Archive for the ‘"The Steve Allen Show"’ Category

Steverino’s “Steve Allen Westinghouse Show” Turns 50

Monday, June 25th, 2012

It could be argued that Letterman’s “Stupid Human Tricks”, sketches with Rupert from the deli across from The Late Show studio, and Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment can all be traced back to Mr. Steve Allen. Allen was, after all, the original host of The Tonight Show, the nationally-networked show born out of the locally-produced Steve Allen Show that Allen started in 1953. The Tonight Show, or Tonight! as it was originally titled, was America’s first foray into national, late-night programming, and Steve Allen’s gift for ad-libbing and performing were perfectly matched for the setting and the time period.

Allen left The Tonight Show in 1957 to concentrate on his prime-time program, again called The Steve Allen Show, which he had hosted since 1956 (that’s the show on which Elvis performed “Hound Dog”). In 1961 the show went from NBC to ABC, retitled as The New Steve Allen Show, and lasted one final season. He then hosted a syndicated program that aired in late-night, The Steve Allen Westinghouse Show, which was a particular favorite of a young David Letterman during his college years. The program ran from 1962-64, and was by Allen’s account, “the wildest talk show ever done.” It was on The Steve Allen Westinghouse Show that Allen’s pranks and sketches, some of which he developed on his earlier programs, really blossomed.

In his 1997 Archive Interview, Allen recalls the origins of The Steve Allen Westinghouse Show:

Describes a memorable elephant tug-of-war sketch:

Discusses the giant tea-tank bit (later recreated by David Letterman):

And details how he began his prank/funny phone calls:

Late-night today is infused with the legacy of Allen’s sketches. Who’s got a “Stupid Pet Trick” to show off?

Watch Steve Allen’s full Archive interview and visit our Steve Allen Westinghouse Show page.

- by Adrienne Faillace

Would you believe… Bill Dana is 87!

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

The Archive wishes a very happy birthday to comedy legend Bill Dana, born October 5, 1924 as William Szathmary in Quincy, MA. Bill Dana is best-known for his alter-ego, José Jiménez: a character he played from 1959 until 1969 which garnered him international attention. What few may recall is that Bill first gained prominence as a writer  and producer for Steve Allen, Garry Moore, Milton Berle, Martha Raye and other comedy greats.

After graduating Emerson College in Boston in 1950 on the GI Bill, Dana began his career as a page at NBC’s famous Studio 6B while performing comedy in nightclubs around New York with partner Gene Wood. Sidelined from performing due to an injury, his career career took a major turn when he began writing stand-up routines for the young comedian Don Adams. The two developed a character that would later premiere on The Bill Dana Show as “Byron Glick”, the bumbling hotel detective. Glick’s lines like “Would you believe” and “missed it by that much” were first tested in Adams’ stand-up act, and would later become popular catchphrases by Adams’ “Maxwell Smart” on Get Smart.

On writing for Don Adams:

In the mid-50s his career got underway as he performed on The Imogene Coca Show and wrote for  The Martha Raye Show and the Spike Jones Show. A major turn came when Steve Allen hired him as a writer on The Steve Allen Show in 1956. working with Tom Poston, Don Knotts, Pat Harrington, Louis Nye, and many others.

On working with Steve Allen:

It was on The Steve Allen Show, in a bit with Pat Harrington in November, 1959 that Bill first introduced his character with “My name — José Jiménez.” In the clip below he describes how it came about:

On how he came up with José’s accent:

He starred in and produced The Bill Dana Show on NBC (1963-65). In this clip he discusses how he came to have his own show:

His comedy albums, as both José and as Bill Dana, were top-sellers in the 1960s. As “José” he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. The first words from Earth to a man entering outer space were on May 5, 1961 from Deke Slayton to Alan Shepard in his Mercury –Redstone 3:  “OK, José, you’re on your way!” which thereafter entered the national lexicon. Although Dana retired the character in 1969, he continues to defend Jose as comedy “with dignity” and a character that was good at heart and full of innocence which he described as a “combination Robin Hood and Bilko”.

Dana went on to write for  many other television shows, including an episode of All in the Family which continues to rate by TV Guide as one of the Top 100 comedy episodes of all time – “Sammy’s Visit” featuring guest-star Sammy Davis, Jr.:

Dana is also known for his recurring role as “Uncle Angelo” on The Golden Girls, described in this clip:

In 2005, Dana co-founded the American Comedy Archives in effort to preserve the first-person stories of his fellow comedy pals, from Betty White to Jonathan Winters. He was honored by the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters in 2006, and received the Great American Comedy Festival’s Comedy Legend Award in 2009.

On his advice to young comedians:

For Bill Dana’s complete 2007 interview, visit  emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/bill-dana

For more information about Bill Dana, visit bill-dana.com

Beloved Character Actor Tom Poston Leaves A Legacy of Comedy

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007
Tom Poston, who was a regular on The Steve Allen Show,
Mork & Mindy, and Newhart, has died at the age of 85.

Poston was interviewed by the Archive of American Television on
February 2006 (pictured here with interviewer Stephen J. Abramson).
His entire two-hour interview (part 2 of 4 can be seen below)
can be viewed at the Television Academy offices
in North Hollywood.

In the clip above (part 2 of 4), Tom Poston discusses how he became a regular on The Steve Allen Show. PRESS THE PLAY ARROW IN THE PLAYER ABOVE TO VIEW THE SEGMENT.


Interview Description:
Tom Poston talked about his first television appearances, including his stint as a regular on the early soap opera, Hawkins Falls, Population 6200, which originated in Chicago. He chronicled his work on a local New York daytime show, that led to appearances as a regular on The Steve Allen Show where he memorably appeared in the “Man on the Street” sketches with Don Knotts and Louis Nye. He discussed his work with colleague Bob Newhart – including his recurring role on The Bob Newhart Show, and his regular role as handyman “George Utley” on Newhart. Other topics he discussed include his original consideration for the lead of Get Smart (before the project changed networks nullifying his contract), his regular role on Mork & Mindy, and his relationship and marriage to actress Suzanne Pleshette. The interview was conducted by Stephen J. Abramson