Ernie KovacsActor / Comedian
Born: 23 January 1919
Died: 12 January 1962 (automobile crash)
Birthplace: Trenton, New Jersey
Best known as: Zany 1950s TV comedian
Ernie Kovacs was an innovative and absurdist TV comedian of the 1950s. In a series of local and national shows and specials, Kovacs introduced zany comic characters like the Nairobi Trio (three mechanical musicians in ape masks and derby hats) and the lisping poet Percy Dovetonsils. Playful and often surreal, Kovacs was loved by critics but not-so-loved by the audiences of his day -- none of his individual shows stayed on the air for more than a year. The two best-known versions of The Ernie Kovacs Show ran from 1952-53 (on CBS) and from 1955-56 (on NBC). He is now regarded as a TV comedy pioneer who inspired offbeat comedians like Steve Martin and David Letterman. Kovacs also had a short film career, playing a corrupt policeman in the spy spoof Our Man in Havana and a gold rush con man opposite John Wayne in North to Alaska (both in 1960). He was killed in a 1962 car crash in Los Angeles.
Extra credit: Kovacs's cigar was a trademark prop, and he did a series of creative commercials for Dutch Masters cigar company... Kovacs was married twice, the second time to Edie Adams, a singer and actress who appeared on his show... Kovacs was played by actor Jeff Goldblum in the 1984 TV movie Between the Laughter... Kovacs was killed while driving a Corvair, the car featured in Ralph Nader's 1965 critique of the auto industry, Unsafe At Any Speed.
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