Controlled madness. Laser-keen in bursts. Pointed and precise.
Vulnerability, too. A certain tenderness. His eyes set the tone for his act.
I can't think of an American comedian more revered and respected than Jonathan Winters. (There's Jack Benny, for those who remember him.) Winters created a world where you were welcome, but you had to keep pace. His rapid-fire mind took hairpin turns. The inattentive might be left in his dust.
Winters was one of the more offbeat performers in mainstream comedy. He was as polished as Hope. As graceful as Gleason. As biting as Rickles. Yet Winters pushed it further. Breathed different [...]
Comedian Phyllis Diller passed away in her sleep earlier today at age 95. Diller began as a stand-up in the 1950s and never stopped performing until a few years back. During that time she amassed over 50,000 jokes. She undoubtedly was a legend and a very influential comedian. She was able to combine a unique sort of self-deprecation with an impressively honed comedic persona and touches of absurdity, most notably she devoted much of her act to a fictitious husband named "Fang." And then there was that laugh. Watch a few clips of her below. She will be missed.
Sherman Hemsley passed away today at age 74 in his Texas home. Personally, I associate him with Judge Carl Robertson on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and B.P. Richfield on Dinosaurs; however, he'll likely be remembered best as the moved on up George Jefferson for the 11 wildly popular seasons of The Jeffersons. The role earned him multiple Emmy nominations and tons of popular and critical acclaim. Hopefully, right this second, he is somewhere calling someone "Whitey." Below watch a few videos of the man, including the famous George Jefferson Dance:
Ernest Borgnine died yesterday in Los Angeles at age 95. Borgnine had a very long and storied career, most notably winning an Oscar for his role in 1955's Marty. He also played the titular McHale in the popular sitcom McHale'sNavy. (You can watch the whole series currently on Hulu). Later in life, he seemed to gleefully make appearances in comedic fare, like in the above. Below watch a few more clips of the delightful man.
Beloved comedian Jonathan Winters has passed away at the age of 87. TMZ reports that Winters died in Montecito, California, yesterday evening, surrounded by friends and family. Winters, renowned for his stand-up act that showcased his brilliant, rapid-fire improvisational abilities and knack for character work, inspired a ton of comedians who followed in his footsteps, including Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Johnny Carson, Lily Tomlin, Andy Kaufman, Amy Sedaris, and countless others. In addition to releasing a string of popular albums, two of which won him Grammys, the late comedian had an impressive resume of movie and TV credits. Although he amassed hundreds of TV and movie credits, Winters is perhaps best [...]
David Rakoff died last night, far too young at 47. Here's a video that Dave Hill just put online of a "book tour" for Don't Get Too Comfortable that they made together for a reading. It's hilarious and wonderful and makes today that much more sad. Here's Hill on the video: A few years ago, David Rakoff and I, DH, made this video with Keith Aumont Goldberg to play at a reading we did together. In it, we pretend to go on a book tour for David's second book "Don't Get Too Comfortable." In reality, we were just driving around mostly while I tried not to crash [...]
As a friend of Andy Warhol, Timothy Leary, and William Burroughs's, Nelson Lyon was a fixture of the New York City counterculture. The former 1980s SNL writer, however, is probably best known as being John Belushi's sidekick in the 1982 drug binge that lead to the comic genius's demise. Lyon never served jail time for the incident but the events left a black mark on his career that was seemingly impossible for him to overcome. Lyon passed away from liver cancer last week, on Tuesday July 17. He will be missed.
Andy Griffith passed away this morning in his North Carolina home at age 86. Griffith started his career as a stand-up comedian/monologist and eventually went on to become an honest-to-goodness cultural icon. He was most famous for playing sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock on Matlock. He is remembered by his wife Cindi and his daughter Dixie. Below is his most famous monologue, "What it Was, Was Football":
Maurice Sendak passed away yesterday so last night, Stephen Colbert paid tribute to the author/blurber of his new children's book, I Am a Pole (And So Can You). Colbert aired never before seen portions of his interview with the Sendak, from earlier this year. The video is funny and sad and touching and dark – just like Sendak would've liked or hated or liked to hate.
Comedy writer Mickey Rose passed away Sunday from cancer at the age of 77, The LA Times reports. Rose is best known for co-writing Woody Allen's first three movies with Allen: What's Up, Tiger Lily?, Take the Money and Run, and Bananas. Allen and Rose became friends in high school in Brooklyn in the early 1950s, where they played baseball and in a jazz band together. Allen even set Rose up on a blind date with Judy Wolf, the woman who would become his wife of 40 years, until her death in 2003. Rose and Allen stopped writing together in 1970, when Rose and his family moved [...]
This is beautiful and sad and tough and a bit fun. Franken spends a good bit of the speech talking about the process of writing and making comedy with Tom, focusing on SNL and the famous Julia Child sketch. It's a really great watch. While you're spending time with Franken, read this crazy story by a BoingBoing writer about the time he met with Franken for a job interview, minutes after Phil Hartman was killed. Then maybe watch the Julia Child sketch below, for something a bit more upbeat and Friday friendly.
Tom Davis, one of the original great writers of Saturday Night Live, passed away today at age 59. Best known as part of the comedy duo Franken and Davis, with Al Franken, he wrote for SNL from 1975 to 1980 and then again from 1986 to 1994. He was responsible or partly responsible for many classic sketches like "Theodoric of York", "Nick the Lounge Singer", "The Coneheads", and "The Continental" (watch clips below) . He wrote about his experience during the early days of SNL in his 2010 autobiography, 39 Years of Short-Term Memory Loss. He was true legend and he will be missed. Below also watch [...]
This sucks. Writer/director/rom-com revolutionary Nora Ephron passed away yesterday from pneumonia stemming from acute myeloid leukemia. She was 71. A few years ago, when The Guardian asked her how she'd liked to be remembered, she answered, "As the greatest nightclub singer ever." So be it. Likely she'll be remembered as the writer and director of many movies that changed the romantic comedy genre and comedy in general. Personally, she wrote my favorite movie ever, When Harry Mat Sally, a film that influenced everything that came after it. Her writing was so sharp, so honest, SO funny. She also seemed like a really cool woman. She was the [...]
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