1-15 of 15 results  for:

  • comedian or humorist x
Clear all

Article

Abbott, Bud (02 October 1895–24 April 1974), and Lou Costello (06 March 1906–03 March 1959), a team of comedians on stage, radio, film, and television, were born, respectively, in Asbury Park and Paterson, New Jersey. Abbott (born William Alexander Abbott) was the son of Harry Abbott, a circus advance agent, and Rae Fisher, a circus bareback rider. Costello (born Louis Francis Cristillo) was the son of Sebastian Cristillo, an Italian-born silk weaver and insurance sales agent, and Helen Rege....

Article

Backus, Jim (25 February 1913–03 July 1989), actor, comedian, and author, was born James Gilmore Backus in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Russell Gould Backus, a mechanical engineer and president of a local heavy-machinery company, and Daisy Gilmore-Taylor. They lived in Bratenahl, an upper-class borough of Cleveland. Jim attended the Bratenahl School, then as a teenager went to Kentucky Military Institute, but when he tried to enlist, the army rejected him, telling him that he had a vertical stomach and would have to eat six times a day to stay nourished. However, at school he began a lifelong friendship with fellow cadet and future movie actor ...

Article

Melissa Vickery-Bareford

Belushi, John (24 January 1949–05 May 1982), actor-comedian, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Adam Belushi, the owner of a local restaurant, and Agnes (maiden name unknown). John was the eldest of three sons. His younger brother Jim also became an actor. An aggressive and difficult child, Belushi often got into trouble as a youngster. At Central High School in Wheaton, Illinois, however, he satisfied an intense need for attention by participating in such extracurricular activities as football, wrestling, choir, forensics, and the drama club and by playing drums in a rock ’n’ roll band. In his senior year he was captain of the football team as well as homecoming king....

Article

See Abbott, Bud

Image

W. C. Fields. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111428).

Article

Fields, W. C. (29 January 1880–25 December 1946), comedian in vaudeville, film, and radio, was born William Claude Dukenfield in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest son of James Dukenfield, an Englishman, and Kate Felton of Philadelphia. (A number of different dates have been reported for Fields’s birth; the one given here is the most widely accepted.) His background was working-class poor. Fields’s earliest recollections revolved around a sense of deprivation that despite his later affluence and popularity constantly gnawed at him. He always suffered from the knowledge of poverty and once wrote: “I was the oldest child. We were all very poor, but I was poor first.” In his early years, especially after separating from his family, Fields often engaged in petty thievery and scams, which occasionally landed him in jail. His fear of being penniless, an anxiety heightened by the stock market crash of 1929, led him to deposit his earnings under various pseudonymous accounts in different banks around the country, some of which have never been located. In contractual negotiations with small-town theater managers as well as with Broadway impresarios, Fields was known as an especially hard bargainer, even after becoming one of the highest paid performers in the business....

Image

Jackie Gleason Right, with the Irish playwright Brendan Behan, 1960. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-108031).

Article

Gleason, Jackie (26 February 1916–24 June 1987), actor and comedian, was born Herbert John Gleason in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Herbert Gleason, an insurance company clerk, and Mae Kelly. Gleason’s parents drank heavily and quarreled frequently but instilled in him strong Catholic sentiments. His overprotective mother kept him out of school until the age of eight. The best times of Gleason’s childhood occurred when his father took him to neighborhood theaters. Vaudeville shows and silent film comedies captured the boy’s imagination. He began to perform for his schoolmates and was master of ceremonies for the graduation show staged by his eighth-grade class. In December 1925 Gleason’s father disappeared; his mother took a job selling tokens for the BMT subway....

Image

Danny Kaye Entertaining 4,000 5th Marine Division troops in Sasebo, Japan. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-127-N-138204).

Article

Charles W. Carey Jr.

Kaye, Danny (18 January 1913–03 March 1987), entertainer, was born David Daniel Kaminski in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jacob Kaminski, a tailor, and Clara Nemerovsky. He dropped out of high school during his sophomore year and hitchhiked with a friend to Miami Beach, Florida, to become professional song-and-dance men. After returning to Brooklyn two weeks later, he worked as a soda jerk, office clerk, and insurance appraiser by day and performed at private parties by night. In 1929 he went to work at White Roe Lake House in New York’s Catskill Mountains as a tummler, an entertainer who amused the guests during their every waking hour. For the next four summers he performed at White Roe as Danny Kaye and unsuccessfully sought work on Broadway during the winter....

Image

Ernie Kovacs Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95689).

Article

Kovacs, Ernie (23 January 1919–13 January 1962), television comedian and actor, was born Ernest Edward Kovacs in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Andrew John Kovacs (András János Kovács), a policeman, and Mary Chebonick (Maria Csebenyák). His parents’ Hungarian heritage was an essential part of Kovacs’s upbringing; he grew up bilingual in an ethnic working-class neighborhood near the Trenton riverfront. The family’s financial situation improved when Kovacs’s father left the police department to become a bootlegger. Kovacs’s parents were ostentatious spenders who doted on him. They dressed him in velvet and allowed him to have a pony, an unlikely pet for an urban family. When Prohibition ended, the family opened a restaurant, where Kovacs would treat his playmates to desserts....

Article

Lynde, Paul (13 June 1926–09 January 1982), actor and comedian, was born Paul Edward Lynde in Mount Vernon, Ohio, the son of Hoy C. Lynde, a butcher shop owner, and Sylvia Bell. His adolescent years included some time spent working for his father beheading and plucking chickens. His father, mother, and a brother died within a three-month span while Lynde was still a schoolboy. A high school teacher recognized his theatrical talents and encouraged him to pursue an acting career. In 1944 he enrolled in the Speech and Drama School at Northwestern University, where, he would later tell interviewers, he found that every time he tried to perform serious drama he drew unwanted laughs from his classmates. He thus made comedy his lifetime specialty. At graduation in 1948 he was named Best Student Actor of the Year....

Article

Prinze, Freddie (22 June 1954–29 January 1977), comedian and television actor, was born in New York City, the son of Karl Pruetzel, a partly Jewish Hungarian-born tool and die maker, and Maria (maiden name unknown), a devout Catholic Puerto Rican who spoke little English. Later referring to his parentage, Prinze called himself “a Hungarican.” He was raised on West 157th Street in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, where his father enrolled him in a Lutheran elementary school. His mother enrolled him in a ballet class, and at age sixteen he attended the High School of Performing Arts....

Article

Wynn, Ed (09 November 1886–19 June 1966), actor and comedian, was born Isaiah Edwin Leopold in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Joseph Leopold, a hat manufacturer who had emigrated from Prague, and Minnie (maiden name unknown). Educated in Philadelphia public schools, Wynn ran away from his father’s profitable business in 1901, briefly acting in a repertory company before returning to earn enough money to support himself....