May 10, 2004 by

Alan King


Categories: Actors, Hollywood, Writers/Editors

aking.jpgAlan King, a comedian, author and actor who made more than 50 appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” died on May 9 of lung cancer. He was 76.
Born to Russian immigrants, Irwin Alan Kniberg grew up in Brooklyn and on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He trained under Milton Berle and honed his angry, comedic style by performing in New York City nightclubs and resorts in the Catskill Mountains.
In the 1950s, his wife Jeanette persuaded King to give up city life and move to Queens. She thought its quiet, middle-class neighborhoods would provide a better environment for raising their three children, but suburbia gave King plenty of fodder for his act. His cutting remarks about marriage and his conversational comments on modern suburban life landed him numerous bookings on television shows like “What’s My Line?” and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
King’s 56 stand-up appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” led to tours with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra and one-man shows at the top nightclubs in the United States. He was elected Abbot of the New York Friars Club, served as an emcee for part of President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural party and hosted the 1972 Academy Awards. The National Foundation for Jewish Culture even named its annual American Jewish Humor Award in his honor.
During his five-decade career, King wrote humor books with titles like “Anyone Who Owns His Own Home Deserves It,” and “Help! I’m a Prisoner in a Chinese Bakery.” He penned two memoirs: “Name-Dropping: The Life and Lies of Alan King” and the upcoming collection, “Matzo Balls for Breakfast and Other Memories of Growing Up Jewish.” He landed roles in the Broadway productions of “Guys and Dolls” and “The Impossible Years,” and acted in more than 25 films, including “Just Tell Me What You Want,” “Bonfire of the Vanities” and “Casino.” King also produced several movies, and was the executive producer of the 1997 interview series, “The College of Comedy With Alan King.”
A generous philanthropist, King founded the pro tennis tournament, the Alan King Tennis Classic in Las Vegas, and established a chair in dramatic arts at Brandeis University. In medical circles, he was known for raising funds for the Nassau Center for Emotionally Disturbed Children on Long Island and for founding the Alan King Diagnostic Medical Center in Jerusalem.

4 Responses to Alan King

  1. John

    Loved the role he played in Stephen King’s ‘Cat’s Eye’ whereby he played the head of ‘Quitters’, a way for smokers to stop smoking…good movie, great actor too !

  2. Pat Roberson

    Saw Billy Cristal the other night and was surprised to hear of Mr. King’s passing. Just brought a whole bunch of memories of my growing up and always smiling at the idea of this great comedian. We had lost a “great one”.

  3. JOEL

    He was for us growing up during the years of his performing the leading stand up comidian. He was funny, plain and simple. He made you laugh. And in the end what standard could Alan leave except HE “left them laughing.”
    I will miss him as if he was part of my family.

  4. JSPaulson

    I first heard Alan King’s humor sitting with my grandmother watching the Ed Sullivan Show. Even then he had me rolling on the floor. That effect never changed. Hearing of his death saddened me immensely. It felt more like loosing a treasured family member rather than a humorist/actor. His humor was a reflection of the humor of my family and people.

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