Revolutionary revolutionary comedian was 94 years old – deadline
Mort Sahl, the acerbic comic whose pioneering style paved the way for such revolutionary comedians as Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin, died Tuesday at his home in Mill Valley, California. He was 94 years old.
A friend confirmed his death at The New York Times.
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Known for his topical social commentary, he boldly skewered politicians and others in a tough but clean stand-up act. He hosted the first Grammy Awards in 1959, co-hosted the 1959 Oscars, and a year later became the first comedian to appear on the cover of Time magazine. He also invited Tonight’s Show with Johnny Carson several times during the 1960s.
Born May 11, 1927 in Montreal, Sahl’s family moved to Los Angeles as a child. After a stint in the Air Force, he graduated from USC in 1950. In the mid-1950s he was stand-up, and a 1955 performance was recorded and released a few years later under the title Mort Sahl at sunset. It is considered to be the first stand-up album. A stuck second comedy LP, but his 1960 record Mort Sahl at the Hungry I reached No.22 on the Billboard 200, and his 1973 record Sing a Watergate song peaked at # 145.
In the late 1950s Sahl began to land acting roles, starting with Robert Wagner’s 1958 film. In love and in war. His later work on the big screen included All the young men (1960), Johnny Cool (1963) Don’t make waves and Doctor you must be kidding (both in 1967). He also worked on television, guest in series such as Pursuit, Playhouse 90, Thriller, Ironside, Emergency! and Love the american style, while playing on The Jerry Lewis Show, The Big Picture, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and the Hollywood Palace.
Sahl was also a regular on the talk show circuit, making several appearances on shows hosted by Dick Cavett, Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, Merv Griffin and David Frost. He worked on the famous Dean Martin celebrity roasts in the mid-1970s, has appeared several times on The Ed Sullivan Show and on celebrity game shows, including Hollywood squares, the match game and Missing links.
It was also the subject of a 1989 American masters documentary titled Mort Sahl: The Loyal Opposition, directed and produced by Robert B. Weide, who won an Emmy Award and an Oscar for his docu Lenny Bruce: Swear to tell the truth.
Her last screen credit was alongside old friend Jerry Lewis in 2013 Max Rose.
After President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Sahl would lose part of his stand-up fan base after speaking out against the Warren Commission. But his anti-Vietnam War stance and the general social upheaval of the late 1960s saw his act come back into fashion.
In the late 2000s, Sahl moved to the town of Mill Valley, in the Bay Area, where he befriended his neighbor Robin Williams.
Sahl has been married and divorced four times, but he has no surviving immediate family members. A son, Mort Jr., died in 1996.