Nightclub comedian Joey Bishop managed to get a lot of mileage out of a dour facial expression, an air of perpetual doom-and-gloom, and the mumbled catchphrase "Son of a gun!" Bishop climbed on the Philadelphia nightclub carousel as one of the Bishop Brothers, a singing group comprised of three friends who were neither Bishops nor brothers. As a solo comic in the early 1950s, Bishop caught the eye of Frank Sinatra, whose influence enabled Joey to secure bigger and better club engagements. Bishop was signed to a Warner Bros. movie contract in 1956; his best showing during this period was as the ill-fated Jewish army private in The Naked and the Dead (1957). He continued accepting occasional film roles into the 1990s in such productions as Texas Across the River (1966) and Betsy's Wedding (1990). In 1961, Bishop starred as put-upon press agent Joey Barnes on an episode of The Danny Thomas Show titled "Everything Happens to Me"; this served as the pilot for The Joey Bishop Show, which lasted from 1961 through 1965, weathering numerous cast, concept and network changes. Having proven himself a suitable substitute host for such late-night gurus as Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, Bishop emceed ABC's nightly The Joey Bishop Show, with Regis Philbin as Joey's "Ed McMahon" and an endless stream of borscht-belt comics and "Rat Pack" intimates as guest stars. After The Joey Bishop Show closed out its two-year run in 1969, Bishop returned to the guest-star treadmill; in later years, he popped up on everything from infomercials to home-shopping programs. Bishop died in October 2007 at the age of 89.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Weighed less than three pounds at birth.
- Could tap dance and play the mandolin and banjo.
- Served as the master of ceremonies at John F. Kennedy's inaugural ball in 1961.
- Played a talk-show host in the 1960s sitcom The Joey Bishop Show, was a substitute host on The Tonight Show and eventually landed his own late-night talk show on ABC, also called The Joey Bishop Show, in 1967.
- On the day after it was announced that his ABC talk show was being canceled, he did his monologue, told the audience the show was ending the next month, praised his staff and then walked off stage, leaving cohost Regis Philbin to finish that evening's program.
- Was the most frequent guest host of The Tonight Show, with more than 170 appearances.
- In 1981, he replaced Mickey Rooney for a month in the Broadway production of Sugar Babies.
- Was the subject of a 2002 biography called Mouse in the Rat Pack: The Joey Bishop Story.
- Was the last surviving member of the Rat Pack.
- His comedic catchphrase was "son of a gun."