This Day in Comedy History
May 8 - May 14
1899 - Actor-comedian Arthur Q. Bryan, who provided the voice of cartoon character Elmer Fudd and of Dr. Gamble in the radio series Fibber McGee and Molly, is born in Brooklyn, NYC.
1926 - Legendary comic and insult comedy trailblazer Don Rickles is born in Queens, New York… ya hockey pucks!
1949 - The early American sitcom Wesley premieres on CBS. Despite its short life - the show would stay on the air less than four months - it would go through two child stars in that time. This one is Johnny Steward, the show’s second Wesley, who had the role from July-August.
1960 - Improv comedian and actor Pat McKenna (The Red Green Show) is born in Hamilton, Ontario.
1961 - This Hour Has 22 Minutes’ Greg Thomey is born in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
1965 - One of the potential couple matchups from Gilligan’s Island see how they’d look together on the cover of TV Guide.
1982 - The cover of TV Guide touts Goldie Hawn’s TV special.
1986 - Just having wrapped production on Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Whoopi Goldberg gets the Rolling Stone cover.
1993 - One of the most memorable characters in SNL history, Chris Farley’s motivational speaker Matt Foley makes his first appearance on the show... and then presumably returns to his home - "in a van, down by the river!"
1999 - A day after appearing in an emotional interview on The Howard Stern Show, Diff’rent Strokes actress Dana Plato passes away from a drug overdose in a mobile home in Moore, Oklahoma, in what is ruled a suicide, at just 34 years of age.
2002 - The cable network TV Land dedicates an 8 foot statue of Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat in the air at the intersection of Nicollet Mall and 7th Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota - approximately the same location where she originally did it for the opening titles of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
2007 - The book Family Guy: It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One is published, written by executive story editor Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and actress Alex Borstein.
2009 - As engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, Simon Pegg injects some laughs into the Star Trek reboot, which premiered on this day in 2009.
2009 - As the promos promised, it was “Inspired by Chris Rock’s life… as a kid.” The series Everybody Hates Chris wraps up with its finale Everybody Hates G.E.D. airing on The CW.
2010 - By popular demand, 88 year old Betty White is chosen to host Saturday Night Live, breaking the 23 year old record for oldest host held by Miskel Spillman, an 80 year old German immigrant from New Orleans who had won the show’s "Anyone Can Host" contest. Spillman does still hold one record, though: she remains the first and only non-celebrity to ever host the program.
2011 - After just 48 hours of rehearsal time, Her Majesty’s Theatre in London presents “Showtime Challenge.” This year’s production is the musical The Boy Friend, with all proceeds going to The Prince's Foundation for Children and The Arts.
2018 - Hari Kondabolu's stand-up special airs: Warn Your Relatives, directed by Bobcat Goldthwait.
2020 - Andy Kindler’s second album, Hence the Humor, is released.
2021 - Tim Allen receives an honorary degree from Hillsdale College, in his home state of Michigan.
2022 - He performed a wide range of characters across all genres. Comedy fans will remember him best as the star of Minder and for his role in the sitcom Fair Exchange. He also provided a lot of the comic relief co-starring as Jerry Standing in the hit police procedural New Tricks. Actor and singer Dennis Waterman passes away at his home in Spain at the age of 74.
1946 - Hour Glass premieres on US TV - the first ever regularly scheduled televised variety show.
1955 - Jim Henson’s Sam and Friends premieres on local TV in Washington DC, co-created by his eventual wife Jane Nebel. The show aired live, twice daily, and introduced the world to his now famous Muppets.
1965 - Richard Pryor makes his Ed Sullivan Show debut. The first of his 15 appearances on the hugely popular Sunday evening show, included a stacked list of guests: singers Vaughn Monroe and Della Reese, dancer Juliet Prowse, pantomime artists Les Double Faces, and The Three Stooges.
1978 - The 28th and final episode of British sitcom Rising Damp airs on ITV in England.
1986 - “No disassemble!” The robo-comedy Short Circuit, starring Steve Guttenberg, Ally Sheedy and Fisher Stevens alongside “Johnny 5” premieres.
1990 - Norm Macdonald makes his U.S. television debut on Late Night with David Letterman. When he makes his last appearance on Letterman 25 years and six days later, coming out of break they show a still of Norm from his debut.
1992 - Stand-up comedian Paula Poundstone becomes the first solo female to perform at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
1994 - While appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Bobcat Goldthwait sets the guest chair on fire. As a result, he is fined $2,700 plus the cost of the chair ($698); he was also required to tape several public service announcements about fire safety. Despite banishment rumors, Leno invited Goldthwait to appear seven days later for a bit in which Goldthwait was buried up to his neck in dirt.
1997 - After 8 seasons of trying to repopularize suspenders for teens, the last episode of Family Matters airs on ABC. No worries, it would come back for one more Urkel-tastic year on CBS.
2012 - Tim Burton’s film adaptation of Dark Shadows premieres. Johnny Depp plays Barnabas Collins, an imprisoned vampire who is set free to return to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants need his protection. Co-stars include Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green and Helena Bonham Carter.
1922 - Diminutive wisecracker Nancy Walker is born in Philadelphia. She began her career on Broadway before moving into films, but she's best remembered for her TV roles - as Mildred the housekeeper on Macmillan and Wife and Ida Morgenstern (Rhoda’s mother) on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda. She would also direct episodes of MTM and Rhoda, as well as The Village People’s film Can’t Stop the Music.
1968 – English comedian and television host Al Murray is born.
1968 – American actor Scotty Beckett passed away. Beckett is best remembered as one of the child actors who starred in the Our Gang shorts.
1978 - While one of the pillars of the Mighty Ducks film franchise, Saturday Night Live is where Kenan Thompson really made his mark - eventually becoming the longest tenured cast member in the show’s history, and an Emmy winner. On this date he is born in Atlanta, Georgia.
1981 - A new darkly comic episode of English anthology series Tales of the Unexpected sees special guest star Eli Wallach as an older husband who is confronted by the gunman hired by his young wife.
1986 - In a fan favourite episode of The Golden Girls, The Way We Met, the girls reminisce about how they all came to be living together, after Blanche (Rue McClanahan) put an ad for a room for rent on a grocery store bulletin board and Rose (Betty White) and Dorothy (Bea Arthur) both answered it.. And then there’s Dorothy’s mom (Estelle Getty).
1987 - Nikita Mikhalkov’s Italian-Russian comedy feature Dark Eyes premieres. Told in a series of flashbacks, an Italian man visits a spa where he falls in love with a Russian woman, then returns home resolved to leave his wife and marry this new love. The film’s cast includes Marcello Mastroianni, Silvana Mangano, Marthe Keller and Elena Safonova.
1991 - Not one but two noteworthy comedy features are released. In legendary filmmaker Blake Edwards’ Switch, a sexist womanizer (Jimmy Smits) is killed by one of his former lovers and then reincarnated as a woman (Ellen Barkin), with JoBeth Williams and Lorraine Bracco in supporting roles. And the overlooked family comedy Sweet Talker sees Bryan Brown as a sweet-talking con man who starts to turn his life around when he falls in love.
1991 - The British sketch comedy show The Real McCoy premieres, featuring an array of black and Asian comedy stars (such as Robbie Gee, Llewella Gideon, Leo Chester, Meera SyalIt, Eddie Nestor, Judith Jacob, Felix Dexter and Kulvinder Ghir) as well as many famous special guest appearances (among them Leo Muhammad, Ian Wright, Linford Christie and Frank Bruno). The series would run until 1996.
2001 - The movie Harvard Man is released, about a basketball player who agrees to fix a basketball game for the mob. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Adrian Grenier, Joey Lauren Adams and Eric Stoltz star.
2004 - After 5 seasons on the air, the final episode of Moesha spin-off The Parkers airs on UPN.
1911 - “The King of Chutzpah” Phil Silvers, American actor and comedian best remembered for his 1950s sitcom The Phil Silvers Show, is born in Brooklyn, NYC.
1927 - Ground-breaking stand-up Mort Sahl born in Montreal.
1957 - Mickey Rooney plays Broadway musical comedy legend George M. Cohan in the TV special Mr. Broadway.
1962 - 18 years after the cover of Life Magazine proclaimed him the Number 1 Comedian, Life Magazine celebrates Bob Hope for being at the peak of his career.
1966 - The Phyllis Diller/Jack E. Leonard film The Fat Spy opens in theatres. "The First Film Shot in Cape Coral," it features Jayne Mansfield and Brian Donlevy; after bombing it is billed in future re-releases as "The Worst Film Shot in Cape Coral."
1969 - And now for something completely different… the legendary sketch troupe Monty Python was formed on this day in 1969! Among the group's many accolades: they're in the WWCA Comedy Hall of Fame.
1974 - Bob Newhart and Jerry Bonerz of The Bob Newhart Show have just been informed there is no payment involved in being on the cover of TV Guide.
1982 - Seth Rogen’s writing partner and creative collaborator since they were at Point Grey Secondary School, Evan Goldberg is born on this date in Vancouver, BC.
1991 - Delta Burke hosts Saturday Night Live with musical guest Chris Isaak. Highlights include Wayne’s World (with special guest Madonna), Balz-Off, NRA Theatre, an installment of Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey, and it wouldn’t be prudent not to mention the special message from President George W. Bush (Dana Carvey).
1997 - John Hurt and Jason Priestley star in the comedy-drama Love and Death on Long Island.
2002 - On the heels of Spider-Man's success, Kirsten Dunst hosts SNL with musical guest Eminem. Sketches include “Bush's Briefing,” commercial parody "Clear Results" and "Bambi 2002."
2009 - In The Monopolar Expedition episode of The Big Bang Theory, Penny gets upset when she finds out Leonard and the guys plan to work at the North Pole for the summer.
2016 - Woody Allen’s Cafe Society screens. Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell and Blake Lively star in the story of a 1930s Bronx man who moves to Hollywood and falls in love with a young woman who is already involved with a married man.
2016 - Chelsea Handler’s comedy talk show Chelsea premieres on Netflix with its first episode: Appetite for Instruction.
2020 - One half of the comedy duo Stiller and Meara with his wife Anne, father to Ben, Frank Costanza on Seinfeld, and Arthur Spooner on The King Of Queens, comic and actor Jerry Stiller dies at home of natural causes aged 92.
2021 - The great Norman Lloyd passes away at age 106, in his sleep in his Los Angeles home. A consummate workhorse, he began his performance career at the age of 8 in 1923, and his last film role, in Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck (2015), came out when Lloyd was 100 years old. In his legendarily long career, Lloyd played such roles as DeWitt Pyncheon in A Letter for Evie (1946), Dr. Sturdevant in No Minor Vices (1948), Bodalink in Charlie Chaplin's Limelight (1952), Carruthers in the Get Smart movie The Nude Bomb (1980), and Headmaster Gale Nolan in the acclaimed Robin Williams comedy-drama Dead Poets Society (1989).
1937 - Stand-up comedy legend George Carlin is born in Manhattan, NY.
1959 - After a series of meandering and increasingly bizarre shows at the Hungry I nightclub during which, at one point, he collapsed in tearful hysteria after breaking his cigarette holder, Jonathan Winters is found in the rigging of the ship The Balclutha, berthed at San Francisco’s Hyde Street Pier. Claiming to be “John Q from outer space” he was detained by police and placed in an isolation cell at San Francisco General Hospital’s psychiatric ward.
1961 - Kid in the Hall Bruce McCulloch is born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
1964 - At the 6th Annual Grammy Awards, the Best Comedy Performance trophy goes to Allan Sherman for Hello Mudduh, Hello Faddah, beating out fellow nominees Mel Brooks & Carl Reiner, Bill Cosby, The Smothers Brothers, and, wait for it... hilarious pugilist Cassius Clay (who would soon change his name to Muhammad Ali).
1966 - The Munsters comes to an end as A Visit from the Teacher, the 70th and final episode, airs on CBS. In it, Eddie presents a paper to his class entitled "My Parents: An Average American Family”, which his teacher believes must be evidence of an overactive imagination.
1989 - One of the lowest rated comedy films of all time, Adam Sandler’s Going Overboard debuts in theatres. Just one of the indicators of the film’s comedy horribleness? Its 1.8 out of 10 rating on IMDb - where it lives near the bottom of the illustrious “Bottom Rated Movies” list - comes in a comedy film where Sandler actually plays a comedian.
1989 - The hilarious See No Evil, Hear No Evil hits theatres, bringing Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder together again.
1990 - Controversy at SNL as cast member Nora Dunn and musical guest Sinead O’Conner pull out of the episode rather than work with host Andrew Dice Clay. Clay is heckled during his opening monologue and, after being asked not to return for the next episode (the season finale), Dunn’s contract is not renewed.
2004 - CBS airs the special The Carol Burnett Show: Let's Bump Up the Lights!, featuring clips of Burnett's filmed audience warm-ups in which she would turn up the house lights and provide (usually humorous) answers to questions shouted at her by members of the studio audience.
2019 - A winner of 17 Emmy Awards - including six in a row for star Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Best Actress in a Comedy Series, and three straight for Outstanding Comedy Series - the final episode of the Julia Louis-Dreyfus series Veep airs on HBO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjOULXLO4WQ
1922 - Emmy Award winner for both Maude and The Golden Girls, Bea Arthur is born Bernice Frankel in New York City.
1928 - Filmmaker known for such comedies as Oscar, Hibernatus, My Uncle Benjamin, Dracula and Son, and especially the Academy Award-nominated La Cage aux Folles, which was adapted into a US version starring Robin Williams, Édouard Molinaro is born in Bordeaux, France.
1949 - Stand-up Franklyn Ajaye is born in Brooklyn, New York.
1952 - This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Hatching, Matching & Dispatching star Mary Walsh is born in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
1957 - Bumbling lover Bert Lahr hits the cover of Life Magazine.
1963 - While the show wouldn’t move there full time until 1972, the first ever episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from Los Angeles is broadcast. Johnny’s guests include Oleg Cassini, Sandy Dennis, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington.
1972 - Their debut season done, Sanford and Son’s Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson find the time to make the cover of TV Guide.
1973 - Award-winning South African stand-up, actor, and producer John Vlismas is born in Marondera, Zimbabwe.
1978 - Jaws star and recent Oscar winner Richard Dreyfus hosts Saturday Night Live. Before he is attacked by SNL’s infamous “land shark” during the episode’s closing credits, the show features the first appearance of Don Novello’s character Father Guido Sarducci.
1985 - Montreal’s Selma Diamond, in the midst of playing Selma on Night Court, passes away in Los Angeles.
1993 - With George W. Bush no longer in the White House, and Wayne’s World 2 slated for release later in the year, Rolling Stone magazine tries to figure out what’s next for cover boy Dana Carvey, who had just left Saturday Night Live.
1994 - Two years removed from his final Tonight Show, Johnny Carson makes his last ever TV appearance, delivering the Top Ten list to David Letterman.
2000 - Actors Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor get married, the year after meeting while working on Heat Vision and Jack. They would separate 17 years later.
2002 - The Kids in the Hall tape their Tour of Duty special at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
2004 - After 11 seasons, Goodnight, Seattle, the series finale of Frasier airs on NBC. This also put an end to Kelsey Grammer’s portrayal of the character (starting in season three of Cheers) after a staggering 20 years, four Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes... and apparently he's coming back for a reboot!
2005 - Dennis Miller, CNBC’s political talk show hosted by, oddly enough, Dennis Miller, is cancelled. It had premiered in January, 2004.
2005 - Will Ferrell channels his inner Brandi Chastain for the cover of Life Magazine.
2007 - On the series Entourage, perpetual punchline Johnny Drama is fearing the worst from the debut of his new show Five Towns and buckles under the pressure, only to finally have his moment in the sun. The episode The Resurrection airs on HBO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yp3uVh3VdA
2011 - Written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, and starring Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLendon-Covey, the blockbuster Bridesmaids opens in wide release. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNppLrmdyug
2013 - Steve Harvey gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with friends including Samuel L. Jackson, Ellen DeGeneres, Cedric The Entertainer, Wendy Raquel Robinson and Dr. Phil joining in on the fun.
2019 - Singer and one of the most popular film stars of the 1950s and 60s, known for her romantic comedies Pillow Talk, Move Over Darling, The Pajama Game, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and With Six You Get Eggroll, Doris Day passes away from pneumonia at the age of 97.
1926 – Eric Morecambe, of Morecambe and Wise fame, is born.
1971 - The western comedy hit Support Your Local Gunfighter opens, starring James Garner as a con artist who poses as a famous gunfighter in a mining town controlled by two competing companies, who he plays off against each other in their attempts to hire him to drive each other out of town. Co-stars include Suzanne Pleshette, Harry Morgan and western mainstay Jack Elam.
1983 - New York mayor Ed Koch hosts Saturday Night Live, and he’s easily the funniest mayor to have ever hosted the show. Sketches include "What's the most disgusting thing you've seen in New York?”, Eddie Murphy in Mister Robinson's Neighborhood, Bald No More, Whiners, and a Late Night With David Letterman parody.
1987 - The week of the Beverly Hills Cop II release, Eddie Murphy has his handprints immortalized in cement in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater.
1994 - The BBC airs the first episode of the three-part mini-series Bring Me Sunshine, a tribute to Eric Morecambe of Morecambe & Wise. Hosted by Ben Elton, it also features appearances by John Thaw, Roy Castle, Diana Rigg, Hale and Pace, and Fry and Laurie. Ernie Wise could not participate as he was still recovering from a stroke he had suffered in December, 1993.
1998 - The much-hyped final episode of hit 1990s sitcom Seinfeld airs, to huge viewing numbers but lacklustre reviews.
2009 - It was a sitcom about a guy who discovers karma and tries to right all the wrongs he has committed in his life. Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, Jaime Pressly, Nadine Velazquez, and Eddie Steeples starred in the finale of NBC’s sitcom My Name Is Earl on this date. Sadly, it ends with a still-unresolved cliffhanger… can we at least get a wrap-up movie, y’all?
2009 - Legendary TV announcer who spent an incredible 70 years at NBC TV, including 38 years as Saturday Night Live’s announcer, Don Pardo is inducted into the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame.
2011 - A local girl is hired to pose as a decoy bride when the paparazzi flock to a remote Scottish island where a Hollywood actress is attempting to get married in the aptly titled rom-com Decoy Bride, starring Kelly Macdonald, David Tennant, Alice Eve and Michael Urie.
2016 - After two seasons, NBC announces the cancellation of the police comedy-drama The Mysteries of Laura, starring Debra Messing, Laz Alonso and Josh Lucas.
2017 - We finally get a glimpse inside Gavin Belson’s mansion, the Sea Food demo is almost ready to go, and Big Head’s professorship proves beneficial to his students in the Teambuilding Exercise episode of Silicon Valley.
2019 - He wasn’t a big guy, but in comedy he was a giant. Best known for his work on the sitcom McHale’s Navy and his versatility (and hilarious improvisations) as a sketch performer on The Carol Burnett Show, diminutive comic, actor and the person who could get Harvey Korman to crack up more than anyone, Tim Conway passes away aged 85.