Recalling Brill and McCall

At this writing Mitzi McCall (b. 1932) and Charlie Brill (b. 1938) are both still with us, although unavoidably one can’t help thinking of them in their heyday several decades ago. Peppy, perky McCall is the one I remember best, and it turns out she is both the senior member of the team (by six years) as well as the smaller one (she is 4′ 10″ tall).

McCall was originally from Pittsburgh, where she acted at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and had a children’s program on KDTV called the Kiddie Castle in the early ’50s. Prior to teaming with Brill, she had been in one previous marriage, and had been a comedy team with the much taller Joan Shawlee. In 1959 she met Charlie Brill (brother of fellow performer Marty Brill) at the Jerry Lewis Comedy Workshop in 1959. (Previously McCall had had a bit part in the 1955 Martin and Lewis comedy You’re Never Too Young). Brill and McCall were one of the acts on The Ed Sullivan Show when The Beatles premiered in 1964, and also appeared on The Tonight Show, The Joey Bishop Show, The Mike Douglas Show, et al. In 1967 they released a comedy album called From Our Point of View, and1968 to 1969 they had a regular segment on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In as a feuding couple. I knew them primarily from their appearances on game shows like Match Game and Tattletales during the 1970s.

Later the pair had a recurring role as a couple on Silk Stalkings (1993-99). McCall a regular role on Carol Leifer’s sitcom Alright Already (1997-98) as well as guest shots on shows like Seinfeld and Ellen, and lots and lots of cartoon voiceover work. Brill also does lots of voiceover work, and acts occasionally (he had a memorable turn as a Klingon in the Star Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.”) Though both in their 80s, near as I can tell they’re both still working. Call their agent!

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