Jokey Jackie Gayle

March 1 was the DOB of stand-up comedian and comic actor Jackie Gayle (Jack Potovsky, 1926-2002).

Originally from Flatbush, Brooklyn, Gayle started out as a drummer in burlesque bands when still a teenager. One of his bosses was Sally Marr, Lenny Bruce’s mother.

Gayle was well into middle age before he transplanted his talent for telling jokes backstage onto the stage itself, making his way into Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club circuit and venues in Las Vegas by the mid ’60s. From there he went on to Hefner’s tv show Playboy After Dark, The Dean Martin Show (and many of his famous Celebrity Roasts), The Joey Bishop Show, The Woody Woodbury Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, The Hollywood Palace, et al. He also played roles in films like Russ Meyer’s Seven Minutes (1971); Mafia on the Bounty (1980) with Jackie Vernon, Joe E. Ross, and Frank De Kova; and Woody Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose (1984).

Barry Levinson trusted him with a bigger part in Tin Men (1987), and a positive reception from critics led to a second career as a supporting actor. His other movies included Martha Coolidge’s Plain Clothes (1987); Carl Reiner’s Bert Rigby, You’re a Fool (1989); Billy Crystal’s Mr. Saturday Night (1992), and Warren Beatty’s Bulworth (1993). He also guest starred on tv shows like L.A. Law and Murder She Wrote and was a regular on Alan Zweibel’s short-lived HBO show The Boys (1988-89) with Lionel Stander, Norman Fell, Allen Garfield, and Norm Crosby. Gayle’s last screen appearance was on the show Stark Raving Mad with Tony Shaloub and Neil Patrick Harris in 2000.

For more on variety entertainment, including tv variety, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and please keep an eye out for Vaudeville in Your Living Room: A Century of Radio and TV Varietycoming out from Bear Manor Media this November!