2017: The Year the Laughter Died

2017: The Year the Laughter Died

We memorialize the deaths of geeky celebrities: at the time of writing, there have been over 100 this year alone:

2017 Geeky Good-byes

Geeks embrace everyone who has helped produce geek-friendly works. However, that often crosses over into mainstream, and at The Measured Circle*, we do not divide and define.

2016 was noted in the mainstream media for the number of musical celebrities who died, and it was remarkable. David Bowie, Prince, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, Leonard Cohen, Glenn Frey, Paul Kanter, George Michael…if you polled people to name their favorite singers and groups, it’s likely that these people would have been included.

2017 is showing a different unhappy trend: a loss of comedians.

Broadly speaking, a comedian is a performer whose intent is to make their audiences laugh.

I also tend to think of a comedian as someone who both writes and delivers the material. They can do it in character (some of them do it in multiple characters in the same set), and they may also perform in scripted material (such as traditional movies or TV shows). In the case of several of the people on this list, they may also have released records (or the modern equivalent) of their comedy.

If you asked people to name 100 American comedians, the combined list would likely have included some of the people we have lost this year:

  • Antonio Rosato, reportedly died January 10, 2017: Rosato appeared on both SCTV and Saturday Night Live, and did a variety of voice work
  • Dick Gautier, reportedly died January 13, 2017: perhaps best known to audience as Hymie the robot on Get Smart, Gautier was a stand up comic earlier in his career
  • “Professor” Irwin Corey, reportedly died February 6, 2017: Corey had a unique improvisational style, working in character as “The World’s Foremost Authority”. He would jump from topic to topic, in some ways preceding Robin Williams, and speak in strings of “big words”. Robert Heinlein name checks him in Friday
  • Bill Dana, reportedly died June 15, 2017: certainly most famous as his character Jose Jimenez (a bit with Jimenez as an astronaut was Billboard top 40, and he got a window cameo on the Adam West Batman), Dana played a number of other characters including on The Golden Girls and was an important comedy writer (including the “Sammy’s Visit” episode of All in the Family)
  • Patti Deutsch, reportedly died July 26, 2017: while some of her most public work was on Match Game, she did a lot of voice work, including for Disney and Nickelodeon
  • June Foray, reportedly died July 26, 2017: one of the greatest voice artists (Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Looney Tunes’ Granny) also did comedy work on radio, TV, and record album (including with Stan Freberg)
  • Dick Gregory, reportedly died on August 19, 2017: legendary comedian, author, and civil rights activist
  • Jerry Lewis, reportedly died August 20, 2017: part of the comedy duo of Lewis and Martin and then a solo success, Jerry Lewis did albums and co-wrote arguably his most respected movie, The Nutty Professor
  • Jay Thomas, reportedly died August 24, 2017: he appeared on Mork & Mindy and in the Santa Clause movies (as the Easter Bunny), Thomas also has a career as a radio host
  • Shelley Berman, reportedly died September 1, 2017: Berman was a pioneer in observational humor, earning three gold records and a Grammy. He was nominated for an Emmy for playing Larry David’s father on Curb Your Enthusiasm

The world has last some of its laughter this year. While we hope that this completes the list, we know that may not be the case. That may be the stand out trend, despite George Romero and Tobe Hooper, two of the most influential horror directors, both dying this year.

We thank everyone on this list for making life a little more fun.

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* This blog is named after a quotation of Charles Fort’s. One key element of Forteanism (Fort would not have approved of that term of the concept) is that things having finite existences, being separate from each other, is inaccurate…”One measures a circle beginning anywhere”. True Forteans know that everything blends into everything else…but of course, that include “true” and “false” and Forteans and non-Forteans. 😉

 

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