This Day in Comedy History
January 8 - January 14
1923 - Comedian and actor Larry Storch is born in New York City. He is best known as Corporal Randolph Agarn on the series F Troop, for his many voice roles, and for being Al Bundy’s childhood hero on Married... With Children.
1926 - Milton Supman, better known as Soupy Sales, is born in Franklinton, North Carolina. Soupy is best remembered for his 1953-1966 sketch television show for children, Lunch with Soupy Sales, which usually featured Sales receiving a trademark pie in the face. In the 1960s-1970s, he was a panelist on What’s My Line? before having his own show again in the 1980s.
1941 - Graham Chapman, of Monty Python fame, is born in Leicester, Leicestershire.
1952 - My Friend Irma premieres on TV. The hugely successful franchise was already a top rated radio sitcom, a film series (featuring Martin & Lewis) and a comic strip. The TV show would run until 1954 and notably was the first series telecast from the CBS Television City facility in Hollywood, in October 1952.
1972 - Flip Wilson is featured on the cover of TV Guide.
1982 - Gaby Hoffman, who would make her comedy debut as the 6-year old daughter Maizy in Uncle Buck, then go on to star in her own sitcom Someone Like Me and the movie Freaky Friday, before earning three Emmy nominations for her roles in the shows Transparent and Girls, is born in New York City.
1990 - The second most recognizable gap-toothed grin in comedy and one of Britain’s best loved comics, actor Terry Thomas passes away at age 80.
2002 - Last Call with Carson Daly debuts on NBC.
2007 - Yvonne De Carlo, who for decades was known as a respected dramatic film actor, before later came to greater, comedic fame as Lily on the series The Munsters, passes away in Los Angeles at the age of 84.
2010 - The English correspondent from The Daily Show gets his own comedy showcase as John Oliver’s New York Stand Up Show debuts on Comedy Central. This picture has nothing to do with the show, but we're gonna go ahead and leave it here anyway...
2011 - Andy Dick is thrown out of porn’s AVN Awards after reportedly harassing and groping porn star Tera Patrick and drag queen Chi Chi Larue backstage. But, c'mon, is this the face of a guy who'd do something like that?
2016 - Recorded in Seattle, Tom Segura’s special Mostly Stories is released on Netflix.
2020 - Comedian, actor and filmmaker Buck Henry passes away in hospital in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack at age 89. His career took off on TV, where he is particularly remembered for his work on The New Steve Allen Show (1961). He also co-created Get Smart (1965–1970) with Mel Brooks (winning an Emmy in the process), and hosted Saturday Night Live 10 times from 1976 to 1980, where it became a tradition for him to host the final show of each season. He was also twice nominated for Academy Awards, for co-directing Heaven Can Wait (1978) with Warren Beatty and co-writing Mike Nichols' The Graduate (1967).
1935 - Best known for the roles of Maynard G. Krebs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and the namesake first mate on Gilligan’s Island, Bob Denver is born in New Rochelle, New York.
1941 - The Gary Cooper/Barbara Stanwyk screwball comedy Ball Of Fire opens in theatres.
1955 - Oscar winner J.K. Simmons is born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. One of those actors that can do it all, he really seems to grab comedic roles by the throat. Witness his turns as J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider Man films. Slightly less aggressive rolls include Thank You For Smoking, Juno, Burn After Reading, and I Love You Man.
1961 - Bob Newhart’s second album, The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back, beats out his first album for #1 on the Billboard Albums Chart. His two albums would occupy the top spots on the chart for the next 30 weeks, a feat that would not be repeated until 1991, when it was finally done again… by Guns N’ Roses.
1961 - Writer-producer Al Jean, best known as an Executive Producer of The Simpsons, is born in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
1967 - Following the huge success of ABC’s hit series Batman, America’s two other major networks try to cash in with superhero comedies both premiering on this day in 1967. CBS’s Mr. Terrific, about a scrawny young gas station attendant who attains superhuman strength by taking “power pills” provided to him by a government agency, airs at 8pm. Then, at 8:30, NBC’s Captain Nice, by Get Smart co-creator Buck Henry, tells the story of a goofy chemist with a domineering mother who accidentally turns himself into a Superman-like hero. The fact you've never heard of either of those shows should tell you how successful they would be.
1968 - Actor/director known for films including Chasing Amy, Big Daddy, Bio-Dome, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and The Breakup, Joey Lauren Adams is born in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
1981 - On the second episode of An Evening at the Improv, Fred Willard serves as host and guests include Arsenio Hall and Harry Anderson.
1989 - Throwing one more hat into the ever-expanding TV talk show landscape, CBS unveils The Pat Sajak Show. Best, if not only, known as the host of Wheel of Fortune, Sajak’s first guest would be Chevy Chase (who would have his own talk show soon enough). His last guest would come 15 months later.
1995 - An immensely influential presence, long-time film and stage partner of Dudley Moore, and oft described as “the father of modern satire”, comic Peter Cook dies at the age of 57.
2000 - Malcolm in the Middle debuts on FOX.
2005 - After two weeks of previews, the Monty Python play Spamalot has its official premiere at Chicago’s Shubert Theatre.
2005 - Following rumours since a statement by his sister in 2004 that multiple sclerosis had cost him his voice, Richard Pryor’s wife issues a statement on his official website, citing Richard as saying: "I'm sick of hearing this shit about me not talking... not true... I have good days, bad days... but I still am a talkin' motherfucker!" Certainly seems like him talking :)
2006 - The Howard Stern Show makes its debut broadcast on Sirius, opening with a farting version of Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra”. George Takei then introduces himself as the show's new announcer. 180,000 Sirius radios had been activated a day before.
2011 - Bob’s Burgers, the animated sitcom that centering around the Belcher family, makes its debut on Fox.
2011 - A reading of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, featuring Ethan Hawke and Billy Crudup, is staged at the Cherry Lane Theatre in the West Village, Manhattan, New York City.
2022 - American stand-up comic Bob Saget, best remembered for starring in the sitcom Full House and as the first host of America’s Funniest Home Videos, passes away in his hotel room near Orlando, Florida at age 65. He was in the midst of a stand-up tour.
1904 - Star of vaudeville, television, and most recognizable as the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, Ray Bolger is born in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
1944 - I know Bob Hope must have been the No. 1 Comedian at this point because I read it in Life Magazine, on the cover that he appeared on… something he earned by being the No. 1 Comedian.
1951 - Author Sinclair Lewis passes away in Rome, Italy. The first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Lewis is best remembered for his satirical works, including Main Street (1920), Babbitt (1922), Elmer Gantry (1927) and Dodsworth (1929).
1961 - Charlie Runkle from Californication, Harry Goldenblatt on Sex and the City, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’s Ricky Tahoe, Evan Handler is born in New York.
1974 - Grammy Award-winning comic, actor and musician from Flight of the Conchords, Jemaine Clement is born in Masterton, New Zealand.
1982 - Campy character actor and comedian Paul Lynde passes away in his sleep following a heart attack in his Beverly Hills home, at age 55. He is remembered for the film Bye, Bye Birdy, the TV sitcom Bewitched, and as the quick-witted and quip-filled long running resident of the center square on Hollywood Squares.
1984 - “Where’s the beef?” is heard on TV for the first time as the Wendy’s hamburger commercial featuring little old lady Clara Peller angrily delivering the slogan at a competitor’s oversized bun with an undersized meat patty airs. The slogan was originally written as “where’s the real beef?”, and an earlier commercial aired with a bald man asking “thanks but where’s the beef?” that failed to make an impact, before this spot was written with a younger couple in mind asking “where is all the beef?”. But history was made when the director cast elderly women instead - with Peller’s line, due to her emphysema, shortened to simply “where’s the beef?” Thus, at age 81, the Chicago housewife and manicurist who had just begun doing bit parts became a cultural phenomenon.
1992 - Kuffs, starring Christian Slater as smartass cop George Kuffs, is released. Co-stars include Tony Goldwyn, Milla Jovovich, and Ashley Judd in her big screen debut.
1993 - The Carol Burnett Show: A Reunion, the first of four televised reunions with the beloved variety show’s case, aired on CBS. The special featured clips of the show's best moments from 1967 to 1978, with the gang reminiscing about their time together on the show.
1997 - A tough guy persona presented in comic settings was just the starting off point for actor/writer/producer/director Sheldon Leonard. From the Jack Benny and Martin and Lewis radio shows, to producing the Danny Thomas and Dick Van Dyke shows, and all the way to having characters Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadler from The Big Bang Theory named in tribute to him, he was able to cover a lot of ground. On this date he passed away, at age 89.
1998 - Colin Quinn replaces Norm Macdonald as host of SNL’s Weekend Update segment.
2015 - Stand-up and actor Taylor Negron passes away of cancer at the age of 57. Memorable roles include the pizza guy in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Julio in Easy Money, one of the competing comics in Punchline, and himself in The Aristocrats. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEUrQoG7ED8
2017 - Tony Rosato, one of only three performers to be a cast member on both SCTV and Saturday Night Live, passes away in Toronto at the age of 62.
1922 - Silent film star Fatty Arbuckle’s second highly publicized trial begins, in San Francisco, CA.
1940 - The classic screwball romantic comedy starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday has its world premiere at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
1960 - Capitol Records’ original Broadway cast recording of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning comedic musical Fiorello! peaks at #7 on Billboard’s best selling albums chart. It would ultimately spend 89 weeks on the chart.
1962 - One of the original stars of In Living Color, Kim Coles is born in Brooklyn.
1973 - The first Dean Martin Roast with guest of honour Johnny Carson takes place as a segment on Martin’s variety show. Carson acknowledges the importance of the honour with the opening line “I will remember this night for as long as it takes me to walk to my car”.
1974 - The final episode of Love, American Style airs on ABC. The anthology comedy series is probably most famous for airing what would become the pilot of Happy Days.
1977 - The legendary Groucho Marx makes his last ever television appearance on Canadian TV’s The Alan Hamel Show.
1979 - A go-to guest star on sitcoms for years, Jack Soo would be best known as Detective Nick Yemana on the series Barney Miller where his wry wit and bad coffee were show staples. He passes away on this day at the age of 61.
1996 - Known for his fast-paced political monologues, and a body of work spanning theatre, film and television, Argentinian comedian Tato Bores dies at the age of 68.
1999 - Britcom The League of Gentlemen premiered on BBC Two.
2000 - Their first show in 6 years and the kickoff to their reunion, The Kids in the Hall: Same Guys New Dresses tour opens at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido.
2002 - After a teenager’s best friend is killed in a surfing accident, he refocuses his life with the aim of attending Stanford. Just a couple things stand in the way. With a cast including Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Catherine O’Hara, John Lithgow, Leslie Mann and Lily Tomlin, the film Orange County opens in theatres.
2012 - Based on the book Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, the Chelsea Handler TV series Are You There, Chelsea? makes its debut on NBC.
2018 - Actor Heather Matarazzo and comedian Heather Turman get engaged.
2019 - The Last Laugh, starring Chevy Chase and Richard Dreyfus, comes out.
1951 - Rebecca Howe on the NBC series Cheers, Kirstie Alley is born in Wichita, Kansas.
1960 - Film, theatre, and television actor Oliver Platt is born in Windsor, Ontario.
1966 - Comic book superheroes become campy television players as the Batman TV series debuts on ABC with Adam West as the caped crusader, Burt Ward as Robin the boy wonder, and an insane and engaging collection of super-villains. Like this guy:
1971 - All in the Family debuts on CBS. Based on the British comedy Till Death Do Us Part, the Norman Lear series would change the face of television, winning 22 Emmy Awards along the way.
1972 - Identical twin comics and actors, and hosts of Cheap Seats, Randy and Jason Sklar are born in St. Louis, Missouri.
1978 - Best known for her game-changing 2018 special Nanette, Hannah Gadsby is born in Smithton, Tasmania, Australia.
1991 - Saturday Night Live features host Joe Mantegna, and a milestone - the very first Superfans sketch, in which Mantegna starred as Bill Swerski along with Chris Farley as Todd O'Connor, Mike Myers as Pat Arnold, and writer Robert Smigel as Carl Wollarski (instead of Phil Hartman, who he’d had in mind for the part). Mantegna’s Bill would be later replaced by George Wendt as his brother Bob, and after Myers left the show, Pat Arnold would be played by John Goodman and presented as having gained a lot of weight.
1994 - It’s a regular House Party flick! Kid n Play are there, Bernie Mac too... but instead of Martin Lawrence, it’s the film debut of Chris Tucker. House Party 3 opens in wide release. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhdpCI--YbQ
1996 - The Shawn and Marlon Wayans crime comedy Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood opens in theatres.
1997 - The Mike Judge/Greg Daniels animated series King of the Hill makes its debut on Fox.
1998 - Gearing up for the series finale, Jerry Seinfeld is featured on the cover of Time Magazine.
2002 - The 515th episode of Saturday Night Live airs, hosted by Josh Hartnett with musical guest Pink.
2004 - Rick Mercer’s new series Rick Mercer’s Monday Report makes its debut on CBC. The next season the network moves it to Tuesday. Soon the title would also be shortened to simply The Rick Mercer Report.
2006 - Michael Scott burns his foot on his George Foreman grill and Dwight crashes his car on his way to help on the Mindy Kaling written episode of The Office, The Injury.
2010 - The debut of the new Kids in the Hall series Death Comes to Town airs on the CBC.
2010 - During the 2010 “Tonight Show conflict” - and making clear whose side he was on - Jimmy Kimmel hosts his own show entirely in character as Jay Leno, with a gray wig and prosthetic chin, taking several shots at his NBC rival while complimenting Conan O’Brien.
2015 - John Fugelsang began hosting his talk show Tell Me Everything on SiriusXM Insight.
2016 - Seven years following its departure from the airwaves, The CW presents a 20-year anniversary celebration of the series MADtv with many of the original stars returning for the occasion. Its success would prompt a short-lived reboot of the show that would premiere that July.
2016 - Showtime announces it will be proceeding with the series I’m Dying Up Here, a comedy drama based on the Los Angeles stand-up scene of the 1970’s. The series was based on the book by William Knoedelseder and created by David Flebotte. Jim Carrey was on board as Executive Producer.
2018 - Tom Segura’s special Disgraceful debuts on Netflix.
1931 - Flamboyant comedian Rip Taylor is born in Washington, DC - and immediately litters the delivery room with confetti.
1956 - Janet Hubert, the original Aunt Vivian Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, is born in Chicago.
1961 - Second City, Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Veep, 11 Emmy Awards, The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. It could only be Julia Louis-Dreyfus, born on this day in New York City.
1966 - Fred Gwynne doesn’t have to wear monster makeup for once on The Munsters episode Just Another Pretty Face, in which a lightning bolt from one of Grandpa's failed experiments strikes Herman in the head, “disfiguring” him into a normal looking person. Dom DeLuise guest stars as Dr. Dudley.
1967 - The American western sitcom Rango premieres on ABC, starring comedian Tim Conway as a Texas Ranger sent to a quiet outpost only to continue finding trouble. The series would last just 17 episodes, and was named #47 on TV Guide’s 50 worst Shows of All Time list.
1972 - After playing second banana to Marlo Thomas for five seasons on That Girl, Ted Bessell gets his own starring show... where maybe being top banana isn’t so great. The sitcom Me and the Chimp, co-created by Garry Marshall and Thomas L. Miller, debuts on CBS, where it would last for one season of 13 episodes.
1979 - German comedian Joachim "Joko" Winterscheidt is born in Mönchengladbach, Germany. He is a TV personality who may be best known for planning the 2017 Golden Kamera prank in which a Ryan Gosling lookalike took the stage and accepted the award for La La Land (2016).
1989 - British sketch series starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, A Bit of Fry and Laurie debuts on BBC1 and BBC2.
1996 - A radio adaptation of the dark British crime-comedy The Ladykillers (1955) premieres on BBC Radio 4, starring Edward Petherbridge and Margot Boyd.
1997 - With daughter Carrie Fisher and Albert Brooks by her side, Debbie Reynolds receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
2002 - Half of the classic Canadian comedy duo that made more appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show than any act, Wayne and Shuster’s Frank Shuster passes away.
2002 - The hidden camera prank series The Jamie Kennedy Experiment debuts on The WB network.
2013 - After three years with Ricky Gervais at the helm, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey make their debut as Golden Globe Awards hosts. Comedy winners include Don Cheadle for Best Male Television Performance in a Comedy or Musical for House of Lies, Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical for Silver Linings Playbook (2012), and Lena Dunham won two for her show Girls - Best Television Series - Comedy or Musical, and Best Female Television Performance, a category in which she beat out both hosts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4rSKCXqEw0
2014 - Representing (smugly) the new year of 2014, Seth Meyers is on the cover of Time magazine.
2015 - The series Schitt’s Creek debuts on CBC, starring SCTV alumni Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara.
2018 - SNL has aired people swearing before, but it doesn't often happen twice in the same show. This week's episode is an exception however. In a sketch, host Sam Rockwell accidentally says "you can't be this f***ing stupid" while playing a frustrated children's television host, while Weekend Update co-anchor Colin Jost says "shithole" in reference to President Donald Trump's comments about "shithole countries," despite NBC having asked him to say "s-hole."
1943 - Actress Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men) is born.
1948 - Carl Weathers (Happy Gilmore, Little Nicky, Arrested Development, Canadian Football League) is born.
1966 - Actor-producer Dan Schneider (Head of the Class) is born.
1967 - Actor-comedian Tom Rhodes (Mr. Rhodes) is born.
1969 - Jason Bateman, the Arrested Development, The Hogan Family and Horrible Bosses star, is born in Rye, New York.
1972 - The Don Rickles Show (the second show with that title) premieres on CBS. This one would last three months.
1972 - A remake of the BBC program Steptoe and Son, and presented as an answer to All in the Family, Sanford and Son, with Redd Fox as its star, makes its premiere on NBC.
1973 - Needing someone to blame things on, Hawkeye brings back his imaginary friend from childhood. The classic M*A*S*H episode Tuttle airs on CBS.
1973 - Beloved host of the children’s show Record Breakers, comedian and musician Roy Castle, sets the world record for fastest tap-dance - at 1,440 taps per minute (24 taps per second!). It is a record that has never been surpassed, and is just one of the nine records Castle broke on the show. He would later attempt to break his own record and raise over one million pounds for charity in the process.
1978 - At the 5th annual Saturn Awards, celebrating the best in science fiction, fantasy and horror films released during the previous year, Star Wars wins almost everything. Not to say the event was completely devoid of comedy - the film Oh, God! wins Best Fantasy Film, and its star George Burns takes Best Actor for his portrayal of God. Speaking of hilarious performances, awards host William Shatner also gives one, albeit it unintentionally, when he does his infamous dramatic and tech-utilizing spoken word rendition of Elton John’s Rocket Man. The clips has been referenced many times since; Stewie Griffin even did an homage to the performance on an episode of Family Guy.
1982 - One day after the crash of Air Florida Flight 90, Stern makes listeners believe he calls Air Florida to ask the price of a one-way ticket to the 14th Street Bridge, the location of the disaster, asking them: "Is that going to be a permanent stop?"
1984 - It’s the first Webster sighting on the cover of TV Guide, as Emmanuel Lewis shows off his new sneaks and sweater.
1990 - After appearing as a short segment on The Tracy Ullman Show, and then as a pilot (Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire aka The Simpsons Christmas Special), The Simpsons makes its premiere as a weekly show on Fox with its second episode, Bart the Genius… and it’s still going!
1993 - After the EPA fines Mr. Burns $3 million, the citizens of Springfield try to decide how to spend the money. Enter a fast talking con man (Phil Hartman) who talks (sings) them into building a completely useless monorail. Leonard Nimoy guests on The Simpsons episode Marge vs. The Monorail.
2000 - Talk show host David Letterman has emergency heart surgery.
2010 - Two days after hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live! as Jay Leno, making his pro-Conan O’Brien feelings very publicly known in the ongoing “Tonight Show conflict,” Kimmel appears on Leno’s 10pm show. But rather than let Leno off easy in their “10 at 10” segment, Kimmel slams Leno a few more times, ending with the scathing plea: “Conan and I have children. All you have to take care of is cars! We have lives to lead here! You've got eight hundred million dollars! Leave our shows alone!” Ouch. Leno took the appearance in stride and ascribed it to Kimmel seeking publicity.
2015 - The surreal romantic comedy starring Jay Baruchel, Man Seeking Woman debuts on FXX.
2015 - The surreal romantic comedy starring Jay Baruchel, Man Seeking Woman debuts on FXX.