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Morey Amsterdam, Comedian And Joke Encyclopedia, Dies
Stout, David. New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast).
New York, N.Y.: Oct 30, 1996. pg. D.22
Morey Amsterdam, the wisecracking comedian who began telling jokes in vaudeville, thrived in the heyday of radio and lasted into the era of television on ''The Dick Van Dyke Show,'' died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was in his 80's.
Mr. Amsterdam suffered a heart attack at his home and died at Cedars Sinai Hospital, a hospital spokesman, Ron Wise, told The Associated Press.
There was some confusion about Mr. Amsterdam's age. The World Almanac lists his birth date as Dec. 14, 1914, which would make him 81. But Rose Marie, who played Sally Rogers on ''The Dick Van Dyke Show,'' said he was 87.
If the jokes he told were any indication, Mr. Amsterdam would have enjoyed the confusion.
Having found renewed success on the Van Dyke show, which ran on CBS from 1961 to 1966, Mr. Amsterdam reveled in his family's move to a fashionable section of Los Angeles after many years of living in Yonkers.
So exclusive was his Beverly Hills neighborhood, he said, that ''even the police have an unlisted telephone number.''
Mr. Amsterdam had a cornucopia of corn, an arsenal of jokes so bad that one could not help but laugh. (''Did you hear the one about the man who bought a car and wouldn't take it out of the showroom window because he'd never had such a good parking place?'')
The World Almanac lists Mr. Amsterdam's birthplace as Chicago, but other references say he was born in San Francisco, where his father was a violinist with the San Francisco Symphony.
Mr. Amsterdam entered the world of vaudeville as a teen-ager, playing straight man for a piano-playing brother. He told jokes, often performing with a cello, and wrote jokes for Will Rogers and Fanny Brice.
Playing in Chicago one night, he was introduced to one Al Brown, who loved his act. Mr. Amsterdam's future bookings were assured: Al Brown was really Al Capone.
Mr. Amsterdam became known as the ''Human Joke Machine,'' supposedly able to tell a joke on any subject at a moment's notice.
Testing him, a photographer once said, ''Camera.''
''I bought a camera the other day,'' Mr. Amsterdam replied, not missing a beat. ''I didn't know the front from the back, so now I have 14 pictures of my navel.''
If Mr. Amsterdam's humor seems low camp by today's standards, he was certainly no toady to sponsors. His brashness cost him several on his radio shows in the 1940's.
One sponsor, a used-car dealer, lasted one day. ''Get these cars while they're hot,'' Mr. Amsterdam told his listeners. ''And they probably are.''
His first appearance on television was on a 1948 comedy show, ''Stop Me If You've Heard This One.'' That year, he was host to his own variety show, which ran until 1950. Then he appeared on ''Broadway Open House,'' a precursor to ''The Tonight Show'' on NBC.
From 1957 to 1959, he was co-star of the television show ''Keep Talking.'' On the Van Dyke show, created by Carl Reiner, Mr. Amsterdam played Buddy Sorrell, part of a television writing team that included Mr. Van Dyke and Rose Marie.
In the 1970's, Mr. Amsterdam appeared on ''Hollywood Squares.'' He continued to play clubs in Las Vegas, Nev., and Atlantic City and made occasional appearances on behalf of charities.
Mr. Amsterdam's son, Gregory, said his father had just returned from a two-week cabaret tour of the East Coast. Perhaps that was fitting; Mr. Amsterdam once called Hollywood ''the kind of place where the skeletons in the closet are ashamed of the people who live in the house.''
He is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Kay; his son, and a daughter, Cathy.
This article is from The New York Times. If you found it informative and valuable, The Mr. Nice Guy Show strongly encourages you to visit their website and register an account to view all their articles on the web. Support quality journalism.
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