David Steinberg

Active - 1969 - 2018  |   Born - Aug 9, 1942   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The son of a Rumanian rabbi, Canadian actor/comedian David Steinberg was considered the quiet member of his large family -- until he developed a gift for lying. Steinberg's prevarications did not endear him to his father, who said "I kiss the train that takes you away" when Steinberg left Winnipeg to study theology in Israel. All plans for a rabbinical career ended when Steinberg happened to catch Lenny Bruce's act, whereupon he decided to become a comedian. Paul Sills of Chicago's Second City troupe hired Steinberg after seeing the young comic in a University of California production of Candide, but Steinberg didn't really fit in with the communal spirit of Second City and chose to strike out as a solo actor. He appeared in Broadway productions as Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights and Little Murders, both failures. Finally he attained a new agent who guided Steinberg through the Playboy-club circuit in the late '60s. Steinberg confused many club patrons by avoiding standard mother-in-law jokes in favor of conceptual comedy - humor based on observations of everyday life. One of his routines centered around a sanctimonious minister's sermon, and on the strength of this Steinberg was hired for guest spots on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. After his appearance on October 27, 1968, Steinberg was deluged with angry mail complaining about his "blasphemous" performance; the Smothers refused to cave in to pressure and used Steinberg on other programs, including their final taping in April 1969, which remained untelecast after the brothers were fired by CBS. Adverse publicity or no, Steinberg was hired to emcee a 45-minute ABC-TV variety program, The Music Scene, in 1969, where his comic gifts were stifled and he was expected to merely point fingers as the singing groups were introduced. In 1972, when censorial pressure had subsided somewhat at CBS thanks to the advent of All in the Family, Steinberg was hired by the network for a summer replacement series, The David Steinberg Show. The program played to so-so ratings, but did give Steinberg a brief spurt of popularity wherein fans could be heard repeating his catchphrases "Boogie boogie boogie" and "Get OFF me." Steinberg's fame crested in the mid '70s, after which he faded from television. In the early '80s Steinberg turned to film directing with such movies as Paternity (1980) and Going Berserk (1982), and in 1985 he gave TV another try with a series of syndicated interview specials.

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