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There Hackett developed his most famous sketch, a hilarious but racially offensive routine as a Chinese waiter in which he used a rubber band to slant his eyes and spoke in a thick accent. His self-deprecating and off-color brand of humor was such a hit with audiences that by the end of the 1940s, Hackett was headlining at nightclubs all over the country, from Las Vegas to the Catskills.
Spurred on by his success as a standup comedian, in the 1950s Hackett expanded into theater,
film and television. He acted in the 1946 traveling production of Call Me Mister and then made his Broadway debut in the 1955 revival of Lunatics and Lovers, for which he won the Donaldson Award for Best Male Debut Performance. In addition to live performances as a comedian and actor, in 1948 Hackett appeared in the early television show School House. He returned to television in 1956 as the title character and star of the NBC sitcom Stanley, which launched the career of co-star Carol Burnett. Hackett also made frequent appearances on The Tonight Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, What's My Line and The Ed Sullivan Show. His first feature film was the 1953 picture Walking My Baby Back Home, and Hackett followed that with acclaimed performances in The Music Man (1962) and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).
For the rest of his career, Hackett devoted nearly all of his time to his wildly popular comedy show in Las Vegas. However, he did resurface periodically in television and film roles. His most notable television credits include Get Smart (1967), Murder She Wrote (1987) and Boy Meets World (1996), and his most prominent film roles probably in Disney's The Love Bug (1968) and The Little Mermaid (1989).
Buddy Hackett married Sherry Cohen on June 12, 1955. They had a son, the comedian Sandy Hackett, and two daughters, Lisa Jean Hackett and Ivy Julie Hackett. Buddy Hackett retired from performing due to failing health in 1996 and passed away seven years later, on June 30, 2003, at the age of 78. Interviewed near the end of his life, Hackett attributed his remarkable five-decade career as a comedian and actor to his natural-born ability to make people laugh. "I have the gift of laughter," he said. "I can make people laugh at will. In good times and in bad. And that I don't question. It was a gift from God."
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