It probably won’t shock you a bit to know that Buddy the gag-writer from The Dick Van Dyke Show got his start in vaudeville. Born on this day in 1908 he began performing as a teenager in a two act with his brother (a piano player and comedian) in their native Chicago. In addition to his comic abilities, Amsterdam also played the cello, a skill which he integrated into his turns on TV variety programs in later years. A shoot-out in one the speakeasies where he was performing convinced him to leave the Windy City. He moved to Hollywood where he became a gagwriter and then a performer, on radio, and later TV. His old vaudeville chum Rose Marie suggested him for the cast of The Dick Van Dyke Show, and the rest, as they say is history. You can also see Amsterdam in a bunch of Frankie and Annette’s Beach Party movies in the mid-60s, and many other movies and tv shows over the next three decades. In fact, he never did retire: his last appearance was on Caroline in the City in 1995, one year before he died.
Here is a clip from his short-lived 1950 variety show the Morey Amsterdam Show featuring a pre-Honeymooners Art Carney:
To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudeville, 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