend Benny Hill is born. He immediately pulls off his nurse’s shirt and chases her around the hospital in fast forward as “Yakety Sax” plays.

1956 - Oscar-winning comic actress Geena Davis is born in Wareham, Massachusetts.

1970 – The sitcom Nanny and the Professor, about a Mary Poppins-ish nanny who may or may not have magical powers, premieres on ABC. The show would last three seasons.

1974 - Aussie comedian Rove McManus is born in Perth, Western Australia. The three time Gold Logie winning TV host is best known for his own talk shows, and as a popular touring stand-up comedian.

1978 - One of Gilda Radner’s most famous SNL characters, Roseanne Roseannadanna, makes her Weekend Update debut, replacing another one of Radner’s characters in the segment, consumer affairs correspondent Emily Litella. The episode was hosted by Steve Martin, with musical guests Randy Newman and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

1982 - John Belushi is featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. The magazine would have him on their cover again just six weeks later, lamenting his death.

2004 - Grand Theft Parsons, based on the true story of a man who promises country rock musician Gram Parsons he will cremate him after he dies in Joshua Tree National Park, then steals his body to do just that, is released. The film stars Johnny Knoxville, Michael Shannon, Christina Applegate, and Marley Shelton.

2005 - The Ice Cube family comedy, with Nia Long, Jay Mohr and Tracy Morgan, Are We There Yet? opens in theatres.

2011 - The Fred Armisen/Carrie Brownstein series Portlandia makes its debut on IFC.

2018 - Stand-up comedian Steve Brown is attacked on stage in South Carolina after telling an audience member in the front row he looked “grumpy”. The man was escorted out but soon returned to the stage without his shirt to attack Brown again. He would be charged with aggravated assault after throwing the mic stand at Brown, and attempting to throw a chair as well. Brown sustained minor injuries but on the plus side - he totally won the whole "is he/isn't he grumpy" argument.

2019 - Nominees for the 39th Golden Raspberry awards are announced. The Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly flick Holmes & Watson and Melissa McCarthy’s Happytime Murders tie for most nominations with six apiece. Meanwhile, another Sherlock Holmes story, the animated family film Sherlock Gnomes, got two nods.

2020 - Monty Python troupe member - and director of all three of their feature films - Terry Jones passes away from complications of dementia at his home in Highgate, London, England, 11 days shy of his 78th birthday. A dementia fundraiser and campaigner, Jones donated his brain to the research of the disease.

2020 - Recorded at the McGlohon Theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina, the stand-up special Fortune Feimster: Sweet and Salty is released on Netflix.

2022 - Stand-up comic and Emmy winning actor Louie Anderson (for playing Zach Galifianakis' mother in Baskets) passes away from complications due to cancer, three days after it was announced that he'd been hospitalized in Las Vegas. He was 68 years old.

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