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COMEDY SHOWS

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BOB HOPE SPECIAL (Approx. 60 min.)

A 1952 show for the Navy, featuring special guests Frankie Laine ("Your Cheatin' Heart") and Rosemary Clooney ("Honey"), and Bess Myerson. Hope entertains the sailors aboard ship, telling lots of topical jokes (including a few about Harry Truman leaving office), and appears in two comedy sketches (among them a murder mystery parody), as well as giving a plug for the then-new picture HERE COME THE GIRLS. The closing number is, of course, "Thanks For the Memory."

 

BOB HOPE'S THIRD TV SHOW (Approx. 60 min.)

This tape provides a unique trip down memory lane with Bob Hope as he appears in his third TV show,  which was sponsored by Frigidaire. In this, his first show just for G.I.s, something which would later become his trademark, Bob talks about his trip to Korea. It contains great sketches and, of course, the talent of Les Brown and his orchestra.

THE COMEDY HOUR STARRING BOB HOPE (Approx. 55 min.)

Working in front of an all G.I. audience (a television first, according to Hope), he takes some well aimed topical comic shots at politicians (staying in New York for the show, he says he's staying at City Hall--"Nobody else does," a reference to Mayor O'Dwyer's sudden departure to a diplomatic post in Mexico amid scandal) and the military itself, in an extended sketch in which he plays a hot-shot test pilot.

He also duets with special guest Marilyn Maxwell on one song, and the two do a very funny sketch about espionage (complete with Hitler and Stalin lookalikes) that seems influenced in part by the "Private SNAFU" cartoons of World War II. Other guests include the Hi Hatters, a black tap-dance troupe who perform to "Me and My Shadow," the vocal trio the Three Tailor Maids, dancer Judy Kelly, and country-and-western legend Jimmy Wakely, who performs "Lonesome Train" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," the latter in a duet with Hope. Commercials include spots for Frigidaire refrigerators, ovens, and washing machines, and a plug by Hope--in what could be one of the earliest references to it on a major network--for color television.

THE COMEDY HOUR STARRING BOB HOPE (60 min)

Christmas Eve in New York special of Bob Hope’s 1950’s comedy and variety show sponsored by Frigidare. Featuring special guests: Mrs. Roosevelt, Betty Bruce, Lilly Ponds, Robert Maxwell and more.

​BROADWAY OPEN HOUSE 1951 (Approx. 55 min.)

starring Jerry Lester, Dagmar, Milton DeLugg, the Mello Larks BROADWAY OPEN HOUSE is one of the newest, best, and rarest additions to this catalog. Jerry Lester originated the late night network variety show with BROADWAY OPEN HOUSE, in 1951. This show, featuring Lester's established "Stop, Look, and Listen" introduction, has lots of jokes about "hidden" talents (which falls apart comically when the tall, statue-esque Dagmar shows up to show off her hidden talent), a very funny gag involving marriage counseling, and an even better prison sketch ("Please, believe me, there's no punch-line," Lester tells the audience). The Mello Larks sing "Yesterdays," and women from the cast and the audience model some beautiful fur coats. The program was done live and unrehearsed, and has a uniquely manic energy behind it. It also includes the original sponsor commercials for Blatz Beer of Milwaukee (the beer that became Schotz Beer on Laverne & Shirley), and Anchor Hocking "one way no deposit glass beer bottles."

 

BROADWAY OPEN HOUSE  (Approx. 55 min.)

starring Jerry Lester, Dagmar, Milton DeLugg, the Mello Larks The second BROADWAY OPEN HOUSE installment opens with Jerry having fun with the audience. He then gets a message about a wild animal being loose in the studio, which leads to a series of sound and sight gags, culminating with Jerry going into the audience to get animal imitations from its members. Dagmar and the Mello Larks have fun with the animal sketch as well, and Jerry ends up hunting the beast, rather unwillingly, in the best Lou Costello style.

COLGATE COMEDY HOUR STARRING ABBOTT & COSTELLO (Approx. 60 min.)

A&C doing several of their most well known bits ("Mustard" aka "Hole in the Wall," "The Sanitarium," "Find the Lemon") live, with all of the spontaneity that this implies. Singer Evelyn Knight stands in for Hillary Brooke, as a sultry singer who falls all over Costello. Other guests include Hal Le Roy, Paul Remos and His Toy Boys, and the Jimmy Ford Four. The show is followed by a beautiful copy of the Abbott and Costello 1952 appeal for Christmas Seals, co-starring Charles Laughton, who was co-starring with the duo in Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kid, arguably the last of their good costume adventure/comedies.

 

COLGATE COMEDY HOUR - Ray Bolger  (Approx. 50 min.)

Ray Bolger, Rise Stevens, and Betty Kean (sister of one-time Honeymooners Trixie Norton Jane Kean) star in this hour-long variety show, done for Christmas and featuring the rubber-limbed Bolger in a holiday sketch and dancing to "The Old Soft Shoe." Stevens does a toy-store sketch and a production number based on Bizet's Carmen, and Billy Sands (McHale's Navy etc.) appears in a sketch about Christmas display windows. Bolger and Stevens are teamed up in a duet from Pagliacci--featured dances include the Charleston, the Black Bottom, and the Rhumba.

 

COLGATE VARIETY HOUR with MARTIN AND LEWIS (Approx. 55 min.)

The legendary comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis perform a film parody called EGGROLL IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING, in mock Japanese (with subtitles), presented by Dean Martin as the host of MARTIN'S MIGHTY MIDNIGHT MATINEE MOVIE (a clear precursor to Johnny Carson's Art Fern and his own movie parody feature on THE TONIGHT SHOW) plugging Kralick Coffee ("no taste so it's not habit forming") and a Vegamatic parody called the Handy Dandy (introduced by a Carol Wayne predecessor). Lewis plays Japanese star Tab Yakaguchi, and Martin appears as an accused spy being interrogated by Lewis in a Japanese movie parody. In another sketch Jerry Lewis's Sidney disrupts Dean Martin's wedding, but they remain friends, singing "Two Lost Souls" from DAMN YANKEES together. Dean Martin does a live performance of "Memories Are Made Of This" with his own guitar quartet, and then Lewis insists that Martin sing with his group, which turns out to be the 60-odd member Norman Luboff Choir, who complete overwhelm Martin. They also make a plug for funds to fight Muscular Distrophy. And Bess Meyerson appears for Fab detergent and a free doll offer.

​COLGATE COMEDY HOUR STARRING GORDON MACRAE (Approx. 20 min.)

The Broadway and motion picture star (Carousel etc.) in an incomplete installment of Colgate Comedy Hour, performing with his daughter (and future television star) Meredith McRae in a duet of "My Blessings." Special guest Debra Paget dances with a trio to "Get Happy" and "Blues in the Night," and Gene Sheldon (Babes In Toyland, Zorro) performs as a mime. McRae sings "It's A Woman's World" and comedian Jack Carter talks about male/female relationships, before launching into a salute to minstrel shows and old-time stage entertainment that features impressions of Louis Armstrong and Al Jolson and the songs "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "By The Light of the Silvery Moon." McRae closes with Jerome Kern's "Ol' Man River."

 

COLGATE VARIETY HOUR with Eddie Cantor (Approx.  50 minutes)

Eddie Cantor hosts this one-hour show broadcast from Philadelphia, highlighted by his showcasing of various new and up-and-coming performers, among them a teenaged Joel Grey in his network television debut, who does a comedy song-and-dance, and SHOWBOAT co-star singer William Warfield, sings "It Ain't Necessarily So" from Porgy And Bess. Cantor does lots of comic shtick with his regulars Evelyn Gould and Marion Colby.

 

COLGATE COMEDY HOUR with Eddie Cantor  (50 minutes)

Eddie Cantor hosts this brilliant installment of COLGATE COMEDY HOUR with special guest star Cesar Romero. Cantor opens with a very funny musical salute to New York City ("This Is My New York") mixing songs and sketch comedy. Much of the show involves his efforts to get Cesar Romero to rehearse, despite the constant distraction of the women hanging around every corner of Romero's living quarters. They finally perform a bullfighting sketch that has Cantor trying to coax some aggressive behavior out of a motley looking animal (two men in a costume). The finale, a salute to songs of the past, includes Cantor's renditions of "Has Anybody Seen My Girl," "After You've Gone," "Nothing Could Be Finer," and a clip- of Al Jolson doing "Swanee."

THE ED WYNN SHOW & EDDIE CANTOR (Approx. 55 min.)

THE ED WYNN SHOW. This episode highlights a skit with the Three Stooges while a CBS executive wreaks havoc on the set, and a guest appearance by William Frawley (I LOVE LUCY's Fred Mertz) in a Camel Cigarette commercial with Wynn. The second portion of this tape, is footage from a special Colgate Comedy Show that Eddie Cantor performed for the servicemen at Camp Erwin in California during the Korean conflict. The segment includes guest appearances by Joe E. Brown and Constance Moore.

COLGATE COMEDY HOUR WITH JIMMY DURANTE AND FRANK SINATRA (Approx. 55 min.) Jimmy Durante is the guest host of this COLGATE COMEDY HOUR installment, which, despite the presence of Sinatra, emphasizes comedy as much as music. The running joke features Frank Sinatra turning up throughout the show (even sitting in the audience at one point) and trying to sing "From Here To Eternity," only to be continually interrupted by Durante. The Gay Tyroliers perform a very strange Maypole Dance. The Symphony of Cowbells (really "The Old Spinning Wheel," most famous from its use in the Laurel & Hardy short "Them Thar Hills") is interrupted by Sinatra, who is thrown off the set by Durante, who later gives an inimitable spelling and grammar lesson. He and Sinatra participate in a TV game show parody with special guest Danny Thomas. Sinatra and Durante do a duet together and Sinatra does "The Ho-Ho Song." And the host argues with a marionette in a sketch set in Club Durante. Sinatra is interrupted one last time, before Durante closes the show with "Goodnight."

​THE BUICK SHOW--STARRING MILTON BERLE (Approx 55 min.)

From later in the 1950's, this Milton Berle show still has the legend in top form, with guests Maria Riva (daughter of Marlene Dietrich), Carol Channing, and Peter Lawford. Berle is planning for his Christmas holiday break, but finds that everyone is making plans to be somewhere without him. Regular Arnold Stang make Berle's life comically interesting, and Carol Channing performs "It's So Nice To Have A Man Around The House." Choreographer Herbert Ross (who has since become a major director) presents a dance-fantasy in negative, but the real highlight of the show is a take-off on WHAT'S MY LINE, in which the panel consists of Peter Lawford, Maria Riva, and Carol Channing and the guests--whose jobs are supposed to be a mystery--include a fireman in full uniform and Santa Claus. BONUS: POPPIN THE CORK – a rare 1933 Hollywood film short starring Milton Berle twenty years earlier.River."

CHESTERFIELD SOUND OFF TIME (Approx. 55 min – 16MM print available)

Fred Allen hosts this comedy/variety show, featuring Zeke Manners. Opening with "Sound Off For Chesterfield," an adaptation of an army marching song, Allen does a few parodies of current events as blackout sketches, including one about a future date when presidential candidates have sponsors, just like TV shows, and mercilessly plug the manufacturers backing them during speeches. He also turns up on a set decorated by an apparently "dead" body, which turns out to be Dave Garroway, plugging the upcoming debut of The Today Show.

FIREBALL FUN-FOR-ALL (approx 60 min – 16MM print available)

Olsen and Johnson--often unfairly remembered as a sort of poor-man's Abbott and Costello, but really much better than that-- star in what has to be one of the funniest/strangest variety shows ever done for network television. Sponsored by Buick and its dealers--who couldn't possibly have known what they were getting for their money--FIREBALL FUN-FOR-ALL is basically Olsen and Johnson's vaudeville routines brought to television, live and with full audience participation, like HELLZAPOPPIN' for the home audience. Broadcast from a theater at 6 Columbus Circle in New York during one of the worst heat waves in the city's history, the heat wave is a constant theme of the show and the comedy, which comes at us from all directions.

​GEORGE JESSEL & GORDON MCCRAE (60 minutes)

George Jessel, America's "toastmaster general," had his own show on ABC from 1953 thru 1954. This installment features Teresa Brewer ("Baby Baby Baby," "Love Me True," "Ricochet") and veteran pitchman/character actor Sid Stone selling hair restorer cream. Jessel himself does a savage parody of Arthur Godfrey, obviously after October of 1953 (the time of the infamous firing of Julius LaRosa) in the show's major sketch. COLGATE COMEDY HOUR STARRING GORDON MACRAE  The Broadway and motion picture star (Carousel etc.) in an incomplete installment of Colgate Comedy Hour, performing with his daughter (and future television star) Meredith McRae in a duet of "My Blessings." Special guest Debra Paget dances with a trio to "Get Happy" and "Blues in the Night," and Gene Sheldon (Babes In Toyland, Zorro) performs as a mime. McRae sings "It's A Woman's World" and comedian Jack Carter talks about male/female relationships, before launching into a salute to minstrel shows and old-time stage entertainment that features impressions of Louis Armstrong and Al Jolson and the songs "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "By The Light of the Silvery Moon." McRae closes with Jerome Kern's "Ol' Man.

THE JACK BENNY SHOW (Approx. 55 min.)

Two classic episodes from years apart: In the October 25, 1953 show, Humphrey Bogart is the special guest in a sketch that parodies the stage and movie hit "Detective Story," with Benny as a somewhat less-than-tough cop trying to interrogate Bogart as the wanted killer "Babyface." Don Wilson and Benny Rubin are in the sketch as well. The late Dorothy Collins of "Your Hit Parade" shows up singing a commercial jingle, and football coach Lou Little plugs Lucky Strike as well. In the second show, musical guests the Kingston Trio (Dave Guard, Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds) show up singing their hit "Tijuana Jail" in a sketch involving--you guessed it--a Tijuana Jail, with Vito Scotti and Benny Rubin in supporting roles and Mel Blanc reprising his "Sy/Si" comedy bit."

THE JACK BENNY SHOW (Approx. 55 min.)

Bobby Rydell is the special guest on this 1966 show, which opens with a Jack Benny monolog and a performance of two songs by Rydell ("Just Singing My Song," "Toot Toot Tootsie"), who tells Benny that his own timing is off when it comes to jokes. Benny goes home, where he thinks he's being followed--Rochester is little help as the mysterious stranger closes in on his frightened boss. Co-starring Don Wilson and Dennis Day.

THE JERRY LEWIS SPECIAL (Approx. 55 min.)

This November 1957 special, which was one of Lewis's first major showcases following his 1956 split with Dean Martin, presents Lewis in a variety of roles. As a gawky, loudmouthed teenager, he makes a shambles of a TV dance show called TEEN TIME, with Jan Murray as the nervous host, in a sketch that includes footage of him running around New York's 42nd Street Library--and Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" is used for an identify-a-record contest. The best sketch features Paul Lynde as a theatrical producer trying to prepare an upcoming show, only to be interrupted by Lewis as telephone repairman Melvin Fleck. Judy Scott is featured in an elaborate production number, and Lewis does a tap-dance number. Lewis is seen posed in front of a blown-up announcement for his February 1958 appearance at the RKO Palace, and later thanks the editors of TV Guide for its cover story on him. The major musical guest is Woody Herman and His Band, who perform "Caldonia" and "I'm Gonna Love You Like Nobody Loves You" with the studio band.

LOST COMEDY SERIES Volume 1 (Approx. 55 min)

Unsold pilot shows are like buried treasure, showing off well-known stars in utterly unfamiliar roles and sides of television that are otherwise only known to (and seldom remembered by) the network executives who didn't buy them. This is your chance to second-guess the networks, at least as far as judging for yourself a pair of newly found comic jewels.

MAKE ME LAUGH & BING CROSBY & FRIENDS (Approx. 55 min)

Tareyton Cigarettes presents MAKE ME LAUGH, a classic game show where the object is for a comedian to make a guest laugh. Guests for this show include: Boxer Rocky Graziano, actress Kim Hunter, conductor Skitch Henderson and singer Greta Thyssen. The comedians are Louis Nye, Orson Bean and Joey Carter. Ernie Kovacs makes a guest appearance with host Robert Q Lewis. The second show is incomplete, but a major historical find: 30 minutes from the 17th Annual Bing Crosby Pro Am. Host John Daley talks with Bing and his wife Kathryn, Mrs. Crosby hosts a fashion show, and Bing and Bob Hope have a rare moment throwing insults on the green. Both shows aired circa 1958.

RED SKELTON: CHRISTMAS SPIRIT and JACK BENNY SHOW (approx 50 min)

RED SKELTON: CHRISTMAS SPIRIT – A mid-1960's Christmas show in fragmentary form with Red Skelton as Freddie the Freeloader and Greer Garson as a friend and admirer of Freddie, who is doing good deeds to help out the needy over the holidays. Through an accident, he overhears a plan by an attorney and some unscrupulous clients plotting to take over The Greer Garson Theater, and tries to warn his friend. They're interrupted by a group of photographers, however, and she decides to masquerade as the "Flower Lady" and meet Freddie at the his residence, the city dump, and together the two work out a plan to save the theater. 

 

RED SKELETON SHOW (approx 60 min)

Red Skelton went through a lot of incarnations as a variety show host over a period of more than 20 years. This show, from the mid-1960’s, shows Skelton at his smoothest as a television comedian, flowing from monolog to sketch effortlessly and skipping over bad jokes, turning them into priceless sight gags. The program, done just ahead of Thanksgiving, features pop singer Jack Jones as guest star and Harold Peary (best remembered as "The Great Gildersleeve" from radio and movies) as a supporting player. The major sketch is devoted to Sheriff Deadeye (Skelton), celebrating 20 years in office and as crooked as ever, as he tries to scam some money and gold, continually running afoul of a little old lady (played by legendary stuntman David Sharpe) who ends up as the butt of most of his rough-house gags. Skelton also does a seven minute pantomime as a drunken party-goer getting home too late for his own good, and Jones does a song-and-dance number with a bevy of dancers and sings "A Day In The Life of a Fool" and "They’ll Think We’re In Love" live with the David Rose orchestra backing him up. The dance numbers are delightful and Skelton turns the bad jokes (including some terrible puns) into a virtue.

SHOW BUSINESS with George Jessel  (Approx. 55 min.)

This tape includes two rare and remarkable George Jessel shows with his sole guest Eddie Cantor. In the first show, they talk about and show clips of Jack Benny, Ethel Merman, and Sophie Tucker. The second show features clips of Burns and Allen and W.C. Fields. In spite of the fact that these were filmed after his cancer operation, Cantor in fact looks great but you can see that his spirit is tired. Shortly after these shows were completed Mr. Cantor passed away.

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​​SID CAESAR'S HOUR (Approx. 55 min.)

Another show on a different network has Caesar doing his pantomimed Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, Nanette Fabray in a production number ("The Old Soft Shoe") and an excruciatingly funny sketch called "The Commuters," all about a family fight that breaks up a New Year's Eve celebration. The hour closes with Caesar's version of the opera "La Cyranosa," with Caesar as Cyranno de Bergerac.

SID CAESAR SHOW (Approx. 55 min.)

Charlton Heston is the special guest on this one-hour CBS show, also featuring Audrey Meadows, Howard Morris, Barbara Britton, Jack Cole, Chita Rivera, and Paul Reed. Caesar runs through several favorite routines, including his pantomime of a violinist performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. "Keyhole Courtroom" is a parody of various courtroom "re-enactment" shows of the period, with Heston as a comically zealous prosecutor pitted against defendant Caesar and his attorney Morris.

"Tear For A Samurai" is Caesar's take-off on Japanese costume dramas (from "Tuk-a-Taksi Productions"), featuring Heston as the villain (Prince Mishogas) and everyone speaking in mock-Japanese. Best of all is Caesar's parody of Leonard Bernstein hosting a show called "What is Jazz" (we never do find out). Writers on this show include Mel Brooks and future Get Smart alumnus Sid Zelinka.

 

TEXACO STAR THEATER: MILTON BERLE Vol. 1 (Approx. 55 min.)

In a show from 1949, Milton Berle makes an entrance in a chariot, declaring "Isn't it terrible what you have to go through for a lousy $15,000 a week, and telling topical jokes ("The Greeks had a word for this, and if you don't know what it is ask President Truman"). Guests include Ethel Merman (who sings "I Get A Kick Out of You," "I Got Rhythm," "The Varsity Drag," and a duet with Berle on "Friendship"), the three-man acrobatic act Las Scottos, actor Keye Luke in his first television appearance making his first television appearance (Berle: "You've never appeared on a comedy television show before?" "No, I haven't--but someday I hope I will"), pitchman/comic Sid Stone ("tell you what I'm gonna do"), and tap dancer Teddy Hall. The highlight is a salute to songwriters featuring the work of Irving Berlin (EASTER PARADE), Jerome Kern (SHOW BOAT), Rodgers and Hart (THE GIRL FRIEND), Rodgers and Hammerstein (OKLAHOMA), Sigmund Romberg ("Stouthearted Men"), Victor Herbert ("Kiss Me Again"), Cole Porter (NIGHT AND DAY), George Gershwin (RHAPSODY IN BLUE), and including performances by composers Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer ("Love Somebody," "Candy"), Charles Tobias ("Time Waits For No One," "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree"), Maud Nugent ("Sweet Rosie O'Grady"), and Lou Brown ("The Best Things In Life Are Free," "Sonny Boy," "The Birth of the Blues," "Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries," "Roll Out The Barrel," and "Good News").

 

TEXACO STAR THEATER: MILTON BERLE Vol. 2 (Approx. 55 min.)

The opening credits of this rare program are missing, but that shouldn't dissuade anyone from buying this jewel, which opens up with Berle talking with Eddie Bracken by phone about his impending vacation, and Bracken's interest in replacing him. The Blackburn Twins and Marion Colby perform a song-and-dance vacation sketch. The Kean sisters (Betty and Jane--who later became Trixie Norton in the 1960's version of THE HONEYMOONERS on THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW) audition an operatic version of "Doggie In The Window" and a straight version of "That Old Black Magic." A sketch set at the Swank Club presents Jane Kean parodying Zsa Zsa Gabor, while Berle as a waiter smokes up the restaurant while preparing to serve a dinner. The best part of the show, however, is a parody of a then hit program called SHOW BUSINESS entitled THIS IS NOT SHOW BUSINESS, with Bracken parodying Sam Levenson as "Sam Bracken," Max portraying a vacuous socialite, and Milton Berle in a ridiculous wig satirizing George S. Kaufman as "George S. Berle." 

THIS IS YOUR LIFE--Laurel And Hardy (Approx. 30 min)

The first THIS IS YOUR LIFE devoted to two subjects instead of one is given over to the most beloved comedy team of the silent and early sound era. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy look amused and puzzled as they find themselves on camera at the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel as part of this 1954 television show, three years after their final film appearance. The guests presented by Ralph Edwards include Stan Laurel's boyhood friend Roland Parker, and Hardy childhood sweetheart Althea Miller, as well as movie and performing personalities Hal Roach Jr., director/producer/writer Leo McCarey, and Vivian Blaine. The two don't really try to be funny, which is understandable as this was very late in their careers, and Hardy doesn't look at all well, although he and Stan Laurel take this all in with pleasure, as Edwards brings on guests and shows clips of their old films while recounting amusing anecdotes.

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