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Alan King (December 26, 1927 – May 9, 2004) was an Americanmarker actor and comedian known for his biting wit and often angry humorous rants. King became well-known as a Jewish comedian and satirist. He was also a serious actor who appeared in a number of movies and television shows. King wrote several books, produced films, and appeared in plays. In later years, he helped many philanthropic causes.

Biography

Early life

The youngest of several children, King was born Irwin Alan Kniberg in New York Citymarker, New Yorkmarker, the son of Minnie (née Solomon) and Bernard Kniberg, a handbag cutter. He spent his first years on the Lower East Sidemarker of Manhattanmarker. Later, King's family moved to Brooklynmarker. King used humor to survive in the tough neighborhoods. As a child, King performed impersonations on street corners for pennies.

When he was fourteen, King performed "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" on the radio program Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour. He lost first prize, but was invited to join a nationwide tour. At fifteen, King dropped out of high school to perform comedy at the Hotel Gradus in the Catskill Mountains. After one joke that made fun of the hotel's owner, King was fired however spent the remainder of that summer and the one that followed as M.C. at Foreman's New Prospect Hotel in South Fallsburg, NY. He later worked in Canadamarker in a burlesque house while also fighting as a professional boxer. He won twenty straight fights before losing. Nursing a broken nose, King decided to quit boxing and focus on his comedy career. King began working as a doorman at the popular nightclub Leon and Eddie's while performing comedy under the last name of the boxer who beat him, "King".

Career

King began his comedy career with one-liner routines and other material concerning mothers-in-law and Jews. King's style of comedy changed when he saw Danny Thomas performing in the early 1950s. King realized that Thomas was talking to his audience, not at them, and was getting a better response. King changed his own style from one-liners to a more conversational style that used everyday life for humor. His comedy inspired other comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Billy Crystal.

King married Jeanette Sprung in 1947. They had three children, Andrew, Robert, and Elainie Ray. His wife persuaded him to move to Forest Hillsmarker, Queensmarker for their children, and later, to Great Neckmarker, Long Islandmarker, where he lived for the rest of his life. There, he developed comedy revolving around life in suburbia. With America moving to suburbs, King's humor took off.

The comedian began opening for many celebrities including Judy Garland, Patti Page, Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, Lena Horne and Tony Martin. When Martin was cast in the movie Hit the Deck, he suggested King for a part, which resulted in his first movie role. King played small roles in movies in the 1950s, but disliked playing stereotypical roles that he described as "always the sergeant from Brooklyn named Kowalski".

King eventually expanded his range and made a name for himself in a wide variety of films. He often portrayed a gangster, as in Casino (1995) and Night and the City (1992), both starring Robert DeNiro, as well as I, the Jury (1982) and Cat's Eye (1985). He frequently worked for director Sidney Lumet, beginning with Bye Bye Braverman (1968) and The Anderson Tapes (1971). Lumet later cast him in a tour-de-force starring role in Just Tell Me What You Want (1980), a provocative comedy about a ruthless business mogul and his TV-producer mistress (Ali MacGraw).

He had another major role in Memories of Me (1988) as the so-called "king of the Hollywood extras," portraying Billy Crystal's terminally ill father.

Like many other Jewish comics, King worked the Catskill circuit known as the Borscht Belt. His career took off after appearances on the Ed Sullivan, Perry Como and Garry Moore Shows. Living just outside New York City, King was frequently available when Sullivan needed an act to fill in for a last-minute cancellation. King also became a regular guest host for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, hosted the Oscars in 1972, and was the MC for President John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. King was also the long-standing host of the New York Friars Club celebrity roasts.

King was the first recipient (1988) of the award for American Jewish humor from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. The award was ultimately renamed in his honor.

Personal life

Throughout his life, King was deeply involved in charity work. He founded the Alan King Medical Center in Jerusalemmarker, raised funds for the Nassau Center for Emotionally Disturbed Children (near his home in Kings Point, New Yorkmarker), and established a chair in dramatic arts at Brandeis Universitymarker. He also created the Laugh Well program, which sends comedians to hospitals to perform for patients. In the 1970s, King turned his passion for tennis into a pro tournament at Caesars Palacemarker Las Vegas called the Alan King Tennis Classic, which was carried on national TV by the TVS Television Network. He also started the Toyota Comedy Festival.

King died at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan on May 9, 2004, from lung cancer.

Work

Film



Television



Stage



Bibliography

  • Anybody Who Owns His Own Home Deserves It, with Kathryn Ryan (1962)
  • Help! I'm a Prisoner in a Chinese Bakery (1964)
  • Is Salami and Eggs Better Than Sex? Memoirs of a Happy Eater (1985)
  • Name Dropping: The Life and Lies of Alan King (1996)
  • Alan King's Great Jewish Joke Book (2002)
  • Matzoh Balls for Breakfast and Other Memories of Growing Up Jewish (2005)


References

  1. Alan King Biography (1927-)
  2. Ho, Janie. "Alan King, Comic, Actor Dies at 76", CBS News, May 9, 2004. Accessed June 18, 2009. "King, who until then had been using worn out one-liners, found his new material at home. His wife had persuaded the New Yorker to forsake Manhattan for suburban Forest Hills, Queens, believing it would provide a better environment for their children."
  3. [1]
  4. "Alan King: Inside the Comedy Mind" (1991)
  5. TV Weekend; James Garner as a Curmudgeon Pulled Back Into Life - New York Times


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