Danny Kaye from Brownsville

Actor/comedian Danny Kaye (David Daniel Kaminsky), a marvelous song-and-dance-and-everything man, died on this date in 1987. Kaye was born in 1911 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, NY, to Ukrainian immigrant parents who called him “Duvidelleh.” After getting his start as a Borscht Belt entertainer, he would go on to star in seventeen movies, including The Secret […]

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Jack Benny

Jack Benny (Benjamin Kubelsky) was born in Chicago, Illinois, on this date in 1894. His parents were immigrants from Poland and Lithuania. One of America’s favorite comedians in vaudeville, on radio and TV, and in film, Benny was married to Sadye Marks, who some say was a cousin of the Marx Brothers and who played his […]

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George Burns

George Burns (Naftaly — later Nathan — Birnbaum) was born in New York City on this date in 1896 to a family that had immigrated from what is now southeastern Poland. He quit school in the fourth grade to become an entertainer. Burns’ vaudeville career was floundering until he met Gracie Allen in 1923 (they would […]

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Soupy Sales

Soupy Sales (Milton Supman) was born on this date in 1926 in Franklinton, North Carolina. His parents were dry goods merchants (the local Ku Klux Klan, Soupy joked, bought their sheets from his folks) who nicknamed their sons ‘Hambone,’ ‘Chicken Bone’ and ‘Soup Bone.’ Milton shortened his nickname to Soupy and turned his family’s bent […]

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The Man with the Popping Eyes

Comedian Marty Feldman, a Brit who became known to American audiences playing Igor, Gene Wilder‘s laboratory sidekick in Mel Brooks‘ Young Frankenstein, died at 48 on this date in 1982. His parents were emigrants from Kiev. Feldman suffered from thyroid disease and Graves’ ophthalmopathy, which caused his eyes to protrude and misalign — a very weird physical attribute […]

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Allan Sherman, “Folksinger”

Song parodist Allan Sherman (born Allan Copelon — he took his mother’s birth name after his parents’ divorce), was born in Chicago on this date in 1924. His 1962 debut song-parody record, My Son, the Folksinger, became the fastest-selling album until that time. Sherman’s strength was in setting silly lyrics to classical music (as in “Hello Muddah, hello Faddah, here […]

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2017 and Still Curbing Our Enthusiasm

by Alessio Franko   IN CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM’S eighth season, Larry David, playing his ever-thinly fictionalized self (we’ll call him “LD” and assume that the two really are separable), boards a plane to New York City, literally fleeing a tedious social obligation in Los Angeles. He eyes the drink that the woman next to him in first […]

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Bye, Bye, Boys’ Club

WOMEN IN AN EXPANDING COMEDY SCENE by Raina Lipsitz From the Summer 2017 issue of Jewish Currents   COMEDY has become for the millennial generation what rock and roll was for baby boomers — the fantasy career option. Thousands of people pay upwards of $50 a class for improvisational and sketch comedy classes (organizations such as New […]

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Lewis Black

The ranting and raging comedian Lewis Black was born in Washington, DC on this date in 1948. He earned an MFA from the Yale School of Drama in 1977 and began his career as a playwright-in-residence and associate artistic director at a theater in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, where he collaborated with composer and lyricist Rusty Magee and artistic […]

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Mel Tolkin and “Your Show of Shows”

Mel Tolkin (Shmuel Tolchinsky), the head writer of Sid Caesar’s pioneering television comedy program, Your Show of Shows (1950-54), and its follow-up, Caesar’s Hour, was born in a shtetl near Odessa on this date in 1913. He came to Canada in 1926, moved to New York twenty years later, and teamed up with Lucille Kallen, who would become his […]

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