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Jackie Gleason was a pioneer of television comedy. "The Honeymooners" and "The Jackie Gleason Show" have been audience favorites for more than half a century.
Actress-Director Rain Pryor talks about how her father Richard Pryor was a comedy pioneer with his raw stand-up performances and honest critiques of race.
Actress-Director Rain Pryor talks about her father Richard Pryor's comedic influences including Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Gleason and Bill Cosby and the comedians who have been inspired by him like Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Steve Harvey.
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Here he began to find a path to the stardom that had thus far eluded him. Making grandiose gestures at the camera, gawking at a continuous parade of long-legged showgirls, he moved seamlessly between stand-up sets and comedy blackout sketches,
exhibiting what the critic Gilbert Seldes saw in him as "the traditional belief of heavy men in their own lightness and grace." After two episodes he was signed as permanent host of the show.
It was during his two years on Cavalcade that Gleason created and developed the repertoire of famous and beloved characters that he would reprise throughout most of his career. These included Ralph Kramden, a boisterous, blundering déclassé bus driver, eternally frustrated in his twin efforts to get rich quick and to assert dominance over an implacable wife; Reginald Van Gleason III, a vainglorious millionaire, conspicuously flaunting his worldly advantage with every facial expression and body movement; and the Poor Soul, a pantomime character wandering the streets of the city, inviting the world to make him its doormat. Lesser Cavalcade creations included Joe the Bartender, the fussbudget Fenwick Babbitt, and Loudmouth Charlie Bratton.
Given full authorial control of the program and a lavish budget to mount it, he honed the formula that had worked so well for him. Each week the star's royal entrance was preceded by a chorus-line number performed by the June Taylor Dancers, featuring a signature overhead kaleidoscope shot. His opening monologue included a visit from one of the "Glea Girls," who delivered his cup of "coffee," one sip of which would lead him to exclaim, "How sweeeeeeet it is...." Asking the bandleader for "a little travelin' music," he danced wildly across the screen, freezing stage right to announce, "And awa-a-ay we go," leading the viewer off into an hour of sketch comedy and guest appearances by top musical acts.
"The Honeymooners" was the show's most popular sketch. Ralph's closed-fisted threat to send wife Alice (Audrey Meadows) "to the moon" during the couple's ritualistic arguments became a household phrase.
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Originally called Toast of the Town, The Ed Sullivan Show ran from 1948-1971 on CBS and was an American staple in the 50s and 60s. The American variety show featured the Who's Who of celebritydom over the decades, including Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Tony Bennett, Carol Channing, Lucille Ball, The Jackson 5, and The Doors.
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