Today is the birthday of pioneering female comedy writer Selma Diamond (1920-1985). Raised in Brooklyn, her first professional credits were cartoons and humor pieces for The New Yorker. In the late 40s and 50s she began writing for radio for Groucho Marx, Goodman Ace, and Ozzie and Harriet. This lead to her being hired by Sid Caesar for his legendary writing stable for his various tv variety shows in the 1950s. This fed Diamond’s reputation as a famous show biz “character”. The character of Sally (played by Rose Marie) on The Dick Van Dyke Show (created by her colleague Carl Reiner) was based on her. The gravelly-voiced Diamond began to get bookings on television talk shows and to get cameos and small roles in films like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), My Favorite Year (1982), and All of Me (1984). She was a semi-regular on the sit com Too Close for Comfort (1980-1984) and a regular on Harry Anderson’s Night Court (1984-1985). Thus her fame was at its height when she passed away from lung cancer in 1985.
Here she is on her 1960 comedy record “Selma Diamond Talks and Talks and Talks”:
To find out more about the history of show business (including tv variety), 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 check out 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