July 6, 2015

"Jack Carter, a motor-mouthed comedian who became one of television’s first stars in the late 1940s and continued working..."

"... as both a comic and an actor, well into the 21st century, died on [June 28] at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 93.... "
Mr. Carter (he took the stage name in 1941) won the Major Bowes radio talent contest with his impressions and was soon performing at nightclubs and theaters around the country. He joined the Army in World War II and spent much of his service with a unit that entertained at military bases.

After the war he returned to the nightclub circuit. In 1947 he was cast in the Broadway musical-comedy revue “Call Me Mister,” which was nearing the end of its run.

The infant medium of television soon beckoned. In 1949 Mr. Carter was the host of the ABC show “American Minstrels” and then of “Cavalcade of Stars” on the short-lived Dumont network. He had his own variety show on NBC, part of a Saturday-night package with Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows.”...

Mr. Carter made some movies as well, among them “Viva Las Vegas” (1964), with Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret, in which he played himself; “Hustle” (1975), with Burt Reynolds, in which he played a strip-club M.C.; and “The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington” (1977), in which he played a senator. He also directed episodes of “Here’s Lucy” and other television series....

Mr. Carter was appearing on television into his 90s, with roles on “Desperate Housewives,” “Parks and Recreation,” “New Girl” and other shows, most recently “Shameless.” Until late in life he was also still working the condo circuit in South Florida, as he had been since the 1980s, tailoring his jokes to an audience of his contemporaries.
When I saw him on TV in the 1960s, I thought he was one of the old-school comedians of my parents' generation, whose turn on the stage was coming to an end. (My parents met in the Army in WW2, so maybe they saw a Jack Carter show.) But just this past year, I was watching him and loving him on "Shameless," a show my son got me watching. My son (John) writes:
He was hilarious on Shameless, playing the irascible, racially insensitive owner of the neighborhood bar, which is the only time I've seen him. Spoiler alert — it's poignant to think that his last significant performance, shortly before he died, was in Season 4 of Shameless, playing his character's dead body.

"The average age in this studio is: deceased!"


Wilbur said...

Jack Carter was the best celebrity game show contestant I ever saw. He was unbelievably good on shows like the The $10,000 Pyramid or Password.

Laslo Spatula said...

"When I saw him on TV in the 1960s, I thought he was one of the old-school comedians of my parents' generation, whose turn on the stage was coming to an end."

Many of the comics of this era made no bones about wanting the audience to like them; some seemed desperate for it.

The newer comics played it cooler, although I believe that neediness was (and is) there, only sublimated in apathy and/or self-loathing.

I am Laslo.

William said...

Back in the sixties comedians were relatively underpaid. I don't think Phil Silvers or Jackie Gleason made the kind of money that Jerry Seibnfeld or Ray Romano made. And they worked harder too.......We're always hearing about how CEOs used to make only ten times the salary of the average factory worker, and that's how things should be. OK. In the good old days comedians only made about ten times what a cameraman made, and that's how it should be.....,.it breaks my heart when I read about some comedian like this guy working in his nineties. Seinfeld and Romano should start a fund to provide relief for these older comedians. It's had enough getting up when you're old without having to make jokes about it.

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

I must have seen Jack Carter before but even after seeing the clip, I don't remember him.

Thanks for the clip. Jokes and comedy were pretty lame but still funny enough to make me laugh out loud at my desk. Not many people who can make me do that.

John Henry

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...


One of the differences between Seinfeld and Romano(?) and Gleason Silvers is that Seinfeld owned the show. (Did Romano?)

That means that he has a huge revenue stream coming in from it, probably for life.

Jason Alexander was paid well for the show but he had no ownership so doesn't get the big bucks Jerry does, even though he really made the show.

Ownership is where the money is. In TV as elsewhere. Otherwise you are just an employee on salary.

John Henry

Robert Cook said...

"...it breaks my heart when I read about some comedian like this guy working in his nineties."

Why? Why assume he did it for need of money? I assume he did it for the same reason all show biz performers keep working as long as they can--and why such esteemed actors as Henry Fonda chose--and Robert DeNiro chooses--to appear in many schlock movies even when they could pick and choose their projects more selectively (as others, such as Redford and Beatty and Hoffman seem to do--because they love to work, or need to work for reasons of internal fulfillment. Fonda famously was uncomfortable in his own skin, and apparently was only at ease when he was pretending to be someone else; I suspect this may be at least somewhat true of DeNiro, as well.

Carter was always a schlocky comic, as this bit shows. Anyone of a certain age is very familiar with Carter, who was seemingly omnipresent on television, particularly in the 60s and 70s.

Comedians, in particular, need the "love" from their audiences that laughter represents for them, and I'm sure more of them would keep working into their 90s if they could, if their health (and demand for their services) permitted. (I've heard more than one comedian say the laughter from an audience is better than sex, and I have a friend who was a performer in a rock band 20 years ago--and who aspired to be a comedian when I met him in college--and he has said the same thing, that performing on stage before an audience, when everything is going well, is "better than sex.")

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

Robert Cook,

I am not a comedian but I am past retirement age and if I can keep working until I am 93 I will happily do so.

I have been lucky enough to find something that 1) I am pretty good at, 2) People are willing to pay me for and 3) is the most fun I can have with my pants on.

I simply can't imagine being retired. I can't imagine anything else I could do, regardless of how much money I had, that would be more fun and interesting than working at what I do.

I realize that this is very rare. I thank God for giving me the opportunity 25 years ago. Even more for giving me the wisdom to recognize the opportunity and take advantage of it.

John Henry

Yancey Ward said...

I didn't recognize the name, but I definitely recognize that face!

MadisonMan said...

Nice jacket lining. But the rest of that clip is awfully dated.

Coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

Ugh! Such nonsense people are willing to believe about standup comics! (And such nonsense people are then willing to spew, as if it were fact!)

I've been a professional standup comic for 30 years. (And written about standup comedy for fifteen years.) It's like PuertoRicanSpacePort says, "I have been lucky enough to find something that 1) I am pretty good at, 2) People are willing to pay me for and 3) is the most fun I can have with my pants on."

It's got nothing to do with "needing love." My gawd.

Met Jack Carter in Vegas over a decade ago. We encountered him as he sat next to a slot machine, waiting for his set. He seemed tiny and shrunken and old. As I shook his hand, it seemed so soft and delicate. But when he hit the stage, he blew up to giant size and he commanded the audience's attention. It was a remarkable transformation. (I have heard that George Burns was the same way-- just before the show he'd be in a wheelchair, then, as he was introduced, he'd rise, stroll out to the microphone and BOOM-- it was on!

If comics can get past the bullshit (and eliminate many of the negatives of the business and stay healthy and creative), they nearly all would prefer to continue doing what they do until they can't do it any more.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

P.S. Gleason made (and drank) several fortunes.