LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cloris Leachman, an Oscar-winner for her portrayal of a lonely housewife in “The Last Picture Show” and a comedic delight as the fearsome Frau Blücher in “Young Frankenstein” and self-absorbed neighbor Phyllis on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” has died. She was 94.
Leachman died in her sleep of natural causes at her home in Encinitas, California, publicist Monique Moss said Wednesday. Her daughter Dinah Englund was at her side, Moss said.
A character actor of extraordinary range, Leachman defied typecasting. In her early television career, she appeared as Timmy’s mother on the “Lassie” series. She played a frontier prostitute in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” a crime spree family member in “Crazy Mama,” and Blücher in Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein,” in which the very mention of her name drew equine commentary.
Leachman was the recipient of the Johnny Carson Comedy Legend award at the Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk in 2011.
“Every time I hear a horse whinny I will forever think of Cloris’ unforgettable Frau Blücher,” Brooks tweeted, calling Leachman “insanely talented” and “irreplaceable.”
Salutes from other admiring colleagues poured in on social media. Steve Martin said Leachman “brought comedy’s mysteries to the big and small screen.” “Nothing I could say would top the enormity of my love for you,” posted Ed Asner of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” “Applause on every entrance and exit,” said Rosie O’Donnell.
“There was no one like Cloris. With a single look she had the ability to break your heart or make you laugh ’till the tears ran down your face,” Juliet Green, her longtime manager, said in a statement.
In 1989, Leachman toured in “Grandma Moses,” a play in which she aged from 45 to 101. For three years in the 1990s she appeared in major cities as the captain’s wife in the revival of “Show Boat.” In the 1993 movie version of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” she assumed the Irene Ryan role as Granny Clampett.
She also had an occasional role as Ida on “Malcolm in the Middle,” winning Emmys in 2002 and 2006 for that show. Her Emmy haul over the years totaled eight, including two trophies for Moore’s sitcom, tying her with Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the top Emmy winners among performers.
In 2008, Leachman joined the ranks of contestants in “Dancing With the Stars,” not lasting long in the competition but pleasing the crowds with her sparkly dance costumes, perching herself on judges’ laps and cussing during the live broadcast.
She started out as Miss Chicago in the Miss America Pageant and willingly accepted unglamorous screen roles.
“Basically I don’t care how I look, ugly or beautiful,” she told an interviewer in 1973. “I don’t think that’s what beauty is. On a single day, any of us is ugly or beautiful. I’m heartbroken I can’t be the witch in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ But I’d also like to be the good witch. Phyllis combines them both.
“I’m kind of like that in life. I’m magic, and I believe in magic. There’s supposed to be a point in life when you aren’t supposed to stay believing that. I haven’t reached it yet.”
During the 1950s, Leachman became busy in live TV drama, demonstrating her versatility, including in roles that represented casting standards of that era.
“One week I’d be on as a Chinese girl, the next as a blond cockney and weeks later as a dark-haired someone else,” she recalled. In 1955, she made her film debut in a hard-boiled Mickey Spillane saga, “Kiss Me Deadly” — “I was the naked blonde that Mike Hammer picked up on that dark highway.”
She followed with Rod Serling’s court-martial drama, “The Rack,” and a season on “Lassie.” She continued in supporting roles on Broadway and in movies, then achieved her triumph with Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show,” based on the Larry McMurtry novel.
When Leachman received the Oscar as best supporting actress of 1971, she delivered a rambling speech in which she thanked her piano and dancing teachers and concluded: “This is for Buck Leachman, who paid the bills.” Her father ran a lumber mill.
Despite her photogenic looks, she continued to be cast in character parts. Her most indelible role was Phyllis Lindstrom on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
Phyllis often visited Mary’s apartment, bringing laments about her husband Lars and caustic remarks about Mary and especially about her adversary, another tenant, Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper). Phyllis was so unexpectedly engaging that Leachman starred in a spinoff series of her own, “Phyllis,” which ran on CBS from 1975 to 1977.
With “Young Frankenstein,” Leachman became a member of “the Mel Brooks stock company,” also appearing in “High Anxiety” and “History of the World, Part I.” Her other films included Bogdanovich’s “Daisy Miller,” and “Texasville,” repeating her role in “The Last Picture Show.” In 2009, she released her autobiography, “Cloris,” which made tabloid headlines for her recounting of a “wild” one-night stand with Gene Hackman.
Cloris Leachman grew up on the outskirts of Des Moines, Iowa, where she was born in 1926. The large family lived in an isolated wooden house with no running water, but the mother had ambitious ideas for her children. Cloris took piano lessons at the age of 5; since the family could not afford a piano, she practiced on a cardboard drawing of the keys.
“I’m going to be a concert pianist,” the girl announced, and her mother encouraged her with bookings at churches and civic clubs. She arranged for Cloris to ride on a coal truck to Des Moines for an audition for a Drake University student play. She was given the role and appeared in other plays at a local theater. After high school, she won a scholarship to study drama at Northwestern University.
Admittedly a poor student, Leachman lasted only a year. As a lark while in the Chicago area, she tried out for a Miss Chicago beauty contest and was chosen. She competed in the 1946 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, qualifying as a finalist. Her consolation prize: a $1,000 talent scholarship.
With new ambition, she went directly to New York, where she worked as an extra in a movie and understudied Nina Foch in the hit play “John Loves Mary.”
More understudy jobs followed, and she enrolled at the Actors Studio to hone her craft. “I finally quit because of the smoking,” she said later. “I couldn’t stand that blue haze.”
In 1953, Leachman married George Englund, later a film director and producer, and they had five children: Adam, Bryan, George, Morgan and Dinah. The couple divorced in 1979. Son Bryan Englund was found dead in 1986 at age 30.
(NORFOLK, Neb.) – Magician Ben Seidman has been featured on Netflix, the Travel Channel, the CW and twice at the Johnny Carson Theatre in Norfolk. And for one very special night, he'll perform live in Norfolk area living rooms.
Through the magic of technology, the family Comedy Magic Show portion of the Great American Comedy Festival will come to living rooms on Wednesday, July 22nd, at 7 p.m. Seidman’s virtual “Camera Tricks” will use the Zoom platform. His virtual show is sponsored by Wattier’s Auto Body.
The 13th Annual Great American Comedy Festival, to be presented by Nucor Steel Nebraska, Nucor Cold Finish Nebraska, Nucor Detailing Center, and Vulcraft Nebraska, was postponed until 2021 because of Covid-19.
Guests at Seidman’s “Camera Tricks” will be part of an interactive performance full of magic, but he advises there will be a catch. Throughout the evening, one of his miracles will use a camera trick and viewers will be asked to figure out which routine is tainted.
Seidman says this virtual experience will combine his acclaimed magical creations with secrets that are over 200 years old, passed down to only a select few conjurors. “The result is a delightful and awe-inspiring night that will remind you there is still magic in the world,” he said.
Seidman guest stars on the Netflix Original Brainchild and appeared on Penn & Teller: Fool Us on the CW network. He has also starred in Magic Outlaws on the Travel Channel. He was the highest rated performer for Princess Cruises and won its Entertainer of the Year award in 2015.
He is the only person in history to be named the Resident Magician at Mandalay Bay, Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. His residency at Mandalay followed three-seasons consulting for Mindfreak on A&E, during which he worked full-time, designing illusions for Criss Angel.
He has also been voted Best Small Venue Artist by Campus Activities Magazine.
“While extremely disappointed that we had to postpone this year’s Great American Comedy Festival, we are thrilled we are able to offer a portion of the festival virtually,” Lisa Wattier, executive director said. “Ben’s appearances on the Johnny Carson stage here in Norfolk in 2018 and 2019 were extremely well received. Children loved him. And children will love watching his show virtually in their own homes too.
“He leaves his audience shaking their heads and often asking, ‘How did he do that?’” she said.
“His hour-long virtual show promises to bring some joy and amazement in a time when we all need a lift. We encourage area residents to gather around their smart TV’s, computer, tablet or phone and settle in for some great fun brought to you by the Great American Comedy Festival.”
For tickets and information, click here.
The laughs will have to wait another year.
The Great American Comedy Festival, which had been scheduled for June 18-20 at Johnny Carson Theatre in Norfolk, has been postponed until June 2021 because of uncertainties over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The scheduled headliners for this year’s festival both have agreed to come to Norfolk next year. Actor, writer and producer David Koechner is scheduled to headline the 2021 comedy showcase, and six-time Emmy Award-winner Wayne Brady will take the stage as the 2021 gala headliner.
The postponement includes the family comedy magic show, the comedy showcase, the late-night adults-only show at Divots and the concluding festival gala.
Executive director Lisa Wattier said the comedy festival’s board of directors made its decision recently in a unanimous vote.
“While no one knows for sure how long this pandemic will last, some in the public health industry believe it could last for several months,” Wattier said. “Because of that, we had to take a very serious, long look at continuing our festival planning and fundraising.”
Beyond that, the uncertainty on several fronts played a role in the decision.
“We feel it would be irresponsible to put our audiences at risk of becoming ill because they attended one of our festival shows,” she said. “It is irresponsible for us to proceed with fundraising, spending those sponsor donations and then end up having to cancel the festival at the very last minute.
“It is also possible the booked comedians may be unable to get here.”
Wattier said all sponsorship money donated to date could either be returned or put toward the 2021 festival.
“It really is disappointing to have to take this action,” said Austen Hagood, president of the Great American Comedy Festival board of directors. “But we, like countless other organizations planning large events across the country, have to be responsible and put public health and safety first.”
“Because there are just too many uncertainties about where this virus will be in June, we reluctantly have to take this action,” he said.
Nucor Steel Nebraska, Nucor Cold Finish Nebraska, Nucor Detailing Center and Vulcraft Nebraska have been the presenting sponsors of the festival for several years.
The annual festival opened in 2008 to honor the legacy of Norfolk’s favorite son, Johnny Carson, who was host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” for more than 25 years.
(NORFOLK, Neb.) – The 13th Annual Great American Comedy Festival will welcome well- known, multi-talented entertainers as headliners for the Friday Showcase and Saturday Gala at the Johnny Carson Theatre.
Actor, writer and producer David Koechner headlines the Friday, June 19th, Comedy Showcase and six-time Emmy Award-winner Wayne Brady will take the stage as the Saturday Gala headliner on Saturday, June 20th.
The family Comedy Magic Show kicks off the festival Thursday, June 18th, at the Johnny Carson Theatre. All shows at the theatre are at 7 p.m. There is also an Adults-Only Late Night Show at Divots on Friday, June 19th, at 10:30.
The 13th Annual Great American Comedy Festival is presented by Nucor Steel Nebraska, Nucor Cold Finish Nebraska, Nucor Detailing Center, and Vulcraft Nebraska.
David Koechner can currently be seen as Beau on the ABC hit comedy,“Bless This Mess,” which is set in Nebraska. He is also well known for his roles as Todd Packer on “The Office” and Champ Kind from “Anchorman” and “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.” He recently starred in Legendary’s “Krampus” and Roadside Attraction’s “Priceless.”
Other TV credits include Showtime's "Twin Peaks," Comedy Central’s “Another Period,” ABC’s “The Goldbergs,” and IFC's "Stan vs Evil." He also voices recurring characters on FOX’s “American Dad” and Netflix’s “F is for Family”and “All Hail King Julien.”
An alumnus of Chicago’s Second City Theater, Koechner got his first break as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” and has since appeared in more than 170 films and television shows. Notable film credits include “Waiting,” “Out Cold,” “Talladega Nights,” “Get Smart,” and the dark, twisted, film festival award-winning thriller, "Cheap Thrills."
When not filming, Koechner performs live stand-up comedy across the country and creates original content videos for his YouTube channel, “Full On Koechner.” He also co-hosts Big Slick Celebrity Weekend, an annual charity event benefitting Children’s Mercy Hospital of Kansas City.
Wayne Brady, also a Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter, can currently be seen as the host of CBS’ "Let's Make A Deal.” His work as a regular on the improvisational comedy television series, "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", both the original ABC and the current CW version, has been described as “off-the-cuff brilliance.”
Brady recently appeared as a series regular on the Emmy award-winning CBS daytime drama, “The Bold and the Beautiful.” He has been nominated for a Daytime Emmy for his work on the show. He returned to his theatrical roots with a successful Broadway debut as Bill Flynn in "Chicago," and received rave reviews starring as Lola in the Tony® Award-winning production of "Kinky Boots."
His Broadway path continued with a three-month run starring as Aaron Burr in the Pulitzer Prize and Tony® Award-winning production of "Hamilton" in Chicago.
Brady’s debut studio album, “A Long Time Coming,” earned him a Grammy nomination. He has also lent his vocal talents to both Disney's animated series "Sofia the First" and Nickelodeon's "Loud House."
His television credits include “Colony,” "30 Rock," "Everybody Loves Chris," "Dirt," "How I Met Your Mother," and "Don't Forget the Lyrics,” among others.
“Once again, we are extremely pleased with our headliners for the Friday and Saturday Great American Comedy Festival shows,” said Lisa Wattier, executive director. “These multi-talented entertainers will continue our tradition of securing A-list entertainers to lead five other comedians in presenting outstanding comedy shows rarely, if ever, found in communities the size of Norfolk.”
The annual festival opened in 2008 to honor the legacy of Norfolk’s favorite son, Johnny Carson, who was host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” for over 25 years.
The Great American Comedy Festival is also made possible with the support of the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment and the Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau.
For tickets and information, visit www.greatamericancomedyfestival.com
Officials with the Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk announced Thursday that the 2020 festival has again been awarded a grant of $6,990 by the Nebraska Arts Council. The grant will support the 13th annual Great American Comedy Festival June 18-20.
“The Great American Comedy Festival contributes a great deal to the advancement of the arts in Norfolk,” said Suzanne Wise, Nebraska Arts Council executive director. “We commend the work being done by organizations such as the Great American Comedy Festival because the arts are important to the education and quality of life for all Nebraskans.”
The 2020 festival will kick off Thursday, June 18, at 7 p.m. with the family Comedy Magic Show at the Johnny Carson Theatre. Friday’s Comedy Showcase at 7 p.m. at the Johnny Carson Theatre will be followed by the adults-only Late Night Show at 10:30 p.m. at Divots.
The festival gala concludes the 2020 event Saturday, June 20, at 7 p.m. at the theater. “We again extend our sincere thanks to the Nebraska Arts Council for their generous grant,” said Lisa Wattier, executive director. “Generosity such as this assures the continuation of the Great American Comedy Festival.”
For more information about the festival, contact Wattier at 402-992-1538.
The annual festival opened in 2008 to honor Norfolk’s favorite son, Johnny Carson, who was host of NBC’s “Late Night Show Starring Johnny Carson” for more than 25 years. The festival is presented by Nucor Steel Nebraska, Nucor Cold Finish Nebraska, Vulcraft Nebraska and Nucor Detailing Center.
The Nebraska Arts Council (NAC), a state agency, provides numerous grants, services and special initiatives that help sustain and promote the arts throughout Nebraska. NAC is supported by the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, Nebraska Legislature and National Endowment for the Arts. To learn more, visit artscouncil.nebraska.gov