I’ve come to regard The Love Boat as the Noah’s Ark of celebrities — every species represented, and always in pairs. (Sure, Yogi’s Ark is also a Noah’s Ark of celebrities but only the Hanna-Barbera stars). Anyway, my wife and I plowed through many seasons of The Love Boat during the Covid lock down (even as people on actual cruise ships were being infected by each other and quarantined) and that is when, after nearly a half century, I encountered comedian Kelly Monteith once again. He turns 80 years old today.
Monteith was a common sight on American TV variety shows in the ’70s, with multiple appearances on the shows hosted by Johnny Carson, Dean Martin, Merv, Mike Douglas, Peter Marshall, etc. In 1976 his star had so risen that he briefly had his own variety show on CBS. Freddie Prinze was on it! Looking at old clips just now brought back memories. Monteith was actually a gifted comic, animated, energetic, people pleasing, and physically gifted. When I was a kid he reminded me a little of Peter Tork, not just because he resembled him a little, but he has a similar, open, kind of guileless face.
But where did he go? The answer may interest and amuse my American readers. Folks in the U.K. already know the answer. He want to the same place Rich Hall went: stardom in England. In the late ’70s he’d appeared on Des O’Connor’s talk show a few times, and the BBC offered him a sketch comedy series of his own. It was a hit, ran five years (1979-84). By now he was a big star in the U.K. but had lost all his momentum in the U.S., where as everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Alfred Hitchcock to the Beatles to Florence Pugh can tell you is where the Big Show is. (This is not to throw shade on the Mother Country. In fact, over the past few years I’ve really enjoyed acquainting myself with the treasures of British entertainment that never made it to the States. My point of course has to do with resources, paychecks, and scale. Britain, for all its former world dominance, is roughly the size of Maine or South Carolina. As a rule, its stars only achieve top status when they are exported to California. Frankly, I don’t like it any more than you do.)
Monteith has remained in the business in the decades since, in both countries. He had shows on the BBC as recently as a couple of years ago. He even made several independent films. (As his British sketch shows revealed, Monteith was a talented comic actor, a skill that one wishes had been put to good use in Hollywood. He easily could have starred in an American sitcom, or major comedy films). Monteith even had a parody reality show The Real Geezers of Beverly Hills Adjacent on Amazon Prime in 2019.
Sadly, early last year Monteith had a couple of strokes and now requires special care. A GoFundMe campaign was established to help with this. The video below is doubly terrific because it hits a lot of the high points of who he is, including great clips of him in performance, and testimony of the high esteem in which he is held by colleagues (like Carson, Letterman, Dennis Miller, etc), and also talks about his present plight:
ADDENDUM: Kelly Monteith passed away in early January 2023.