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December 18: Hal Kanter and Diahann Carroll

Hal Kanter, a screenwriter, director, and producer who created “Julia,” the first television sitcom (1968-71) featuring a black professional character (Diahann Carroll), was born in Savannah, Georgia on this date in 1918. Kanter worked on films with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, and Elvis Presley. For many years he was […]

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Drinks with Lenny Bruce

HIS 50TH YORTSAYT, AUGUST 3RD by Marty Roth Lenny Bruce is dead but his ghost lives on and on Never did get any Golden Globe award, never made it to Synanon He was an outlaw, that’s for sure More of an outlaw than you ever were Lenny Bruce is gone but his spirit’s livin’ on […]

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Marty Feldman versus the Suits

by Mike Kuhlenbeck “The pen is mightier than the sword, and is considerably easier to write with.” –Marty Feldman THE SUBVERSIVE WISDOM of comedian Marty Feldman should be chiseled in stone, and his unique likeness carved into a monument celebrating his efforts to slay the Establishment with humor. Martin Alan Feldman was born in north […]

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June 9: Jackie Mason

Comedian Jackie Mason (Yacov Moshe Maza) was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on this date in 1931. Ordained a rabbi at age 25, he left the bimah three years later to do stand-up (“Somebody in the family had to make a living,” he said). Mason had a somewhat spotty start on the Borscht Belt circuit and […]

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May 15: The Yiddish Fred Astaire

Actor and dancer Leo Fuchs, lifelong star of the Yiddish theater, creator of the famous song “Trouble,” and a star in the original Broadway production of Cabaret, was born to a theatrical family in Warsaw on this date in 1911. “Fuchs’s specialty,” writes Bernard Mendelovitch in The Independent, “was comedy and when he commenced his […]

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April 23: George Burns’ Hit Song

George Burns (Birnbaum), 84, became the oldest person to chart with hit in the Billboard Top Fifty on this date in 1980 when “I Wish I Was 18 Again” peaked at No. 49 — his first hit record since 1933, when he and Gracie Allen had a hit comedy record. The song was written by […]

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April 9: Tom Lehrer

Songwriter, social satirist, and mathematician Tom Lehrer was born on this date in 1928. In the 1960s he gained a wide audience as the resident songwriter for the American version of That Was the Week That Was, a short-lived satirical television news show, for which he wrote a famous spoof about rocket scientist Werner Von […]

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March 16: Jerry Lewis

Funny man Jerry Lewis (Levitch) was born in Newark, New Jersey on this date in 1926, to a vaudevillian father and a piano-playing mother. After on-stage training on the Borscht Belt (with his parents from the age of 5), he teamed up with Dean Martin in 1946, and within a year they were playing the […]

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March 14: Billy Crystal

Comedic actor Billy Crystal, best known as Harry in When Harry Met Sally (1989) and as a perennial host of the Academy Awards, was born in New York on this date in 1948. His father was a well-known concert promoter, and celebrities were frequent guests in the household (Billie Holiday was sometimes his babysitter). Crystal studied […]

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February 26: Tony Randall

Actor Tony Randall (Arthur Leonard Rosenberg), best known for his role as the fastidious Felix Unger in the TV series based on Neil Simon’ play The Odd Couple, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this date in 1920. Randall studied theater and dance in New York prior to serving with the Signal Corps during World […]

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