Television provides an outlet for comedians to display their talents, often through situation comedies or variety shows. During the 1960s, both types of programs were on the air, and in the 1964-1965 television season, 10 variety shows and 37 situation comedies were broadcast, which was the most sitcoms on in one season until 1979. Seven of the 10 shows with the highest ratings for the decade were comedies.
Carol Burnett, who was born in 1933, first appeared on television on a children's program in the 1950s, then on "The Garry Moore Show" in 1959. Burnett hosted her own variety show, "The Carol Burnett Show," from 1967 to 1978. The 60-minute show featured comedy sketches by Burnett and her co-stars Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner. "The Carol Burnett Show" won 20 Emmy awards and is the longest-running comedic variety show in television history.
Dick Van Dyke
Born in 1925, Dick Van Dyke began his career as a comedian by performing in variety shows in the military before landing a role on Broadway in 1959. He starred in the situation comedy "The Dick Van Dyke Show" from 1961 through 1966, playing television comedy writer, Rob Petrie. Mary Tyler Moore, who went on to star in her own comedy, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," in the 1970s, played Rob's wife, Laura. Van Dyke won three Emmy awards for his role and the show won four Emmy awards for outstanding comedy series.
The Smothers Brothers
The Smothers Brothers are the comedy team of Tom and Dick Smothers. They began their careers as professional comedians, combining music with stand-up comedy, at a local club in San Francisco in 1959. After that, they appeared on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson several times, but they are best known for their variety show, "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," which aired from 1967 to 1969. The show often used comedy skits featuring the brothers and their guest stars to target political issues, leading to frequent censorship by network executives at CBS. Skits about other topics, such as drugs or religion, also were censored by CBS until the network cancelled the show in 1969, one week before the end of the season. The Smothers Brothers later won a wrongful termination lawsuit against CBS.
Flip Wilson was born Cherow Wilson in 1933. He earned the nickname Flip while in the military due to his "flipped out" method of entertaining others with the stories, voices and characters he created. Wilson integrated this style of comedy into his performances as a stand-up comedian, first as a regular at the Apollo Theater in New York in the 1960s, and then on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Tonight Show." Wilson was a regular on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" from 1967 until 1968, where he introduced his popular character, Geraldine. After his success in the 1960s, Wilson hosted his own variety show, "The Flip Wilson Show," in the 1970s and is the first African-American to have a variety show with his own name in the title.
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