Lucille Kallen: Female on the 23rd Floor

Comedy pioneer Lucille Kallen (1922-1999) came to New York from her native Los Angeles to study piano at Juilliard. Realizing that she wasn’t cut out to compete at the concert level, in the late ’40s she began writing revues with Mel Tolkin, produced by Max Liebman at Camp Tamiment in the Poconos. In 1949 Liebman hired them write for the Admiral Broadway Revue, which then morphed into Your Show of Shows, starring Sid Caesar. Kallen was the only female among Caesar’s legendary writing staff until the advent of Selma Diamond. After this she wrote for Buddy Hackett’s sitcom Stanley (1956-57).

In 1958, Kallen and Tolkin’s Broadway show Maybe Tuesday played for less than a week. Kallen continued to write for television through 1967, most prolifically for The Bell Telephone Hour, for which she worked on two dozen episodes. By this time she had become a book author. Kallen followed up her semi-autobiographical novel Outside There, Somewhere (1964) with five C.B. Greenfield mysteries (1981-86). The character of Sally on The Dick Van Dyke Show is largely based on her.

To learn more about vaudeville, including tv variety please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous