"His life centered around dating strippers." - Steve Rossi, comedy straight man
Joe E. Ross was the kind of grotesque, boorish, nightclub comedian that over the years has been satirized ad nauseam. Andy Kaufman's alter ego Tony Clifton, a talentless lounge singer with a penchant for drinking, smoking and whoring, is in many ways the fictional equivalent of Ross. Best known for his featured role in the early nineteen sixties sitcom Car 54, Where Are You? Joe E. Ross left an indelible, negative impression on every performer he ever worked with. The consensus of those that knew him is that his shenanigans offstage were infinitely more amusing than anything he ever did onstage. His disposition is perfectly summed up by fellow nightclub comedian Hank Garrett. "He was married eight times and they were all ex-hookers. It was cheaper to marry them than keep visiting them."
Ross was a product of the Lower East Side. His first taste of show business came when he found a job in the Bronx as a singing waiter. Soon he evolved into a burlesque comic, but his gigs were pretty much limited to rundown strip joints. Garrett often shared the bill with Ross in the worst Bowery venues imaginable. "You'd see someone get up in the audience," recalls Garrett. "We'd say, 'If you're looking for the toilet, sit down. You're in it."
Hiken became enamored with seedy Damon Runyon-esque characters while working in the trenches of New York show business. He often cast real-life pugilists like Rocky Graziano and Jake LaMotta in his programs and provided work to actors and comedians that emulated the same feel. Hiken was preparing to cast the second season of The Phil Silvers Showwhen he witnessed Ross perform at a Miami nightclub and liked what he saw.1 Garrett explains, "The qualities Nat had in mind had nothing to do with Ross's stand-up act." It was the worn facial features and gruff larynx that appealed to Nat Hiken, not Joe E.'s lowbrow style of comedy. At any rate, the content of Joe E.'s performance would never have translated to television. "Joe's opening. He'd walk out on stage, scratch his crotch and say 'What do you do for dandruff?' It went downhill from there."
When Hiken returned to New York he asked Kevin Pines, the program's casting director to phone Joe E. Ross. Ross had just left for Hawaii where he had been booked for a two-week string of lounge performances. Edward J. Montagne, a director of early television remembered, "The call came through and Joe was in the sack with a dame. Kevin said, 'This is Kevin Pines, casting director of The Phil Silvers Show.' Joe thought it was a gag and said, '[Fuck] you!' and hung up the phone."
Subsequent phone calls convinced him that it was the real deal and he accepted the part of a slovenly chef named Rupert Ritzik. Joe E. Ross continued to do his stand-up act on the side. For years Ross had worked solo. Eventually he met a mutually uncouth comedian named Dave Starr 2 and together they formed a comedy team. Completely forgotten today, Starr was every bit as vulgar as his partner. Starr "had the reputation of being one of the dirtiest comedians in the business," says Garrett. Together "they'd vie to see who could be dirtier." The liner notes for Dave Starr's ultra-rare comedy album brag that Starr "has appeared before more 'men only' gatherings than any other entertainer. Whether it's a bachelor dinner, bowling league affair, lodge meeting, business men's luncheon or 'stag' birthday party, none are considered tops unless they're able to get Dave Starr to convulse them." Starr & Ross had received plenty of work touring the burlesque circuit, a world of titillation where their profane-laced comedy would be, if not appreciated, at least accepted. Well-known girlie photographer Irving Klaw put together a film in 1955 called Teaserama, which gained cult status thanks to a performance by Bettie Page. The labored vaudeville routines of Starr & Ross were used as the low-budget bridge between burlesque dancers.
Shortly thereafter, Starr & Ross broke up. The reason for their professional demise is unknown, but the onus is likely on Ross who would always struggle to maintain relationships. Dave Starr would fade into Catskill obscurity, but Ross continued to ascend thanks to the strong scripts Nat Hiken was providing on The Phil Silvers Show. As the Ross character evolved, new episodes featured him viciously bickering with an insufferable wife portrayed by Beatrice Pons; the scenes were a welcome antidote to the depiction of married life on other atomic age sitcoms.
Contemporaries vividly recall that Joe E. Ross was a disgusting human being. The man's appalling eating habits were legendary. "I never got to know him well, [but] I did have breakfast with him one morning," laughs comedian Norm Crosby. "A big slob. He was eating and he looked up at me and he had stuff all over him. He said, 'I am much better with solid foods.' He was exactly what he played on television." Hank Garrett recalled, "Where we shot in the Bronx we had a little cafeteria. You [ate] whatever you wanted and [then] you told the cashier what [you had eaten]. So, I [told the cashier] I had a tuna fish sandwich and a coffee or whatever it was and the cashier says, 'Three bucks.' Joe E. Ross would walk up and he didn't have to say a word. They looked at his clothes and they said, "Okay. You had the cottage cheese and the scrambled eggs.' It would be all over his uniform. He was quite the slob."
Ross was not the only slob on the set of Sergeant Bilko. Maurice Gosfield was a liar and a show business journeyman incapable of acting. At his audition for the program Gosfield presented a litany of credits that could not be verified. His inability to deliver lines with conviction, let alone proper pronunciation, made everything on his résumé specious. An anonymous NBC television producer remembered Gosfield "hanging around with other work-hungry actors on the third floor of the NBC building a few years earlier" and according to author David Everitt had been "considered something of a joke." But Gosfield and his slovenly ineptitude was exactly the kind of real-life character Hiken loved. He didn't want Gosfield to act. Just like Ross, he simply needed the endearing moron to play himself. Gosfield was cast as the obnoxious Duane Doberman and, just as with Ross, Gosfield was a total mess. "Eating was something ... he had trouble mastering," wrote Everitt. "Stuffing his mouth went smoothly enough (he was known to order a second main course while still halfway through his first), but then there was the issue of waste. Food would splatter this way and that, covering his clothes and the immediate vicinity, as he wolfed down his meal with both hands." Fellow cast member Allan Melvin joked that "to eat with Doberman you need to get stunt pay." Many were shocked when "Gosfield, who could just barely get out a line on cue, was nominated for an ... Emmy for the 1958-59 season." This was not a good development for Gosfield's co-workers as he started to look at himself as some kind of comedy messiah. "He came to believe that he was a great comedian," says Everitt. "[He] would tell people that, without him, the Bilko show would be nothing." It was, of course, only natural that a delusional schlub like Maurice Gosfield would hit it off with a kindred spirit like Joe E. Ross.
As had been the case with Dave Starr, Joe E. was teaming with someone that could match him disgusting tit for appalling tat. Gosfield & Ross "concocted a stand-up routine that they could perform as a team ... based on their Bilko notoriety." The act consisted mostly of revamped material Ross had done with Dave Starr. Those routines were considered old fashioned on the vaudeville circuit, never mind the Teaserama era, so trotting them out once again was ill advised. "They were invited to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show," explains Everitt. "The act was a disaster. Ross, who had enough experience in nightclub comedy to know when he had dropped a bomb, shuffled sheepishly into the Bilko rehearsal hall the next morning, dreading the responses from the rest of the show's cast. Gosfield had not shown up yet. Instead, he phoned and asked to speak to his partner." One can picture the excited look on Gosfield's face when he intoned in that hazel voice of his, "Baby, we're the talk of the town!"
The Phil Silvers Show left the air for good in 1959, throwing Joe E. Ross out of the medium. Known as somewhat unreliable, very few television shows were interested in his services. He returned to full-time nightclub work. Comedian Woody Woodbury recalls seeing Ross in attendance at one of the legendary Rat Pack summits in Las Vegas. The two had worked together in the past. "I worked with him for the first time in my life in Jacksonville, Florida and he was on his uppers ... He went on the road, I guess just to survive ... I was working Vegas at the time and we went in to see [comedian] George Kirby, a wonderful guy. I was at a table with George Kirby and his wife Rosemary. We were there and The Rat Pack ... were performing. Joe E. Ross was in the audience and he's got a young girl with him ... Joe E. was very well recognized and the guys knew all about Joe E. Ross and his love for these young girls. Dean Martin found out that Joe E. Ross was in the audience. He invited him up on stage. While he's up onstage, and he's doing his old burlesque act from thirty years ago, they spirit the girl out of the audience. Finally they get Joe E. Ross off the stage and he goes back to where he was seated and he must have thought the girl was in the powder room or something. So he's waiting and waiting - the show is over. Room is emptying out and Joe is still sitting there. Waiting and waiting. Finally, Dean comes onstage and says, "Joe E! What're you doing!?" He shouts, "I'm waiting for my girl!" Dean says, "Joe, you were on stage so long - everyone had a shot at the girl!"
Ross was the "house comic" at Billy Gray's Band Box near Canter's Delicatessen in Los Angeles. Writer Mark Evanier explains, "Middle American audiences would show up, expecting to see [his lovable character] from the TV show. Instead, they'd get Ross doing his old dirty act ... and they'd all walk out in shock." Ross was a common sight at Canter's according to sandwich connoisseur Carol Bradshaw. "Sometimes Joe would come in with his shirt wide open and two women on either arm and other times he would be in there alone. He was quite the display. But a man of sweet character. He seemed to be there when I was there and so he would acknowledge me or I would say something to him. Finally, I was invited over to his table and he would tell me some stories about his time in burlesque ... He also talked about being around a lot of gangsters in his day ... about the intrigue of the underworld in Chicago, Miami, and NYC ... I don't think that he could read or write."
Nat Hiken was busy pitching a new sitcom to the networks. His concept about a Bronx police precinct that dealt solely with petty, mundane issues was well received by television executives. Car 54, Where Are You? premiered in September 1961. Nat Hiken originally cast rotund Jack Weston in the role of Officer Gunther Toody and veteran police portrayer Mickey Shaughnessey as his sidekick, but contract negotiations with both actors broke down. Hiken had not initially considered Ross as he had heard rumors of an errant ego. The quick success of Car 54, Where Are You? made matters much worse. "Like Maurice Gosfield before him," wrote Everitt, "Ross let celebrity go to his head, leading him to believe that Car 54 revolved around him, that the tail was actually wagging the dog. It did not take long for Nat to see how this development would transform the former stripclub comic. Stardom, as Ross understood it, meant not bothering to learn his lines ... believed that preparing for the scene was beneath him ... Ross would often turn nasty. He was fond of lording it over extras and other people at the lowest rungs of the production. If his on-screen spouse, Beatrice Pons, spent an extra moment primping for a scene or asked for another take, he might cry, 'Look, I'm the star of this show. You're wasting my time." As production of the show progressed, Nat Hiken's health deteriorated. Some chalked it up to the stress Joe E. Ross and his behavior caused. Hank Garrett concludes, "He's what caused Nat's heart attack."
Garrett remembers a cutting quip Hiken made while filming a scene that revolved around a masquerade party. A bevy of costumes were wheeled out and cast members were told to choose an outfit. "Someone asked, 'What is Joe E. going to be?' and Nat said, 'Well, if he changes his underwear, no one will recognize him." When the show became successful, several cast members decided to spend their massive earnings on tailored clothing. "A bunch of us came out to California," says Garrett. "Joe E. Ross went to [tailor to the stars] Sy Devore and got this beautiful suit. At that time they had barbers at Sy Devore's. They shaved him. They restyled his hair. Next day, Joe E. had to dress himself. So he had a pair of sneakers and this suit on and the button was in the wrong buttonhole and there was food stains all over it! And Sy Devore ran into him and said, 'Oh my God! Joe, give me back the suit. I'll give you back every penny that you paid for it.' Ross said, 'No, no! I love this suit!' Devore said, 'Then sell me the label. Please don't tell anyone it's a Sy Devore suit."
Actor Mickey Deems was always astounded at how profane Joe E. Ross could be.3 "We had visitors on the set quite often and it was nothing for Joe E. to use four-letter words in front of children." Ross also hurled verbal abused at Hiken. "Nat took it for around four weeks, four weeks of having to reason with him," said Deems. "Reasoning with an idiot is a little difficult." Hank Garrett remembers an especially embarrassing moment when the sponsor came by. "The clients. Top people from Proctor & Gamble came to see us. We were shooting at the old Biograph-Gold Medallion Studios in the Bronx ... and in came the big wigs. Our clients. They stopped at each one of our dressing rooms to talk to us, to meet us. They said this is Hank Garrett, he plays Nicholson and how do you do. There were old ladies and they were all decked out and their husbands all in black suits and ties. They went to Fred Gwynne and then Al Lewis ... then they went into Joe E. Ross's room and I heard ... screaming and people running down the halls. I said, 'Geez, what happened?' Joe E. was masturbating at the time."
Al Lewis remembered Hiken calling Joe E. Ross to his office. "He just tore the skin off of him ... He'd be screaming, 'I found you in the gutter, I work my ass off and I write until midnight and you don't remember a line. I'm going to throw you out.' Oh, it went on and on." Ross had become impossible. Hiken could no longer tolerate the atmosphere and handed the directorial duties to Al DeCaprio. Nat continued to write scripts, but stayed clear of the set. Eventually he decided to fire Joe E. and promote Al Lewis to co-star. However, when Hiken informed Ross of the news "Ross broke down and cried. Although furious ... Nat could not withstand this pathetic reaction. He relented and let Ross stay on. By doing so, he might have lost his chance at continuing the show with at least some peace of mind." Hookers continued to flow from his dressing room. "They were not simply young, his girls," says Garrett. "He was married eight times and they were all ex-hookers. The one I knew was eight. He introduced her as his dialogue coach."
Car 54, Where Are You? aired for the final time in September 1963. The cancellation did not bother Ross, as he much preferred doing stand-up. Ross was absent from television for almost four years despite some incongruous cameos on Art Linkletter's House Party, The Price is Right and Sing Along with Mitch. During this slow period Joe E. recorded an album of novelty numbers titled Love Songs From a Cop released on the Roulette label; a truly perfect match. Roulette was run by notorious gangster Morris Levy. Although they didn't specialize in comedy records,4 they had success with a pair of LPs starring comedian Bill Dana and his popular character Jose Jimenez. Far from being above board, the albums were conceived by racketeers. "Roulette. Morris Levy. They actually did [those albums] without my permission," explains Dana. "They just took [the audio] from airchecks of The Steve Allen Show ... It was a bone of contention and it got a little heavy. I was having these voices calling me saying it would be good for me to cooperate with them. It was like a scene from The Sopranos." The Joe E. Ross album contained original material, so it's unlikely that he was strong-armed into doing the record, but it's doubtful he ever got paid.
Ross returned to television in 1966 starring in the ill-fated It's About Time. Indicative of the sixties sitcom format, the premise had astronauts flying through a time vortex and crashing into the Cro-Magnon age. The concept was not considered ludicrous at a time when talking horses, martian uncles and suburban monster families were the television norm. The short-lived series was a rare failure for Gilligan's Island and Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz. "I did not know Ross before, but I knew his work because he was on Car 54," says Sherwood. "I created It's About Time and I was casting the show and he seemed like a logical choice to play a caveman. I interviewed several people and he got the part ... Imogene Coca played his wife." The twenty-six episode sitcom was plagued by problems. "The show was struggling," says Schwartz. For once Ross was not the main problem. Low-ratings and script trouble gave way to a total overhaul of the original concept. The first nineteen episodes took place in the stone age. When that bombed, the sitcom suddenly featured cave people bandying about urban areas, fighting modern amenities like dishwashers, vacuums and Volkswagens. Such a drastic change could have alienated an audience - had an audience ever existed. Mark Evanier notes another adjustment. "As you'll notice in the titles, Imogene Coca's cave lady character was originally named Shag. At some point, CBS Standards and Practices decided that was a naughty word... so the name was changed to Shad."
The dainty and charming Imogene Coca hated working with Ross. "I met Imogene Coca," says Evanier. "I asked her [about Ross]. She just blushed, muttered something about 'that awful man' and changed the subject." Sherwood Schwartz concludes that Coca's aversion was quite justifiable. "He was kind of a crude man, told it like it is... didn't beat around the bush. He had an annoying habit. They were wearing fur-leather [costumes] ... they gapped open in various places and sometimes he would just sit down and you could see his privates. She didn't think that was very nice."
After the merciful demise of It's About Time, Joe E. Ross once again paired up with a comedy partner. He was optimistic that this time his comedy team would enjoy some level of endurance. He had good reason to think it might. He was collaborating with one half of the most successful comedy team of the decade. Marty Allen and Steve Rossi had been America's most popular comedy duo for approximately five years. At their height they guested on every major television show, enjoyed a steady series of best-selling comedy records, and gained infamy appearing alongside The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. However, by the late sixties they were reeling from their disastrous spy film The Last of the Secret Agents and were quickly running out of gas. Marty Allen dissolved the partnership, claiming that he wanted to focus on serious acting roles. At the time both insisted it was an amicable parting, but today Rossi admits, "there was animosity." Two weeks after the final Allen & Rossi performance, straight man Steve Rossi found a new partner. "Just before [Allen & Rossi] broke up," Rossi explains, "Phil Foster saw Joe E. Ross and myself at Jerry's Deli. He said, 'Why don't you guys get together? You already have a [similar] appearance to Allen & Rossi.' [Joe E. Ross] said, 'Ooh! Ooh! That's a good idea."
October 31, 1968, Rossi & Ross announced their partnership. By December 15 they were already on The Ed Sullivan Show. They weren't ready. "Well, Ed was a dear friend of mine," says Rossi. "When I told him about Joe E. and me he said, 'Why don't you guys come on my show and I'll be the first person to present you as a new team.' As I recall, we got pretty good laughs, but Joe E.'s timing was off because he was very nervous and he kind of hesitated on a couple of punchlines. It wasn't the best performance I've ever had on the Sullivan show." Thus, the comedy team of Steve Rossi & Joe E. Ross was born. Stillborn.
The reported breakup of the new Steve Rossi - Joe E. Ross team that made its debut at the Holiday House here a few weeks ago does not come as much of a surprise to those who heard them. They were desperately "reaching" for security and a need for a complete overhaul of the new act was very evident. Ross has gone back to Hollywood as Rossi continues to look for a replacement for his long-time partner, Pittsburgh's Marty Allen.
- The Pittsburgh Press, January 7, 1969
Steve Rossi has found a new partner [Slappy White]. Once half of the team of Allen and Rossi, which was dissolved last October, the handsome singing Mr. Rossi turned up at the Holiday House only last month in tandem with Joe E. Ross in an act that almost everybody agreed didn't quite cut the mustard.
- The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 17, 1969
After their disastrous stint in Pittsburgh, Ross feigned exhaustion. "Joe E. used to drink quite a bit," remembers Rossi. "One day he came up to me and he said, 'Ooh! Ooh! Steve! You know I love working with you, but I'm having problems with my memory and my health. I think we should finish out our dates. No reflection on my friendship with you or what we've done together.' And I could understand that ... we used to do an hour and twenty minutes together. He just did the stuff he was absolutely sure of because his memory wasn't that good at that point ... he did have health issues. A lot of times he'd forget lines and stuff."
Ross continued to get work throughout the nineteen seventies, all of it on the showbiz fringe. He entered Fred Silverman's low-budget world of Saturday morning trash, providing voices on cartoons like The Hair Bear Bunch and Hong Kong Phooey. The adult-themed Wait Til Your Father Gets Home, Hanna Barbera's animated response to All in the Family, featured a cartoon Gunther Toody as the town's policeman. Both Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera had long been fans of Car 54, Where Are You? and had even forwarded a speculative script to Nat Hiken devised by one of their cartoon gag men, Ed Benedict. They were pleased to help provide Ross with some sustenance.
Joe E. Ross was one of the few white comedians to be pressed by the Laff Records label, an outfit that specialized in hosting many obscure African-American comedy performers. His early seventies comedy album, Should Lesbians Be Allowed to Play Pro-Football, features a tanned and bloated looking Ross on its cover, and the low-rent sounds of his introduction emanate a feeling of sadness.5 Ross showed up in a number of trashy exploitation films during the last half of the decade. Linda Lovelace for President (1975), Slumber Party '57 (1976), The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977) and Gas Pump Girls (1979) all featured a cameo from the comedian who, by now, was living through the lowest point of his career.
Joe E. Ross died in dramatic fashion in a tale that Sherwood Schwartz refers to as "The classic Hollywood story." It's also probably false, but who cares. Pat Cooper attributed the tale to a different comedian altogether and depending on who tells it, the secondary character is either a relative, an ex-wife, an agent, a hooker, or actor Chuck McCann. "His last show that he did," says Ronnie Schell, "he was offered a hundred dollars for two shows." Hank Garrett explains, "Joe E. was living in some housing complex and they had hired him to do a show. Horrendous. They were paying him a hundred dollars. Joe E. was working. Suddenly felt ill. Sat on the edge of the stage and keeled over. His widow went to collect the hundred dollars. They gave her fifty. They said, 'He never finished the show."
And so, in 1982, the life of Joe E. Ross ended mid-performance. In one final act of lowbrow humor, his tombstone was engraved with an entendre that cannot be disputed. It declares: "This man had a ball!"
The lovely rendering of Joe E. Ross at the very top of this article is from the book More Old Jewish Comedians by the inimitable Drew Friedman. Do yourself a favor and add some class to the walls of your home with a Friedman print or two.
1Almost all Joe E. Ross biographical information says that Nat Hiken saw Ross perform at "Miami's Club Ciro." In an e-mail correspondence with Woody Woodbury, a comedian that played Miami Beach for decades and has made Florida his home for sixty years, confirmed, "I never heard of a Club Ciro in Miami or on Miami Beach. I worked there for years and knew every high-end club, strip joint and saloon in Dade County."
2Dave Starr was marginal even in his heyday, but unlike Joe E. Ross, Starr made several appearances on the legitimate stage. May 1951 Dave Starr joined character actor Sid Melton in a New York production of George Bernard Shaw's Getting Married at the Anta Playhouse. By 1956 Starr was appearing in a stage show called The Hot Corner, which was a black-out comedy; a poor man's Hellzapoppin. The Chicago Tribune said, "Lively comedy has merits, but fails to gel. There are some fine crazy ideas in The Hot Corner and some delightfully lunatic characters in it.There are also two good scenes of door slamming. There is a funny character bit by Dave Starr as a peanut seller." Prolific actors Ned Glass and Sam Levene, who also directed, were co-stars. An unknown Hope Lange also joined the cast. That same year, Catskill comedian and Friar's Club spokesman Joey Adams sponsored a motion picture called Singing in the Dark. The film was barely distributed and played three movie houses in New York before disappearing forever. The independent film was partially bankrolled by Adams, but failed to gain distribution due to its subject matter. It wasn't until 1967 that the holocaust became a common topic in both popular culture and political discourse. Singing in the Dark revolved around "A holocaust survivor who suffers from total amnesia." One night while intoxicated, he starts singing and discovers he possesses a miraculous voice. He enters show business, but when he realizes he is the son of a great Cantor, he abandons nightclub life for quiet study in a synagogue. Dave Starr played a heavy named Larry, Joey Adams was nightclub manager Joey Napoleon, and Al Kelly, the hilarious king of double talk, also makes an appearance. The obscure picture is full of Jewish comedians in serious roles.
It is actually somewhat of a surprise that Hiken never enlisted Dave Starr for any of his projects, as he seems to have had all the qualities the comedy writer loved. B.S. Pully was another gravel voiced mug that was a contemporary of both Starr and Ross and known for a profane, aggressive stand-up act. Pully was used in Car 54, Where Are You? a number of times and had a memorable role in Hiken's final project; the Don Knotts film The Love God. B.S. Pulley even released a comedy LP on the same record label as Starr (as did Car 54 alumnus Nipsey Russell). It seems highly unlikely, to this writer anyway, that Hiken never encountered Starr, and equally as unlikely that he never considered casting him in one of his productions. It seems that something must have occurred that gave Hiken an aversion. Hank Garrett remembers Dave Starr hanging around a Manhattan coffee shop beside the legendary Brill Building, where he would chastise all the younger comics. "Yeah, Dave would come around. The youngsters. He would say, 'You guys don't know anything abut comedy. Jesus Christ.' We'd just sit there and listen to Dave expound. This was in New York City. We used to hang around a place called the B&G Coffee Shop. It was kind of the center for comics. We would all meet and lie to each other about how good we did the night before." Dave Starr went to England in 1959 and did a stint in a Panto version of Mother Goose. Surprise Records released his "Adults Only" comedy LP in 1960. Starr's gruff sounding street jokes are well-received by a raucous audience of obnoxious men and the recording is peppered with the slurs "faggot" and "japs." Starr was performing in an off-Broadway production of Fade Out - Fade In as late as 1964 and died, forgotten, in April of 1970.
3Car 54, Where Are You? used a laughtrack that differed from that of other shows. Rather than purchasing a tape of all-purpose laughter and inserting it, Hiken filmed the show in a closed studio and then screened it for a live audience. The live audience reaction was taped and then placed into the broadcast. Known as a "preview track," this method had been popular for some early television shows such as Amos n' Andy and Love That Bob, but the effect was an unsettling, otherworldly sound. In order to get the audience in a laughing mood, Hank Garrett would warm up the crowd with his successful Catskill brand of stand-up. However, the original warm-up man was Joe E. Ross. David Everitt wrote, "Ross had delivered some of the early warm-ups but, seeing no reason to alter his strip joint act, he had offended audiences with off-color material."
Songs My Mother Loved - Milton Berle (1959)
On Stage at Jack Silverman's International - Alan Gale (1960)
The Next One Will Kill You - Morey Amsterdam (1963)
At the Playboy Club - Don Sherman (1963)
Tapped Wires - Will Jordan (1963)
Race - Sandy Baron (1964)
Joey Adams and Sholum Secund - Joey Adams (1966)
Live from the Rat Fink Room - Jackie Kannon (1966)
The Detective - Don Adams (1966)
5Listen to the Joe E. Ross Laff Records comedy LP in its entirety, a classic of lo-fi lounge comedy, here.
The Nearer the Bone, The Sweeter the Meat - Dave Starr Comedy LP (1960, Surprise Records Corp)
King of of the Half Hour: Nat Hiken and the Golden Age of TV Comedy by David Everitt (2000, Syracuse University Press)
Mark Evanier, Newsfromme.com, June 16, 2007
Phil Silvers Appreciation Society - Joe E Ross
Stu's Show with guest Hank Garrett, September 1, 2010
Hank Garrett, Interview with author, May 17, 2010
Woody Woodbury, Interview with author, July 6, 2010
Norm Crosby, Interview with author, September 22, 2010
Ronnie Schell, Interview with author, November 5, 2010
Bill Dana, Interview with author, November 29, 2010
Sherwood Schwartz, Interview with author, January 24, 2011
Steve Rossi, Interview with author, January 27, 2011
Woody Woodbury, e-mail correspondence with author, January 27, 2011