• Facebook
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Twitter

This Day in Comedy History

May 15 - May 21

May 15

 

1833 - Renowned Shakespearian actor Edmund Kean passes away aged 45 in Richmond, Surrey (now London). His oft-quoted final words - “Dying is easy - comedy is hard” - would be used 155 years later as the tagline for the Tom Hanks and Sally Field stand-up comedy movie Punchline.

1914 - While in Galesburg, Illinois performing at The Gaiety Theater the four Marx Brothers sit down to a poker game with comic Art Fisher. While dealing, Fisher gives each of the Brothers cards, but also adds a nickname for each based on their personality or other traits. Thus, in addition to their cards, Leonard became Chico, Adolph became Harpo, Milton was Gummo, and Julius became Groucho, names they would employ professionally through their career.

1950 - “Sharp knife in a stale cake” Groucho Marx relaxes on the cover of Newsweek magazine.

1963 - Frank Sinatra hosts the 5th Annual Grammy Awards, where Album of the Year goes to comic (slash JFK impressionist) Vaughan Meader’s recording, The First Family.

1976 - Two days before the show’s final episode airs, the prison comedy On the Rocks makes the cover of TV Guide.

1984 - David L. Lander is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Best remembered for playing Squiggy on the hit sitcom Laverne & Shirley, Lander would choose not to make the information public until 1999. He would discuss that decision and his illness in his 2002 autobiography Fall Down Laughing: How Squiggy Caught Multiple Sclerosis and Didn't Tell Nobody. He also served as a Goodwill ambassador for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

1998 - Seth MacFarlane pitches a demo to Fox featuring the Griffin family. The idea would eventually become Family Guy.

2002 - Four years to the day after Seth MacFarlane pitched a Griffin family demo to Fox that would become Family Guy, the show was absent from the network’s annual unveiling of its 2002 fall line-up. It was officially canceled shortly thereafter, but based on DVD sales and the show’s high ratings in reruns, the series was brought back in 2005.

2012 - In what would be her final interview, while participating in a panel of comedians, Phyllis Diller accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award from her hometown of Lima, Ohio.

2014 - How about some more May 15th Seth MacFarlane? With a cast that includes Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and Liam Neeson, Seth MacFarlane’s comedy western A Million Ways t0 Die in the West has its premiere at the Fox Village Theatre in Westwood, California. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RODpnbxzJn0

2015 - 25 years and 6 days after making his U.S. television debut on Late Night with David Letterman, Norm Macdonald is the last stand-up to be featured on The Late Show with David Letterman, delivering a stellar set that ends with remembrances of first seeing Letterman at a Canadian TV taping and fighting back tears to repeat his favourite bit from the show before telling the host “I love you”. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFjEvl43zYY

2020 - Dryly glib actor from Fernwood 2 Night, This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind, and Best in Show, Fred Willard passes away at 86.

May 16

 

1905 - Henry Fonda is born in Grand Island, Nebraska. Comedy movie credits include The Lady Eve, Mister Roberts and co-starring with Lucille Ball in Yours, Mine and Ours and Jimmy Stewart in The Cheyenne Social Club and On Our Merry Way.

1909 - She retired early from films early - preferring to work live in theatres, she only appeared in a total of 16 movies - but she’s still remembered for her work, particularly her four pairings with James Stewart (including the classic romantic comedy The Shop Around the Corner). Academy Award nominated actor Margaret Sullavan is born in Norfolk, Virginia.

1937 - Actress and ballet dancer Yvonne Craig, best known for her role as Batgirl in the 1960s television series Batman, is born in Taylorville, Illinois.

1943 – Dutch comedian and actor - and knight! - Wieteke van Dort is born.

1944 - He’s a movie (and real life) tough guy in action flicks and dramas, but he’s also brought his talents to a lot of comedies - among them Delta Farce, Preggoland, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Six Days, Seven Nights. Danny Trejo is born in Echo Park, Los Angeles, CA.

1953 - Actor Pierce Brosnan is born in Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland. He became famous for starring in the action comedy Remington Steele (1982–1987) - which helped bring him to the attention of James Bond’s producers but also made it (contractually) impossible for him to accept the role. He has also worked in such comedy films as Mamma Mia!, Mrs. Doubtfire and The Matador.

1955 - Debra Winger is born in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. She is a three time nominee for the Academy Award for Best Actress, including for the comedy-drama Terms of Endearment. Other comedy roles include Legal Eagles, Made in Heaven, Forget Paris, Wilder Napalm, Leap of Faith, French Postcards, and the Netflix series The Ranch.

1960 - Italian comedian and TV personality Rosario Fiorello is born in Catania, Italy.

1961 - Kevin McDonald, of Kids in the Hall, is born in Montreal.

1964 – Neurotic English comedian Milton Jones, known for his appearances (and one-liners) on BBC Radio and the panel show Mock the Week, is born.

1977 - Melanie Lynskey is born in Plymouth, New Zealand. She is known for playing quirky characters in many films, including Detroit Rock City, But I'm a Cheerleader, Coyote Ugly, Sweet Home Alabama, Away We Go Up in the Air, The Informant!, Leaves of Grass, Win Win and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

1979 - The one hour special The Muppets Go Hollywood airs.

1982 - Hollywood: The Gift of Laughter airs. It is a retrospective look at 60 years of great comedy moments in films from the 1920s to the 1980s.

1984 - Andy Kaufman dies of lung cancer at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles, CA. Many believe it's just another one of his infamous stunts. Some even continue to believe it today, even though he’s buried in Beth David Cemetery, Elmont, NY…. or is he?

1986 - Transformers actress Megan Fox is born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Her comedy work includes starring roles in sitcoms (Hope & Faith, New Girl) as well as films (Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Jennifer’s Body).

1990 - Sammy Davis Jr. dies of complications from throat cancer at his home in Beverly Hills, California. The multi-talented American entertainer and Rat Pack member was widely known and loved as a vaudevillian comedian, actor, and of course a song-and-dance man.

1990 - Creator of The Muppets Jim Henson passes away, the victim of an aggressive bacterial infection at just 53 years of age, in hospital in Manhattan, New York.

1990 - Thomas Brodie-Sangster, English actor known for the films Love Actually and Nanny McPhee, and for voicing Ferb in the Disney series Phineas and Ferb, is born in London, England.

1992 - Woody Harrelson returns to host Saturday Night Live, and also returns as a guest on Sprockets, this time to play interview guest Gregor Voss (a filmmaker whose work includes The Dead Coat, Irritant #4, and Here, Child, Finish Your Nothing) to Mike Myers’ Dieter.

2002 - The Friends episode The One Where Rachel Has a Baby airs on NBC. SPOILER ALERT: Long story short, Rachel and Ross have a baby! Her name is Emma, and the series does its biggest numbers in 6 years.

2004 - Remember how we just said Andy Kaufman died on this date in 1984? Well, he always joked about faking his death and returning twenty years later so, twenty years later, his friends hold a "Welcome Back Andy" party. Unfortunately, he never shows up. Because he really is dead… or is he?

2007 - Andy Dick is roasted on The Howard Stern Show by Artie Lange, Lisa Lampanelli, Reverend Bob Levy, Sal Governale, Shuli, Colin Quinn, Benjy Bronk, Dave Attell, Greg Fitzsimmons, and Yucko the Clown - and he gropes at least three of them. Why? Because he’s Andy Dick, and being taunted by a clown is probably the most normal thing that he did that day.

2008 - The Simpsons ride opens at Universal Studios Florida, replacing Back to the Future: The Ride.

2008 - On the 24th anniversary of Andy Kaufman's death, Comic Relief announces that they will be presenting a national tour that summer called "The Return of Tony Clifton", in which the dubiously multi-talented lounge singer character, originated by Kaufman, would perform with his "Katrina Kiss My Ass Orchestra" and The Cliftonettes to benefit Gulf Coast performers who had been affected by Hurricane Katrina.

2009 - Norm Macdonald appears in two sketches on Saturday Night Live, including a portrayal of Burt Reynolds on Celebrity Jeopardy.

2019 - The episode Stockholm Syndrome, the second and final episode of the two-part series finale of The Big Bang Theory, airs on CBS. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRMlDM54KLQ

May 17

 

1911 - Actress Maureen O’Sullivan is born in Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland. Though most famous for co-starring as Jane in the Tarzan adventure franchise, she also appeared in numerous comedies, notably The Thin Man, Peggy Sue Got Married, Maisie Was a Lady, Never Too Late, Hannah and Her Sisters (playing mother to her real life daughter Mia Farrow), and co-starring with the Marx Brothers in their classic A Day at the Races.

1938 - Actor Jason Bernard is born in Chicago, Illinois. He’s known for his roles in the sitcoms Herman's Head, Cagney & Lacey and Night Court, and films such as All of Me and Liar Liar.

1954 - Laurel and Hardy begin what is supposed to be a week-long run at the Palace Theatre in Plymouth, England. They would end up only doing this, the Monday night opener, because Oliver Hardy had taken ill with flu and then suffered a mild heart attack after the show. As a result the duo had to pull out of the rest of the engagement, which would end up being the duo’s last ever live performance. Among the supporting acts were the comedian Harry Worth ("Wonder Horse Tony"), Peggy Cavell and Alan Rowe. A brass plate on the pavement outside the theatre commemorates their performance.

1955 - Actor Bill Paxton is born in Fort Worth, Texas. He would appear in many films, including such comedies as Weird Science, True Lies, The Evening Star, Spy Kids 2, Spy Kids 3-D, Stripes, Pass the Ammo, Indian Summer, Club Dread, Shanghai Calling and 2 Guns.

1956 - American comedian Bob Saget, who also starred in the sitcom Full House and was the first host of America’s Funniest Home Videos, is born in Philadelphia.

1960 - With his father and brother, Andy Kaufman attends a wrestling match at Madison Square Garden where "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers loses his World Championship to Bruno Sammartino. The experience leads Kaufman to decide that he wants to be a professional wrestler someday.

1962 – Scottish-American comedian, actor, and late night host Craig Ferguson is born.

1979 - Hit sitcom Barney Miller ends its fifth season with a special memorial episode, Jack Soo: A Retrospective. Soo, who had passed away on January 11, 1979, played the popular, bad-coffee-brewing Detective Nick Yemana. In this retrospective, the remaining cast of "Barney Miller" - Hal Linden, Max Gail, Steve Landesberg, Ron Glass, Ron Carey and James Gregory - gather on set and present some of Soo’s most memorable clips on the show, and share their favourite stories about working with him. The show ends with the cast raising their coffee cups in tribute.

1982 - It’s the first day of filming for what would become a massive hit that kickstarts an entire sub-genre: the “buddy cop” movie. Shooting begins on the Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte starring 48 Hrs.

1987 - Woody Allen stars in Jean-Luc Godard’s bizarre sci-fi/comedy adaptation of King Lear, opening on this day. In it, everything returns to normal after Chernobyl, except all of the world’s great artworks have been destroyed, so “William Shakespeare Junior the Fifth” (Allen) sets out to bring art back. Godard himself appears in the film, in an uncredited role as "Professor Pluggy" (pictured).

1987 - In the Married… With Children episode Married… Without Children, Al and Peggy (Ed O'Neill, Katey Sagal) go away for a romantic weekend, leaving their much-beleaguered neighbours Marcy and Steve (David Garrison, Amanda Bearse) to baby-sit the troublesome Kelly and Bud (Christina Applegate, David Faustino).

1990 - Joe finds himself in hot water after Brian fixes him up with the island's most notorious playgirl. Tim Daly, Steven Weber, Crystal Bernard and Thomas Haden Church star in a new episode of Wings, There Once Was a Girl from Nantucket.

1991 - A box office and critical success that today is considered one of the best comedies of the 90s - despite spats between the movie's stars and producer - What About Bob?, starring Bill Murray as a “guy with problems” and Richard Dreyfuss as the arrogant psychiatrist he stalks and drives crazy, is released.

1993 - After four seasons, the CBS sitcom Major Dad airs its final episode, starring Gerald McRaney and Shanna Reed, with Beverly Archer, Matt Mulhern, Jon Cypher, Marisa Ryan, Nicole Dubuc and Chelsea Hertford in supporting roles.

1998 - Homer and Marge's attempt to spice up their marriage leads to the couple being chased naked through Springfield in Natural Born Kissers, a sexy new episode of The Simpsons.

2002 - A strait-laced French student moves to Barcelona to share an apartment with six other characters from all over Europe in Cédric Klapisch’s L'auberge espagnole (aka The Spanish Apartment), starring Romain Duris, Judith Godrèche, Kelly Reilly, Audrey Tautou, Cécile de France and Cristina Brondo.

2003 - Chris Kattan ends his run as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, as SNL’s season finale airs.

2004 – American actor and comedian Tony Randall passes away. Randall is best remembered for his portrayal of Felix Unger in the TV version of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, which garnered him six Golden Globe nominations and six Emmy nominations, with one Emmy Award win.

2005 - Comedian and actor Frank Gorshin is born in Pittsburgh, He became famous as an impressionist, with many guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and Tonight Starring Steve Allen, but today he is probably best remembered for playing the Riddler in the 1960s live-action television series Batman, for which he was nominated for an Emmy Award. His popularity on that show catapulted the character to become a major villain for the superhero.

2005 - After five seasons, the final episode of the Damon Wayans series My Wife & Kids is broadcast on ABC.

2007 - In The Office’s third season’s finale, Michael, Karen and Jim are all up for a big job at corporate, which in the end, David Wallace gives to Ryan. Also, just when it looked like nothing would ever happen between the two, Jim asks Pam out on a date for the first time. The Job airs on NBC.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpQTOU8cawQ

2012 - The film What to Expect When You're Expecting premieres. In this ensemble comedy - featuring such talents as Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Chace Crawford, Brooklyn Decker, Ben Falcone, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Morrison, Dennis Quaid, Chris Rock - five couples experience the thrills and surprises of having a baby and realize that no matter what you plan for, life does not always “deliver” what is expected. (See what we did there? “Deliver?”)

2019 - Stanley Kubrick’s pioneering 1964 dark comedy classic Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is re-released in UK theatres. Co-written with Terry Southern and Peter George, Kubrick’s masterwork stars Peter Sellers (in multiple roles), George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, Peter Bull and James Earl Jones. For his work, which was of course largely improvisational, Peter Sellers was nominated for an Academy Award - making him the first actor to be nominated for a single for playing three different characters in the same film.

2020 - In another season finale for a very popular show, Jay picks up the pieces after Manny's father takes him out to celebrate graduation while the family prepares for Luke and Manny's big day in The Graduates, which brings season eight of Modern Family to a close.

2020 - The Wimpy Kid is “hitting the road in a whole new direction” as Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul premieres, starring Jason Drucker, Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott. In this, the fourth instalment of the series, the Heffley family take an adventure-filled road trip to attend their Meemaw's 90th birthday party - but Greg's scheme to go to a video gaming convention instead might prevent them from ever getting there! Do we recommend it? Well, it’s easily one of the four best Wimpy Kid movies.

May 18

 

1890 -  Irish silent film actress who made more than 80 films in her short career (1912-1920), including Upstairs and Down (1919), Mary Charleson is born in Dungannon, Ireland.

1922 - Bill Macy is born, as Wolf Martin Garber. He worked extensively on the stage, on film, and on TV, but is definitely best known for his role in the hit CBS television series Maude, where he co-starred opposite Bea Arthur as the title character’s suffering husband.

1931 - One time Emmy and two time Tony Award winner Robert Morse is born in Newton, Massachusetts. He had a prolific career on Broadway, in films and on TV, but is best remembered by comedy fans for starring in the original Broadway production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and the feature film version of the same show.

1934 - Actor Dwayne Hickman is born. He would become best known for his work in two sitcoms: as Chuck MacDonald, Bob Collins' girl-crazy nephew, in The Bob Cummings Show in the 1950s, and as the title character in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis in the 1960s.

1970 - Comedian, actress, writer and producer Tina Fey is born in Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania. She is best known for her years on Saturday Night Live, including anchoring the news on the Weekend Update segment, as well as for creating the comedy series 30 Rock and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Fey’s film work includes Mean Girls, Baby Mama, Date Night, Megamind, Muppets Most Wanted, Sisters, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Wine Country, and Soul.

1990 - Two days after his death, the neon lights of the Las Vegas Strip are darkened for ten minutes as a tribute to Sammy Davis Jr.

1995 - Elizabeth Montgomery, best known for starring in the classic TV sitcom Bewitched, passes away from cancer in Beverly Hills, CA.

1995 - Riding high as the first season of their hit series winds down, the cast of Friends arrive on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

2006 - The sitcom Twins (starring Sara Gilbert, Molly Stanton, Melanie Griffith and Mark Linn-Baker) is officially canceled by the WB Network after one season.

2006 - A sitcom that ran for 80% of the duration of the actual decade the show was based in, the final episode of That 70’s Show airs on Fox.

2009 - American child actor Hala Finley is born in Kansas City, Missouri. She is best known for her roles in the sitcom Man with a Plan and the superhero film We Can Be Heroes.

2017 - Funnyman Chris Rock lands on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, which also features the article “The 50 Funniest People Right Now.”

2019 - Yakov Smirnoff earns his doctorate in psychology and global leadership at Pepperdine University… “America, what a country!”

2020 - Ken Osmond, who will forever be remembered as Wally Cleaver’s smart-mouthed best bud Eddie Haskell in the classic sitcom Leave It to Beaver, passes away in Los Angeles.

May 19

 

1931 – English actor Trevor Peacock is born. He became well known for starring in many Shakespearian productions but later did a lot of film and television work, and is today best remembered for playing Jim in the hit BBC series The Vicar of Dibley. Isn’t that so, Jim?…. “No, no, no, no, no, no - yes.”

1939 - Actor James Fox is born William Fox, from the well-known Fox acting family, is born in London, England. He appeared in several notable films of the 1960s and early 1970s, including the musical comedy hit Thoroughly Modern Millie, before largely stepping away from acting to be an evangelical Christian.

1939 - Nancy Kwan is born in Hong Kong. A Golden Globe winner best known for starring in the musical comedy Flower Drum Song, Kwan opened a lot of doors for Asian-American actors in Hollywood, also appearing in such comedies as The Wrecking Crew, Honeymoon Hotel, Cold Dog Soup, Arrivederci, Baby! and Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N.

1946 - André Roussimoff, much MUCH better known as André the Giant, is born in Coulommiers, Seine-et-Marne, France. Though the over 7' tall "8th Wonder of the World" is of course most famous as a huge (pun intended) star in the world of professional wrestling, he also found work as an actor - most notably as Fezzik the giant in The Princess Bride.

1953 - English comedian and actress Victoria Wood is born. In her decades-long career, which reached new heights after she won ATV’s talent show New Faces in 1974, she appeared in a wide range of TV sitcoms, sketch and variety programmes, plays, musicals and films and was well known as a live comedy act, in which she performed many musical numbers. A particularly gifted observational comedian, she became one of the UK’s most popular stand-ups . She is also a four time BAFTA TV Award winner - for her own 1980s sketch series, Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV, her 1988 special An Audience with Victoria Wood, and her 2006 TV movie Housewife - and in 2006 was voted #10 in ITV’s poll of Britain’s 50 Greatest TV stars.

1958 - Bobby Darin’s novelty song "Splish Splash" is released. Darin wrote the song with DJ Murray the K (Murray Kaufman), who bet Darin that he couldn’t write a song that began with the words, "Splish Splash, I was takin' a bath", which had been suggested by Murray's mother, Jean Kaufman. The song was credited to Darin and "Jean Murray" (a combination of their names) to avoid any hint of payola. The song was a big hit, Darin’s first, which he claimed made him so happy that his skin condition cleared up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpAa1yRNnXw

1965 - Actress Maile Flanagan is born in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is best known for recurring roles in such comedy TV series as Shameless, Bad Teacher and The Class.

1967 - Looking like a more refined version of Ben Grimm/The Thing, late night King Johnny Carson is featured - as an artwork - on the cover of Time magazine, for their "Humor in the Night" issue.

1977 - The tale of two good ‘ol boys trying to deliver an illegal shipment of beer across state lines from Texas to Georgia, the Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed road action comedy Smokey and the Bandit premieres at New York’s Radio City Music Hall to a lacklustre reception and a weak box offic Not to worry though… the following week it would open wider, including in the South, over Memorial Day weekend, which turns it all around. It would go on to be the second highest grossing film of the year, behind only Star Wars. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzMpOvKxXdM

1983 – Michael Che, co-host and co-head writer of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, is born.

1990 - TV Guide knows it, and proves it to be true with their Carol Burnett cover: black and white makes everything classier and more dramatic.

1994 - The final episode of Keenen Ivory Wayans' groundbreaking sketch comedy series In Living Color airs on Fox.

2004 - Dutch actress Mary Dresselhuys passes away in Amsterdam. Although she appeared in a few movies in a career spanning more than seven decades (she performed into her 90s!), Dresselhuys is best remembered as a stage actress, where she played more than 150 roles - and earned the nickname Queen of Comedy.

2005 - Brent Butt hosts the province of Saskatchewan’s 100th Anniversary gala in Saskatoon. Spoof actor extraordinaire Leslie Nielsen makes an appearance, and in the audience there’s, oh, nobody really important… just The Queen and Prince Phillip!

2007 - The movie Cougar Club is released, featuring Joe Mantegna, Kaley Cuoco, Mo Collins, Carrie Fisher and Faye Dunaway.

2013 - The final episode of Family Guy spinoff The Cleveland Show airs on Fox.

2016 – Alan Young, English-born Canadian-American actor, passed away. Once described as “The Charlie Chaplin of TV”, he is best remembered for starring as Wilbur in the 1960s hit talking-horse sitcom Mr. Ed.

2017 - If You’re Not in the Obit - Eat Breakfast is released. It’s one of Carl Reiner’s final projects.

May 20

 

1908 - One of the biggest and most beloved stars in the history of Hollywood is born. Academy Award winner James Stewart, whose many films include such classic comedies as You Can't Take It with You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Philadelphia Story and Harvey, is born in the town of Indiana, Pennsylvania.

1915 - Multi-skilled Australian comedian, vaudevillian and entertainer Joff Ellen is born. He was well known for his frequent appearances on Australian radio, and later on TV talk shows such as In Melbourne Tonight and The Graham Kennedy Show. But mostly he is remembered for his character Joffa Boy, which he performed on various children's television shows, particularly The Tarax Show, where he was so popular he had his own entrance song (ending with the choir and audience yelling "Joffa Boy! Joffa Boy! Please come in!") and catch-phrase greeting "Howdy-doody, boys and girls and mums and dads and bald-headed babies."

1919 - George Gobel is born in Chicago, Illinois. The humorist, actor, and comedian is best remembered as a regular and favourite panelist on the popular NBC game show Hollywood Squares, as well as for his own weekly comedy variety series, The George Gobel Show (1954-1960). That series, which also aired on NBC for its first five seasons before moving to CBS for its final year, relied on Gobel’s monologues as well as sketches about his fictional wife Alice (aka “Spooky Old Alice”) for its comedy.

1923 - Edith Fellows is born in Boston, Massachusetts. She became a child star in the 1930s after first appearing in the Charley Chase short Movie Night, and was best known for playing orphans and street urchins as an expressive actress with a nice singing voice. She had appeared in over twenty films by 1935, when her performance opposite Claudette Colbert in She Married Her Boss (pictured) won her a seven-year contract with Columbia Pictures, the first such contract ever offered to a child. She also won critical acclaim in 1936 for her performance as the precocious orphan alongside Bing Crosby in Pennies from Heaven. Unfortunately in later years she suffered stage fright and became addicted to medications prescribed by her psychiatrist, which derailed her career.

1946 - She’s obviously best known as a singer, but she has a rich comedy history as well, becoming a major television personality in the 1970s with her CBS shows The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, watched by over 30 million viewers weekly during its three-year run, and Cher. She is also an actress in theatre and films, including Mermaids, The Witches of Eastwick and Moonstruck - for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Cher is born in El Centro, California.

1949 - Actor and writer Dave Thomas of SCTV fame is born. Other notable roles include the TV series Arrested Development and Grace Under Fire, and the cult classic film Strange Brew, in which he and Rick Moranis bring their hoser SCTV characters The Mackenzie Brothers to the big screen.

1968 - Actor Timothy Olyphant is born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Notable comedy films include Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Go, The Girl Next Door and Catch and Release. On TV he has starred in Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet and season four of Fargo, and has made many guest starring appearances in such sitcoms as The Office (US), The Mindy Project, The Good Place and The Grinder - for which he won a Critics' Choice Award.

1977 - Canadian alt-comedian and writer Ron Sparks is born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada.

1978 - An SNL favourite, Buck Henry, hosts the third season finale, with musical guest Sun Ra. The episode would mark Dan Aykroyd’s final time as co-anchor of the Weekend Update segment, which would get a completely revamped look for the following year. It also marked the final time the cast was billed as the “Not Ready for Primetime Players”.

1978 - Three’s Company is not actually how the saying goes, but the cover of TV Guide is supportive of the show anyway.

1981 - The King of Late Night has a show for the ages. On this date, Johnny Carson’s guests are two of the greatest comics of all time, Richard Pryor and George Carlin, the only time they would ever appear on a talk show together. Carlin goes out first and performs a long (by talk show standards) set of just under 10 minutes, including the TV unveiling of what would become one of his classic bits, “A Place for My Stuff”. After some chatter with Carson it’s time for Pryor, who’s making his first Tonight Show appearance since setting himself on fire, to promote the opening of his film Bustin’ Loose. On the topic of gigs, Carson asks Pryor: “What’s the worst place you ever played?” Pryor’s response? “The worst place I ever played? LA County Jail [huge laugh] - and they held me over for 10 days.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jus-OaJV8E

1987 - I guess he didn’t leave the city limits after all. Beverly Hills Cop II opens in theatres.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QHk337vv4Y

1989 - Best known as one of the “original seven” cast members on Saturday Night Live, where her memorable characters helped win her an Emmy Award in 1978, Gilda Radner dies of ovarian cancer at the age of just 42.

1989 - Steve Martin hosts Saturday Night Live. Sketches include the second installment of Sprockets, with Mike Myers as Dieter.

1993 - The second most viewed sendoff in American TV history (trailing only the M*A*S*H finale), the series Cheers says goodbye with the 90 minute episode One for the Road.

1995 - To Die For premieres at Cannes. Gus Van Sant’s dark comedy stars Nicole Kidman as a wannabe newscaster who will stop at nothing - even murder - to get what she wants. The film co-stars Joaquin Phoenix (pictured), Matt Dillon, Illeana Douglas, Wayne Knight, Casey Affleck, Kurtwood Smith, Dan Hedaya and Alison Folland, with Kidman winning a Golden Globe for her performance.

1996 - I, Done, the final episode of the sixth and final season of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is broadcast on NBC. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOK9-lMsnWg

2004 - Fox orders 35 new episodes of Family Guy, which had been canceled in 2002, marking the first revival of a television show based on DVD sales.

2010 - Norm Macdonald guest hosts the internet talk show Tom Green's House Tonight.

2014 - English actress Barbara Murray dies in Alicante, Spain at the age of 84. Best remembered as a leading lady in British films of the 1940s and 1950s, including Passport to Pimlico and Meet Mr. Lucifer, she continued working into the 1960s in films such as Tony Hancock’s The Punch and Judy Man.

2015 - The final episode of The Late Show with David Letterman airs on CBS.

2016 - The first season of Maria Bamford’s series Lady Dynamite is released in its entirety on Netflix. Co-stars include Fred Melamed and Mary Kay Place.

2022 - John Mulaney faces pushback on social media after having a surprise guest open for him: Dave Chappelle, who continues to tell jokes many deem to be transphobic.

May 21

 

1916 - Comedian and radio star Dennis Day is born in Throggs Neck, The Bronx, New York. He appeared for the first time on Jack Benny's radio show on October 8, 1939 as a fill-in, but ended up a regular, remaining with Benny's radio and television programs until Benny's death in 1974 - even as he eventually got his own shows, most notably NBC radio’s A Day in the Life of Dennis Day (1946–1951). He made many appearances on TV as well, but is best remembered for his radio work.

1917 - Raymond Burr is born in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, and though he will forever be remembered for playing the titular characters in the two smash mystery series he starred in, Perry Mason and Ironsides, he acted in a lot of comedies as well. Film credits include Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin’s You're Never Too Young, Bob Hope’s Casanova's Big Night, Clark Gable and Loretta Young’s Keys to the City, Airplane II: The Sequel, and his final film appearance: The 1991 John Candy vehicle Delirious.

1924 - Comedian Peggy Cass is born in Boston, Massachusetts as Mary Margret Cass. She is most famous for her many television appearances as a game show panelist, particularly on the long running hit series To Tell the Truth, but was also an accomplished actor on Broadway and in films, who won Best Supporting Actress trophies at both the Tony Awards and the Golden Globes for her best known role, in Auntie Mame.

1927 - Actress Kay Kendall is born in Withernsea, Yorkshire, England. Kendall would die tragically young, but made several movies and is particularly known for her work in musical comedies, including London Town, Genevieve and Les Girls - for which she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

1928 - Alice Drummond is born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. A veteran Off-Broadway performer, she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play in 1970. But despite her extensive acting career, she is most well known as Alice - the librarian in the opening scenes of the 1984 horror-comedy classic Ghostbusters. Other film appearances include Furry Vengeance, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Pieces of April, and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.

1948 - Actor Jonathan Hyde, best known for playing Herbert Arthur Runcible Cadbury in the 1994 film Richie Rich, and Van Pelt (and also Samuel Parrish) in the 1995 Robin Williams film Jumanji, is born in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

1951 - Writer and performer on SNL, writer and star of Stuart Saves His Family, and author of best selling books including Rush Limbaugh is a Bit Fat Idiot and Other Observations and Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Al Franken is born in New York City.

1954 - Looking ahead to the wedding that week of Mr. Peepers and his bride-to-be Nancy, TV Guide features the show’s stars Wally Cox and Patrica Benoit on the cover.

1954 - Lynnie Greene is born in Newton, Massachusetts. She co-starred in the CBS sitcom On Our Own (1977-1978).

1957 - Judge Reinhold is born Edward Ernest Reinhold Jr. in Wilmington, Delaware. He would go on to star in several Hollywood movies, most notably Ruthless People, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Gremlins, and the trilogies for both Beverly Hills Cop and The Santa Clause.

1966 - Playwright and actress Lisa Edelstein is born in Boston, Massachusetts. She is best known to comedy fans for starring as Abby McCarthy in the Bravo comedy-drama series Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce.

1973 - Noel Fielding is born in Westminster, London, UK. The comedian, writer, actor and musician is best known for his surreal and dark comedy work, particularly with The Mighty Boosh comedy troupe alongside comedy partner Julian Barratt.

1974 - Fairuza Balk is born in Point Reyes, California. Notable film credits include The Waterboy, Almost Famous and Humboldt County.

1975 - Carol Burnett receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

1975 - The Burt Reynolds film about a gas station holdup man who meets a country band and makes the step up to robbing banks, W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings opens in theatres. Art Carney is featured in a supporting role.

1982 - The final episode of the sitcom Maggie airs on ABC. Based on the books of Erma Bombeck and starring comedian Miriam Flynn, the story follows a housewife in Dayton, Ohio as she deals with her husband and three kids - one of whom is never seen because he is literally always in the bathroom. Doris Roberts of future Everybody Loves Raymond fame co-starred as Loretta, Maggie's friend and hairdresser.

1983 - With first album songs My Bologna, Another One Rides the Bus, Stop Draggin’ My Car Around, and I Love Rocky Road in tow, and a career boost from Dr. Demento, the first “Weird Al” tour - An Evening of Dementia with Dr. Demento in Person Plus “Weird Al” Yankovic - opens at The Bottom Line in New York.

1983 - In preparation for his 80th birthday special, TV Guide hosts comic icon Bob Hope on its cover.

1990 - After eight seasons, the last episode of Newhart airs. It is still considered one of the best and most memorable finales in television history.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgdUWXf8jJk

1992 - What people remember as the final episode of The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, was actually the second last night - the last one with guests. In this case, Robin Williams and Bette Midler, who famously sang to Johnny on this date.

1992 - Actor Hutch Dano is born Hutchings Royal Dano in Santa Monica, California. He is best known for his role as Zeke Falcone in the sitcom Zeke and Luther, and for the movie Zombeavers.

1995 - The Simpsons wrap up their 6th season with a cliffhanger, and no shortage of possible answers to the question Who Shot Mr. Burns?

2000 - John Gielgud passes away. He is remembered most for his work on the stage, particularly in Shakespearian roles, which made him a dominant force in British theatre for most of the 20th century. But he also found time to appear in countless films. His comedy movies include The Good Companions, The Canterville Ghost, Getting It Right, Scandalous and of course as acid-tongued butler Hobson in Arthur - a role which won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and which he would reprise in Arthur 2: On the Rocks.

2004 - Hindsight is 20/20 is released, starring Jerry Seinfeld and Superman as a man locked out of his car, and, well… Superman.

2004 - The final episode of ABC’s The Wayne Brady Show airs. The show, starring the popular Whose Line Is It Anyway? (US) cast member, began as a variety series but after that failed to catch on, it was retooled into a very successful daytime show, which won five Emmy Awards.

2005 - Stephen Elliott dies in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California. His best known roles were that of the prospective father-in-law Burt Johnson in the hit 1981 film Arthur and as beleaguered Chief Hubbard in the 1984 blockbuster Beverly Hills Cop.

2005 - Comedian and actor Howard Morris passes away in Los Angeles, California. Though a classically trained Shakespearian actor, he is definitely best remembered for doing something quite the opposite - his recurring role in The Andy Griffith Show as moonshining, rock throwing mountain man Ernest T. Bass. He’s also responsible for one of the funniest moments in live television history: "Uncle Goopy,” a celebrated comedy sketch on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows in 1954, saw Morris combine with Carl Reiner and Sid Caesar to do a send-up of This Is Your Life in which Morris (the titular Uncle Goopy) wouldn’t stop embracing and clinging to both men and was repeatedly literally dragged back to his chair. He also did extensive voice work for TV shows such as The Flintstones, The Jetsons, The Atom Ant Show and Garfield and Friends.

2006 - The Burt Reynolds comedy Forget About It premieres in theatres.

2010 - Will Forte’s SNL character MacGruber gets the movie treatment as the feature length film is released in US theatres.

2011 - Tony Clifton headlines the annual Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama with his orchestra. The “talented” lounge singer character, originally performed by Andy Kaufman, had three years earlier done a national Comic Relief tour to benefit performers who were victims of Hurricane Katrina.

2011 - Saturday Night Live’s season comes to an end with Justin Timberlake returning to host for a fourth time. The episode features the fifth installment of The Barry Gibb Talk Show, with Timberlake playing Robin Gibb to Jimmy Fallon’s Barry, climaxing with their rendition of Rapper’s Delight.

2019 - The 2019 Gracie Awards are announced, presented in honour of Gracie Allen since 1975 by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWM). In the TV category the series Mom is recognized as the best Comedy, Nancy M. Pimental takes writing honours for Shameless, Good Girls is recognized for having the Best Ensemble Cast, the Actress in a Leading Role - Comedy or Musical award goes to Rachel Bloom for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend while Supporting Role honours go to Stephanie Beatriz of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Annie Murphy of Schitt’s Creek gets the nod in the Breakthrough Role category.