"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex. Except for salami and eggs. Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced."

Happy Birthday, Alan King!

alankingIriwn Alan Kniberg (December 26, 1927 – May 9, 2004) was an American comedian and actor best known for his sharp wit and humorous rants. King's comedy and writing career often drew inspiration from his Jewish identity, and much of his autobiographic work pays homage to his culture and his love of Jewish food. As a young man, King worked in Canada in a burlesque house while also boxing professionally. He won twenty straight fights before losing, at which point he decided to leave boxing and focus on comedy. He began working as the doorman at the nightclub Leon and Eddie's while performing comedy under the last name of the boxer who beat him, "King".

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King was born in New York City to Russian-Jewish immigrants Minnie and Bernard Kniberg. His family moved to Brooklyn when he was five and King used humor to survive the tough neighborhoods. At the age of fourteen, King performed "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" on the radio program Major Bowes Amateur Hour. Although he lost, he was invited to join a nationwide tour. When he was fifteen, he dropped out of high school to perform comedy at the Hotel Gradus in the Catskills. King was fired after making a joke at the expense of the hotel's owner, but he spend the next few summers as M.C. at Foreman's New Prospect Hotel in Mountaindale, NY.

King's comedy style is remembered as conversational and drawing from the humor of everyday life. His work has inspired many other comedians, including Larry David, Billy Crystal, Joan Rivers, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, Robert Klein, and others.

 

 

King began opening for many celebrities, including Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Patti Page, and Lena Horne. After opening for Tony Martin, the actor suggested King for a role in the movie Hit the Deck, which became King's first acting role. King went on to appear in several other films and continued to act until his death in 2004. He appeared in films like Casino (1995), I, The Jury (1982), The Anderson Tapes (1971), A Love Story (1989), and Mind the Gap (2004). King also appeared on an episode of The Golden Girls in 1991, "Melodrama".

King became a regular guest host for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and was MC for JFK's inauguration in 1961. He was also the long-standing host of the Friar's Club's celebrity roasts. King was the first recipient (1988) of the award for American Jewish humor from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. The award was ultimately renamed in his honor.

King was deeply involved in philanthropic work, and founded the Alan King Medical Center in Jerusalem and raised funds for the Nassau Center for Emotionally Disturbed Children. Following the birth of his children, King and his wife Jeanette moved to Great Neck, Long Island, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Friday, 26 December 2014
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