Hall of Fame

Slapstick or sardonic, angry or angst-ridden, or sometimes just plain goofy, the geniuses of New Jersey comedy have kept the world laughing for generations.

Born Joseph Levitch in Newark (Pkwy exit 145)/26

BODY OF WORK 64 films; Nobel Peace Prize nominee for muscular dystrophy work.
SHTICK Gifted physical comedian/performer/director most famous for teaming with Dean Martin and ear-splitting “Laaaaady, nice laaaaady…”
PLOT TWIST First public performance with Martin was at Club 500 in Atlantic City; in 1966, developed first video-assist motion picture camera, allowing him to view his performance while directing himself.


Born Louis Francis Cristillo in Paterson (Rt 80 exit 59), 1906–1959

BODY OF WORK 55 movies, TV show with Bud Abbott.
SHTICK “Who’s On First?”
PLOT TWIST Final words: “That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted”; split all Abbott and Costello profits 60:40 in Abbott’s favor.


Born William Alexander Abbott in Asbury Park (Pkwy exit 102), 1895–1974

BODY OF WORK 47 movies, TV show with Lou Costello
SHTICK “Who’s on first?”
PLOT TWIST Once said, “I never understood Lou.” He and Costello are the only two non-athletes honored in the Baseball Hall of Fame.


Born in Red Bank (Pkwy exit 109) 8/2/70

BODY OF WORK Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jersey Girl flaunt Smith’s New Jersey roots and attitude.
SHTICK Small, smart, hip films
PLOT TWIST Gigli; sold comic-book collection to finance Clerks, then bought them back.


Born in Englewood (Pkwy exit 161)/47

BODY OF WORK Filmed more than 40 movies and TV shows; Curb Your Enthusiasm regular.
SHTICK Coined the term from hell, as in date from hell.
PLOT TWIST Met Larry David in summer camp at 12; worked as ad copywriter while honing stand-up act in early 1970s.


Born in Trenton (Tpk exit 7), 1919–1962

BODY OF WORK Four TV shows, numerous movie roles and TV specials.
SHTICK Avant-garde pioneer paved the way for Johnny Carson and David Letterman; first TV performer to address the crew on the air, improvise dialogue, and experiment with special effects.
PLOT TWIST Epitaph: Nothing in moderation.


Born in Newton (Rt 80 exit 25)/64

BODY OF WORK Veteran of stand-up, more than 20 films and TV shows, she’s equally adept at comedy and drama; nominated for two Emmys for her role on The Larry Sanders Show.
SHTICK “I guess I just prefer to see the dark side of things. The glass is always half-empty. And cracked. And I just cut my lip on it. And chipped a tooth.”
PLOT TWIST Married ex-boyfriend Robert Cohen in 1992 as a joke during a Las Vegas trip; never divorced.


Born Clerow Wilson in Jersey City (Tpk exit 14C), 1933–1998

BODY OF WORK The Flip Wilson Show (1970–74) was the first hit variety show starring an African-American (Nat King Cole’s short-lived 1956 show had failed to win sponsors); won Emmys for best variety show and best comedy in 1971
SHTICK “What you see is what you get” (as Geraldine Jones)
PLOT TWIST Wilson endowed scholarship for minority journalism students at Rutgers.


Born in Paterson (Rt 80 exit 59) /51

BODY OF WORK The Uncle Floyd Show was the longest-running ever cable-access show in New Jersey; popularity with baby boomers led to roles in Good Morning, Vietnam and other movies.
SHTICK In porkpie hat and plaid jacket, Vivino and his puppet sidekick, Oogie, is a kitschy old-school comic; plays more than 300 live gigs each year.
PLOT TWIST David Bowie and John Lennon were huge fans; holds a Guinness world record for playing the piano for 24 hours, 15 minutes.


Born in Passaic (Pkwy exit 153)/51

BODY OF WORK Saturday Night Live, 1980–1984; featured in countless movies, TV shows, and stand-up performances.
SHTICK Created a bevy of unforgettable SNL characters and impressions, such as Frank Sinatra.
PLOT TWIST Founded the Positive Impact Foundation, to help New Jersey’s at-risk kids.


Born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz in Lawrenceville (I-295 exit 7) /62

BODY OF WORK Hosts The Daily Show, Comedy Central’s faux news show, billed as “one anchor, five correspondents, zero credibility.” The show won Emmy and Peabody awards and spawned a book, America: A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction.
SHTICK His stand-up routines led to an MTV talk show and, ultimately, The Daily Show.
PLOT TWIST Played varsity soccer at the College of William & Mary; was a contingency planner —whatever that is—for the state Department of Human Services.


Born in Asbury Park (Pkwy exit 102) /44

BODY OF WORK Has acted in more than 80 films, produced more than 30, and directed 15.
SHTICK Unctuous, irritable, and hilariously memorable characters.
PLOT TWIST Worked as a hairdresser at 18 in his sister’s salon; roomed with Michael Douglass when they were acting students in New York; production company is named Jersey Films.


Born in River Vale (Pkwy exit 171)/56

BODY OF WORK Hosted Politically Incorrect and Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO; most recent book is New Rules.
SHTICK Outrageous commentaries create laughs or agita, depending on your views.
PLOT TWIST First stand-up gig was at a Chinese restaurant on Route 17 in Paramus.

Article from December, 2005 Issue.




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