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May 28: Lucille Kallen, Comedy Writer

May 28, 2014

tumblr_mf3obi8rxt1qdj321o1_500The first woman writer on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows — amid a crew that included Neil Simon, Carl Reiner, and Mel Brooks — Lucille Kallen was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1922. A Juilliard music drop-out, she honed her comic skills at Camp Tamiment in the Poconos, met her husband there, and in 1949, “undeterred by the fact that she had never seen a television program,” according to Margalit Fox in the New York Times, she began writing for The Admiral Broadway Review, which brought together Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca and eventually was transformed into Caesar’s classic comedy sketch show. “There was a male phalanx, and then there was me,” Kallen said of the comedy-writing team. “But when we were working, there was no difference” — although she sometimes resorted to standing on the couch and waving a kerchief to get attention from the rowdy men. Kallen was also a novelist and mystery writer. She died at 76 in 1999. To see one of the skits she helped to craft, look below.

“As Ms. Kallen recalled, she and her colleagues didn’t simply write Your Show of Shows, they lived it, working seven days a week, thirty-nine weeks a year at the program’s offices in midtown Manhattan, producing a series of now-classic sketches, including movie parodies (“From Here to Obscurity”), opera sendups (“Galipacci”) and the weekly travails of the married couple Charles and Doris Hickenlooper for the live broadcast on Saturday night.” -Margalit Fox