Shelley Berman

Active - 1963 - 2013  |   Born - Feb 3, 1926   |   Genres - Comedy

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A trained dramatic actor, Shelley Berman rose to fame in the 1950s by becoming the first "sit-down" comedian. Berman's calculatedly self-pitying nightclub monologues concerned his tiltings with the minor frustrations of everyday life. His specialty was the "telephone" monologue; seated on a stool and holding an imaginary receiver, Berman invariably cast himself as the victim of Ma Bell bureaucracy and thick-headed unseen "second parties." He tended to wear his neuroses on his sleeve, and was well-known for his unpredictable temperament; in one notorious TV-special appearance of the 1960s, Berman was interrupted in mid-monologue by a ringing offstage pay phone, whereupon he stomped backstage and tore the offending phone off the wall. A busy TV guest-star, Berman showed up frequently on the Paar/Sullivan/Allen variety show circuit of the 1950s and 1960s, and played seriocomic roles on such TV series as Peter Gunn, The Twilight Zone and The Girl From UNCLE. He also played a recurring role on the satirical soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1977), and was co-producer of the 1970 summer replacement series Comedy Tonight. Berman's film credits include The Best Man (1964), Divorce American Style (1967) and Son of the Blob (1970). Dropping out of public view due to profound personal problems (not least of which was the death of his son), Shelley Berman staged a comeback in the 1980s with appearances in such films as Teen Witch (1989) and Elliot Faumann MD (1990).

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