Today is the birthday of Laugh-In regular Alan Sues (1926-2011). During his career he was usually characterized by the euphemisms “flamboyant”, “campy”, or “over the top”. Nowadays he is generally acknowledged to have been one of the first performers on television who was quite obviously gay.
Knowing his later characters it is interesting to note how conventional his beginnings were. He was a World War II vet, and he was married for five years to a woman named Phyllis Gehrig, with whom he also toured in a comedy act. He also did stand up at the Reuben Bleu and the Blue Angel (now defunct NY comedy clubs), appeared in cabaret revues with Julius Monk, and was one of the cast of The Mad Show, an off-Broadway revue created by Mad Magazine. It was the latter gig that got him his job on Laugh-In.
While “Uncle Al, the Kiddie’s Pal” was one of his regular bits, my favorite recurring Alan Sues routine is “Big Al”, which mines a lot of humor by casting the big sissy as a sports announcer. He always rings a little bell which he calls his “Tinkle” or his “Ding Dong”. Ahem.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc