This Day in Comedy History
November 15 - 21
1929 - The legendary Ed Asner is born in Kansas City, Missouri. He has won more Primetime Emmy Awards than any other male actor, winning seven trophies, including five for his most famous character, Lou Grant, who he played on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and his own spinoff, Lou Grant. After he graduated in 1948 he joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps and while touring Europe began doing plays for servicemen with their theatre company - and he continues acting into the 2020s, more than 70 years later! While living in Chicago, he also helped found The Playwrights Theatre Company, which later became the Compass Players, who were succeeded by The Second City. And if that’s still not enough, the guy has played Santa Claus at least, I don’t know, 650 times?
1934 - She’s best known for playing gold-digger Vicki in Disney's original 1961 version of The Parent Trap starring Hayley Mills, Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith. Joanna Barnes is born in Boston.
1939 - He mostly played serious roles in drama, sci-fi and action films, but he also made some comedies, most famously playing Robert De Niro’s adversary, the villainous Dr. Kananga in the comedy crime movie Midnight Run (1988). Yaphet Kotto is born in New York City.
1948 - Award winning Australian cartoonist James Kemsley is born. He’s best known for succeeding Jimmy Bancks as the author of Australia’s longest running comic strip Ginger Meggs, producing it from 1984 until his death in 2007.
1951 - Actress and singer known for her portrayal of Ellen Griswold in the National Lampoon Vacation series of films, Beverly D’Angelo is born in Columbus, Ohio.
1975 - Saturday Night Live features two sketches that would be become recurring sketches. Minute Mystery with Mike Mendoza stars Dan Aykroyd as a crime scene photographer who gives the audience a list of clues and 60 seconds to solve a mystery, while Looks at Books has Jane Curtin interviewing profound authors on her intellectual talk show.
1979 - Three years removed from his short lived summer variety show on CBS, popular stand-up Kelly Monteith gets another chance with a different format, a different network, and a different country. Part sitcom, part sketch show, The Kelly Monteith Show debuts in the UK on the BBC.
1984 - Young stand-up Bill Hicks makes the first of his 11 appearances, and his network television debut, on Late Night With David Letterman. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ra-XxPUXHjc
1989 - Time-Life launches The Comedy Channel, the first cable channel featuring wall-to-wall comedy programming. It’s shows included Sports Monster, Onion World with Rich Hall, and the debut of Mystery Science Theater 3000, talk shows hosted by Rachel Sweet and Allan Havey, as well as The Higgins Boys and Gruber who did sketches between movie showings.
2004 - ABC’s broadcast of Monday Night Football includes a sketch in which Nicolette Sheridan, wearing a towel, tries to persuade Terrell Owens of the Philadelphia Eagles to spend the night with her. The resulting uproar forced the network to apologize to their viewers.
2008 - With Amy Poehler taking maternity leave from SNL, Abby Elliott is invited to join the cast. The daughter of comedian and former SNL cast member Chris Elliott, this marks the first “second generation” cast member in the show’s history.
2011 - T.J. Miller’s stand-up special No Real Reason premieres on Comedy Central.
2012 - Wanting to get Leslie an engagement present she will appreciate, Ben surprises her by setting up a meeting with then-Vice President Joe Biden. The Parks and Rec episode Leslie vs. April airs on NBC.
2012 - Katt Williams is arrested in Oakland, California on charges of assault with a deadly weapon after allegedly beating an 18-year-old man with a bottle on Williams' tour bus.
1907 - Best known as The Penguin from the Batman TV series and original film, also for the comedies Foul Play, The Great Bank Hoax, Santa Claus: The Movie, Hot To Trot and the Grumpy Old Men movies, Burgess Meredith is born in Cleveland, Ohio.
1945 - Actor best known for starring in The Stunt Man (1980), Steve Railsback is born in Dallas, TX.
1950 - David Leisure, best known for playing Charley Dietz in the sitcom Empty Nest (1988-1995), is born in San Diego, CA.
1951 - Miguel Sandoval is born in Washington, DC. He has appeared in such films as Repo Man (1984), Do the Right Thing (1989), Get Shorty (1995), Three Businessmen (1998) and Repo Chick (2009).
1960 - He was known as “The King of Hollywood,” who began working in the silent film era and starred in more than 60 films, among them such comedies as Saratoga (1937), The Hucksters (1947), Teacher's Pet (1958) with Doris Day, It Started in Naples (1960) with Sophia Loren - and the Frank Capra screwball rom-com It Happened One Night (1934) with Claudette Colbert, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Ten days after being admitted to hospital because he’d suffered a heart attack, 59 year old Clark Gable suffers another heart attack and passes away.
1967 - Lisa Bonet, who played Denise Huxtable in The Cosby Show and its spinoff A Different World, is born in San Francisco.
1970 - Known for her roles in The Goonies (1985) and Parenthood (1989), as well as for starring in the TV series Raising Hope (2010-2014), which earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, and The Real O’Neals (2016-2017) - Martha Plimpton is born in NYC.
1972 - Missi Pyle is born in Houston. Her acting credits include the films Galaxy Quest (1999), Big Fish (2003), Bringing Down the House (2003), DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story (2004), Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008), The Artist (2011) and Captain Fantastic (2016).
1974 - The final recording of an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus at BBC studios. Sketches include Party Political Broadcast, Patient Abuse and Batsmen of the Kalahari.
1976 - Freddie Prinze was arrested for driving under the influence of Quaaludes.
1977 - She has starred in such films as Adaptation (2002), Secretary (2002), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010), Hysteria (2011) and Frank (2014). Golden Globe winner and Oscar and Emmy nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal is born in Manhattan, NYC.
1984 - She starred with Debbie Reynolds in Disney’s fantasy comedy film series Halloweentown, Kimberly J. Brown is born in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
1987 - On her 20th birthday, actor Lisa Bonet (The Cosby Show, A Different World) and musician Lenny Kravitz elope in Las Vegas. They would separate in 1990 and divorce three years later.
1990 - KEVIN! One of the most enduring and successful comedy films ever, the John Hughes film Home Alone opens in wide release. The cast included Catherine O’Hara, John Heard, Joe Pesci, and Daniel Stern, and would make a star of Macauley Culkin.
1993 - Saturday Night Live cast member Pete Davidson is born in NYC. The comedian and actor’s other TV credits include the MTV shows Guy Code, Wild 'n Out and Failosophy. On the big screen, he co-wrote and starred in the comedy-drama The King of Staten Island (2020).
1995 - He played the recurring role of Franklin Aloysius Mumford on the Damon Wayans sitcom My Wife & Kids. Noah Gray-Cabey is born in Chicago.
1999 - The Museum of Television and Radio in New York (now known as The Paley Center), hosts a reunion of the legendary radio sketch troupe Credibility Gap, with David L. Lander, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer.
2006 - Happy Feet is released, featuring the voices of many notable comedians, including Robin Williams.
2012 - For the second time in 15 days, and a day after his assault with a deadly weapon arrest, a Katt Williams show ends early after the trouble-embracing comedian confronts a heckler at the Oracle Arena and is assisted off-stage by his own security personnel… One audience member would later file a class action lawsuit seeking compensation for himself and "all others who paid money for a show and got nothing but Katt Williams' nonperformance”, which allegedly lasted only ten minutes.
2015 - Welsh actor Roger Rees is inducted posthumously into the Broadway Theatre Hall of Fame. Rees had died in July after continuing working on Broadway as long as possible while undergoing surgeries and chemotherapy. His film and TV roles included the films Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) and The Pink Panther (2006), the British sitcom Singles, and the American sitcom Cheers.
1927 - Known as “England’s First Lady of the double entendre”, Fenella Fielding is born in Hackney, London.
1933 - The Marx Brothers film Duck Soup is released. While initial reviews found it not to the standard of their earlier films, over time it has come to be seen as a true classic and the Brothers’ greatest film.
1944 - Saturday Night Live creator and producer Lorne Michaels is born Lorne Lipowitz in Toronto, Canada. He has also produced Late Night, The Tonight Show and The Kids in the Hall. He has a record 91 Emmy nominations, including 19 wins.
1944 - Danny DeVito is born in Neptune Township, New Jersey. He’s best known for his TV work, winning a Golden Globe and an Emmy for playing Louie in Taxi, and for his role of Frank in the series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. His movie credits include One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Romancing the Stone (1984), Throw Momma from the Train (1987), The War of the Roses (1989), Junior (1994), Get Shorty (1995), Matilda (1996), Man on the Moon (1999) The Big Kahuna (1999), Big Fish (2003) and Deck the Halls (2006).
1951 - He’s Fuches in Barry, was Jimmy James in NewsRadio and voiced Bill Dauterive and Buck Strickland in King of the Hill. Stephen Root is born in Sarasota, Florida. Movie credits include Office Space (1999), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story (2004), Leatherheads (2008), Bad Milo! (2013) and Happily (2021).
1958 - Stage, TV and film actor who was nominated for a Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award for her role in the Broadway revival of Man of La Mancha, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is born in Lombard, Illinois. On the big screen, she starred in The January Man (1989) with Kevin Kline.
1959 - He co-starred in Mystic Pizza (1988) with Julia Roberts. Actor William Moses is born in Los Angeles.
1960 - Entertainer and TV host/personality RuPaul is born in San Diego.
1966 - Surreal comedy troupe The Firesign Theatre are first heard in a live performance on KPFK FM radio Los Angeles, on the program Radio Free Oz. The Firesigns would become regular and favourite guests on the show then have three syndicated radio programs of their own, while also adding live performances and events (including their own idea, the “love-in”), before breaking up in 1973. They left behind a whopping 15 albums though, so check ‘em out!
1966 - Woody Allen’s first professionally produced play, the face Don’t Drink the Water, premieres at the Morosco Theatre on Broadway. The cast stars Lou Jacobi, Kay Medford and Anita Gillette as a family seeking sanctuary at a US embassy behind the iron curtain after accidentally taking some prohibited photos, along with Tony Roberts, Donna Mills and Richard Libertini. It would run for 598 performances. It would later be adapted into both a film, and a TV movie starring Allen himself, with Michael J. Fox.
1966 - TV host, actress and comedian Daisy Fuentes is born in Havana, Cuba.
1966 - Sophie Marceau is born Sophie Danièle Sylvie Maupu in Paris. Her films include the hit rom-coms L'Étudiante (1988), Pacific Palisades (1990) and Fanfan (1993).
1973 - The National Lampoon Radio Hour debuts on 600 stations. The show would run for 59 episodes before folding in December of 1974. Following its demise, cast and writers John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Anne Beatts, and Brian Doyle-Murray would all find their way to the new Saturday Night Live show, while Joe Flaherty and Harold Ramis would go to SCTV.
1976 - Former child actor best known for playing J.T. Lambert in the sitcom Step by Step, Brandon Call is born in Torrance, CA.
1978 - Rachel McAdams is born in London, Ontario, Canada. She has starred in such films as Mean Girls (2004), Wedding Crashers (2005), The Family Stone (2005), The Lucky Ones (2008), Morning Glory (2010), Midnight in Paris (2011), About Time (2013), Aloha (2015), Game Night (2018) and Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020).
1978 - Richard Pryor’s twelfth stand-up album, Wanted: Live in Concert, is released.
1988 - Former child actor who starred as the titular menace in Dennis the Menace Strikes Again (1998), Justin Cooper is born in Los Angeles.
1989 - Eddie Murphy’s gangster comedy Harlem Nights is released. Co-stars include Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Della Reese, Jasmine Guy and Arsenio Hall… At the AMC Americana 8 theater in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, two men are shot and killed and a woman fleeing the scene is hit by a car after running into traffic.
1991 - Fox becomes the first U.S. network to air a commercial for condoms. In it, a young man talks about disease infecting nice people.
1994 - Raquel Castro is born in Long Island, NYC. She’s best known for starring as Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s daughter in Jersey Girl (2004).
1995 - The Odd Couple actor Tony Randall marries Heather Harlan, an understudy in one of his plays. He was 75, she was 25.
1997 - Steve Martin’s "A Public Apology" is published in The New Yorker.
2006 - During a performance at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, California, Michael Richards launches into a racist rant in response to reported heckling and interruptions from a group of black audience members. The incident is recorded and despite apologizing three days later, Richards’ career never fully recovered. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyYkToVXhMo
2008 - The first season of Smart Girls at the Party, created by Amy Poehler, Meredith Walker and Amy Miles, a web series aimed at empowering girls, premieres online, sponsored by Barbie (Mattel).
1908 - Comic actress who rose to fame co-starring with Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows, Imogene Coca is born in Philadelphia.
1936 - Irish actress Geraldine Fitzgerald marries Sir Edward Lindsay-Hogg. They would divorce ten years later.
1939 - Broadway comedy star Brenda Vaccaro, whose credits include Cactus Flower (1965), How Now, Dow Jones (1967), The Goodbye People (1968), and, from Neil Simon, the female version of The Odd Couple (1985) and Jake's Women (1992), is born in Brooklyn, NYC. She is also a film and TV actress who has won a Golden Globe and an Emmy, and been nominated for an Academy Award and three Tonys.
1942 - Classy actress Susan Sullivan is born in New York City. She’s most recently known for playing Nathan Fillion’s mother Martha Rodgers on Castle (2009–2016), but also starred in two ABC sitcoms - as Lois Adams in It's a Living (1980–81), and Kitty Montgomery on Dharma & Greg (1997–2002), a role for which she was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe Award.
1947 - The first American sitcom, Mary Kay and Johnny, starring the real life couple Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns, premieres live on The DuMont Network.
1947 - He’s most famous for co-starring with Gerald McRaney as one of the Simons in Simon & Simon, but his other work includes roles in The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue and McRaney’s sitcom Major Dad - Jameson Parker is born in Baltimore, MD.
1948 - Her film roles include The Stuff (1985), The Canterville Ghost (1986) and Someone to Love (1987), and she also played Tammy in FX’s Baskets (2019). Andrea Marcovicci is born in Manhattan, NYC.
1948 - Likable comic’s comic, favourite on the late night shows, also known for Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, The Big Lebowski, I’m Dying Up Here and My Wife And Kids, Dom Irrera is born in Philadelphia.
1952 - In Lewisham, London, England, Delroy Lindo is born. His film roles include Get Shorty (1995), Crooklyn (1994), The Hard Way (1991), Sahara (2005), Pros & Cons (1999), Find the Lady (1976), More American Graffiti (1979) and Feeling Minnesota (1996).
1953 - Irish-American comedian and actor Kevin Nealon is born in St. Louis, Missouri. Best known for his years as a cast member and Weekend Update anchor on Saturday Night Live (1986-1995), he also played Doug in Showtime’s crime comedy series Weeds and voiced the title character in Glenn Martin, DDS. On the big screen, he’s a regular in Adam Sandler’s movies, most notably as eccentric pro golfer Gary Potter in Happy Gilmore.
1958 - Former Groundlings member, Cuban-American actor-comedian Oscar Nuñez, is born in Colón, Cuba. He is best known for his role as accountant Oscar Martinez on the US version of The Office, on NBC.
1959 - 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, dies of a sudden heart attack in Hollywood at age 60.
1960 - Elizabeth Perkins is born in Queens, NYC. She was nominated for three Emmys and two Golden Globes for playing Celia in Showtime’s crime comedy series Weeds. Her film credits include About Last Night (1986), Big (1988), The Flintstones (1994), Miracle on 34th Street (1994), He Said, She Said (1991), and Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo (2003).
1968 - Actor known for his weird nose and films including Wedding Crashers, Meet the Parents, Zoolander, The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore, Owen Wilson is born in Dallas, Texas.
1968 - Another entry related to Weeds! Romany Malco, who played Conrad Shepard on the Showtime series, is born in Brooklyn, NYC.
1969 - Improv comedian and actor Dan Bakkedahl is born in Rochester, Minnesota. He is best known for his TV work, including starring as Tim Hughes in the CBS sitcom Life in Pieces, playing Congressman Roger Furlong in HBO’s Veep, and portraying Steve Nugent in FX’s Legit. He was also a correspondent for three seasons on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and has had recurring roles on ABC sitcom The Goldbergs, Fox/Hulu’s The Mindy Project, HBO Max’s Made for Love, and Netflix’s Space Force.
1970 - Stand-up comedian Mike Epps is born in Indianapolis. He played Day-Day in Next Friday and its sequel, Friday After Next, Black Doug in The Hangover and The Hangover Part III, and Reggie, the cousin of Martin Lawrence’s title character, in Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins.
1974 - She’s best known for her work in indie dramas, but has also done comedy, including co-starring with Bill Murray, Steve Buscemi and Adam Driver in Jim Jarmusch's horror comedy The Dead Don't Die (2019). Chloe Sevigny is born in Springfield, Massachusetts.
1976 - Stage and screen actor Steven Pasquale is born in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He made his acting debut on HBO’s comedy-drama series Six Feet Under, playing Kurt, but is best known for playing Sean Garrity in Denis Leary’s FX series Rescue Me.
1981 - Former Saturday Night Live cast member Nasim Pedrad is born in Tehran, Iran. She has since starred in the Fox sitcoms Mulaney (2014–2015) and New Girl (2015–2018) as well as the Fox horror comedy series Scream Queens (2015) and TBS’s sci-fi comedy show People of Earth (2017) and sitcom Chad (2021–), which she also created. Her film credits include No Strings Attached (2011), Despicable Me 2 (2013), the horror comedy Cooties (2014) and Desperados (2020).
1981 - Christina Vidal is born in Queens, NYC. She can be seen in the movies Life with Mikey (1993) and Freaky Friday (2003), and starred in the title role in Nickelodeon’s teen sitcom Taina (2001–2002)
1983 - A Christmas Story is released. The holiday classic Canada-U.S. co-production was directed by Bob Clark, who had earlier made the Canadian hits Black Christmas, Porky’s and Tribute, and for some reason later made Baby Geniuses. Based on Jean Shepherd's 1966 book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, the film stars Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, and Peter Billingsley.
1985 - After being fired from WNBC, Howard Stern returned to the New York airwaves on rock station WXRK, where he began his 20-year residency. 20 years to the day later, he would launch Howard Stern on Demand in conjunction with his move to satellite radio.
1987 - At their concert in Los Angeles, the band U2 opened for itself as a parody country-rock group called The Dalton Brothers, named in honour of The Dalton Gang.
1989 - Saturday Night Live is hosted by Woody Harrelson. Sketches include Sprockets, with host Dieter (Mike Myers) welcoming filmmaker Graus Grek (Harrelson), who shares his plans for his new EuroTrash Theme Park.
1992 - Ranked #1 on TV Guide’s 2009 list of tv’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time, and an Emmy winner for its writer Gary David, Seinfeld’s The Contest airs on NBC.
1992 - Nathan Kress is born in Glendale, CA. His early acting work includes Babe: Pig in the City (1998) and Jimmy Kimmel Live! (2005) before landing at Nickelodeon, where he made his mark in sitcoms, playing Toplin in Drake & Josh (2007) then landing his best known role, earning five Young Artist Award nominations as Freddie Benson in iCarly (2007–2012) and its revival series (2021-).
2000 - Actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones marry in New York.
2002 - Huge star of westerns and action flicks who also played on his tough guy image in several comedies - among them Maverick (1994), the spy parodies Our Man Flint (1966) and In Like Flint (1967), Snow Dogs (2002), Hudson Hawk (1991), Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), Charade (1963), The Player (1992), The Nutty Professor (1996), The Muppet Movie (1979) and Monsters, Inc. (2001) - Oscar winner James Coburn passes away in Beverly Hills.
2003 - A feel good Christmas season movie about grand larceny, murder, elder abuse, homophobia and more, starring Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Lauren Graham, Bernie Mac, Cloris Leachman, John Ritter (his final live action film) and Brett Kelly, Bad Santa premieres at the Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, California.
2005 - In conjunction with his move to satellite radio, Howard Stern launches the subscription-based video service Howard Stern on Demand, a subscription-based video-on-demand service.
2006 - Kramer from TV’s Seinfeld, Michael Richards was doing a stand-up set at The Laugh Factory on the Sunset Strip when, distracted by table chatter, uh, went off on the table in a tirade that, well……..might possibly be considered racist. The magnitude of the backlash prompted a full apology from Richards, and when that wasn’t enough, Jerry Seinfeld appeared on Letterman to have Richards talk through it and offer further apology via satellite, to little effect. Whatever small level of heat Michael Richards had retained in the eight and a half years since the Seinfeld finale, the referees had to call it. Game Over.
2011 - Happy Feet Two premieres, featuring such voices as Robin Williams.
2013 - Bill Engvall, paired with professional dancer Emma Slater, makes it to the finals on Dancing with the Stars. The two would finished in 4th place.
1883 - Character actor Ned Sparks is born in Guelph, Ontario. Though best known for his dour, serious roles, he also starred in a number of silent comedies.