Joey Faye (b. Joseph Anthony Palladino on this day in 1909) started in amateur shows and small time vaudeville before enjoying an eight year stretch in the role posterity best knows him for, that of burlesque second banana. When burlesque, too died, he was a staple of the Borscht Belt, occasional Broadway (notably Top Banana with his old burlesque pal Phil Silvers) and television. An interesting artifact of his latter work is Mack and Meyer for Hire, on which he partnered with Mickey Deems. He passed away in 1997.
Finding myself in the rare position of knowing someone who knew and worked with Faye, I thought it be might be nice to get his recollections. Here are the thoughts of Michael Townsend Wright:
I had one of the great honors of my career as a performer by being the final sketch partner of Joey Faye. I worked with Joey and his wife Judi for about six years, beginning in the early 1980’s. I replaced Harry Goz (Broadway’s longest running Tevye) who was getting many bookings as a singer. Joey had been Second Banana to the likes of Phil Silvers, Rags Ragland and Jack Albertson. Such company I was in! We often performed “Slowly I Turned”, “Floogel Street” and many other Burly chestnuts. Joey told me on a number of occasions that he and Sid Fields had written “Slowly I Turned” while they were with Minsky. This has been disputed, but it’s hard to say.
I have nothing but fond memories of Joey. He was the sweetest guy. Almost childlike in the nicest sense. And what a pro he was. In the later years, Joey might have seemed a bit frail. Backstage I would be asked, “Is he going to be okay?” “Just watch,” I would reply. As he entered the stage he had the energy of a young man once again.
I think being a second banana is an art form unto itself. You feed the comic and react to him without overshadowing him, but holding your own, as well. Joey was seamless at this. I was very lucky to work with Joey Faye and very proud to be his friend.
To find out more about the history of vaudeville and comedians like Joey Faye, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.