Season 1

The Colgate Comedy Hour/The Comedy Hour
Season 1 - 1950-1951

With the show set to premiere on September 10, 1950, the producers settled on a host rotation of Eddie Cantor, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Fred Allen, and Bobby Clark. At one point, Groucho Marx was considered but eventually proved unavailable when he decided to go with a TV version of his radio show You Bet Your Life, instead.

Eddie Cantor and Martin and Lewis were natural television stars, who took to the new medium like ducks to water. The most durable of the hosts, Cantor starred in more episodes (38) than anyone else, while Martin and Lewis had the longest run (1950-1955).

Bobby Clark was essentially a place holder for Bob Hope, who was a big enough star by the early fifties that he could just waltz in whenever he was available and grab Clark's spot. The Clark and Hope episodes (as well as a couple hosted by Beatrice Lillie and one by Jackie Gleason) were sponsored by Frigidaire rather than Colgate and were called simply The Comedy Hour. (Nelson Case usually handled the Frigidaire commercials.) Clark's shows carried the sub-title Michael Todd's Revue, named for his producer Mike Todd. (Broadway impresario Todd was the former husband of actress Joan Blondell and would later wed Elizabeth Taylor. He helped develop the Todd-AO widescreen process.) In 1950, Hope hosted the show's Thanksgiving and Christmas episodes, as well as one the following April. Clark, arguably the weakest of the hosts, starred in only four episodes, completing his tenure on the show in February - well before the end of the season.

One of radio's biggest stars, Fred Allen didn't fare nearly as well on television. Citing health reasons, he decided to take a break after the December 17th broadcast. "According to a close associate of Mr. Allen," reported The New York Times, "the comedian's doctor has ordered him to take a rest of at least six or eight weeks, because of his blood pressure." But the star's health wasn't the only reason for the move. More humorist than slapstick comedian, Allen reportedly felt the show's format wasn't right for his talents. "It is understood," The Times continued, "that Fred might prefer a half-hour show, but not the revue-type he has been doing in the full-hour series."

The fact is, Allen didn't much care for TV, and said so repeatedly. "I haven't been able to relax on a television stage," he remarked, "with all those technicians wandering back and forth in front of me while I'm trying to tell a joke. They've been listening to me and the joke in rehearsals for two days, and by the time the performance rolls around, they're leaning on their cameras and staring at me with all the enthusiasm of a dead trout." On another occasion, he declared, "Television is a triumph of equipment over people and the minds that control it are so small that you could put them in the navel of a flea and still have enough room beside them for a vice-president's heart." Allen appeared on The Comedy Hour a few more times as a guest but never as host.

The departures of Clark and Allen left NBC and Colgate free to experiment, and they brought in a number of guest hosts, including Jerry Lester (of the late-night Broadway Open House), Spike Jones, Phil Silvers, and even Jackie Gleason. Veteran comedians Abbott & Costello hosted two episodes in the first season and proved so popular they were brought back as regulars the following year. The show also experimented with its format, airing Tickets Please! starring the Hartmans, the first Colgate Comedy Hour adaptation of a Broadway show. In later seasons, as the program struggled to hold on to its audience, such fare became more common.

Most episodes originated from the International Theater in New York, though a couple were broadcast from Chicago.


Host & Guests

Host: Eddie Cantor
Guests: Yma Sumac, Lew Hearn, Howard Smith, Jack Albertson, Fay McKenzie, Joseph Buloff, Danny Daniels, Lou Wills Jr., Robert Gari, Tommy Wonder, Val Buttignol and Joy Williams, Helen Wood, Janet Gaylord, Charlotte Fayne, Rudy Tone, Al Goodman and his Orchestra
Note: Eddie sings "This Is Broadway," "Now's the Time to Fall in Love," "Ain't She Sweet?," and "Waitin' for the Robert E. Lee." Yma Sumac sings "Hymn to the Sun." The day after this episode aired, Jack Gould of The New York Times reported that "Eddie acted as if he had been brought up in video. Relaxed and self-assured, he imbued the whole sixty-minute proceedings with a pep and zest characteristic of the best that can be seen on Broadway. Apparently there's nothing wrong with television that a real showman can't cure." Variety credited the star with "a finesse and sureness that automatically sparked the medium and paved the way for a whole new career for the comic." Cantor's guests were mostly Broadway stars from then-current productions. Robert Gari was his son-in-law.


Hosts: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis
Guests: Marilyn Maxwell, Leonard Barr, The Honeydreamers, J. C. McCord, Frank Gallop, William McCutcheon, Jean Carsons, Dick Stabile and his Orchestra
Note: New York Times critic Jack Gould called this episode "a marathon through bedlam," with hosts who were "a pair of mad zanies of the first rank." But he also warned, "N.B.C. wants to be careful it doesn't burn out the team of Martin and Lewis in just a show or two." Variety opined, "NBC and its well-heeled client are batting 1.000 in the competitive Sunday at 8 sweepstakes." Marilyn sings "I Love the Guy." Eccentric dancer Leonard Barr was Dean's uncle.
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Host: Fred Allen
Guests: Monte Woolley, Risė Stevens, ballerina Sono Osato, David Burns, Hugh Laing, Zachary Solov, Kenny Delmar, Minerva Pious, Parker Fennelly, Peter Donald, Al Goodman and his Orchestra
Note: The Times's Jack Gould found Allen's opening, where he lampoons television, his most successful of the evening. "He was dry, sharp and saucy," the critic wrote, "and, above all, gave his audience credit for being able to keep up with his witticisms without benefit of explanation." But Gould thought it was downhill from there, with Allen lacking conviction. Variety lamented the "lack of anything fresh or venturesome" and complained, "It was as though NBC were trying to mold Allen into a standard pattern."
Host: Bobby Clark
Guests: Joan Blondell, Sigmund Romberg
Note: The New York Times felt that Clark, "with a roll of his eyes conveys more meaning than Earl Wilson does in a couple of columns" and thought the host's "best number was the courtroom scene where a trial was conducted in front of television cameras. Here he had a chance to exercise his leer, fall around, beat people over the head, dash from stage left to stage right, and generally be Mr. Clark." Variety criticized producer Mike Todd for failing to understand "the vast gaps separating legit from TV in staging numbers." Guest Joan Blondell was Todd's ex-wife, having just divorced him on June 8th of that year. This episode was sponsored by Frigidaire.
Host: Eddie Cantor
Guests: Al Goodman and his Orchestra
Note: According to Jack Gould, Cantor demonstrated a firm grasp of what it takes to entertain a television audience. He, "in a matter of weeks seems to have learned more about the medium than most of the 'pioneers' have absorbed in several years." Variety observed, "The skeptics who opined that the comic was good for a TV one-shot and would find the going tough 'after the nostalgia is over' found themselves eating their words." Cantor does a "Maxi the Taxi" skit and uses the song "Dinah" for the final production number.
Hosts: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis
Guests: Kitty Kallen; The Skylarks; Mayor Ralph Villani of Newark, N.J.; Mayor Walter Sterling of Steubenville, Ohio, Dick Stabile and his Orchestra
Note: Variety called this "strictly bigtime comedy video" and felt it had "more punch and hilarity than their teeoff stanza." Newark and Steubenville were the home towns of Jerry and Dean, respectively.
Host: Fred Allen
Guests: Portland Hoffa; Ella Logan; Parker Fennelly; Peter Donald; dancers Anthony, Allyn and Hodges; comedians Mort and Art Havel
Note: Variety felt that this episode was an improvement over Allen's first one. "While the comedian's second attempt was spotty," the paper reported, "it reflected much more the unique personality and ad lib talents that were his forte as one of radio's top comics." Portland Hoffa was Allen's wife and long-time radio partner.
Host: Bobby Clark
Guests: Mel Allen, Frances Langford, tennis star Gussie Moran, jugglers The Peiro Brothers, comedians The Albins
Note: Clark does a comic version of Robert W. Service's poem "The Shooting of Dan McGrew." Bob Hope had originally been announced to host on this date, but due to his live tour of the Pacific, he postponed his Comedy Hour debut until November 26th. This episode was sponsored by Frigidaire.
Host: Eddie Cantor
Guests: Ida Cantor, Charlie Cantor, Robert Gari, Fred and Sledge, Lesli Scott, Bil and Cora Baird Marionettes, Al Goodman and his Orchestra
Note: Ida Cantor was Eddie's wife; Charlie Cantor was apparently unrelated. Eddie does another "Maxi the Taxi" skit. In the finale, he pays tribute to Al Jolson, who had passed away on October 23. Choreographer Dick Barstow fills in for an injured chorus boy.
Hosts: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis
Guest: Kitty Kallen, Leonard Barr, Sammy Petrillo, Joyce Randolph, dancers De May and Moore, The Skylarks, Dick Stabile and his Orchestra
Note: In a babysitting sketch, Jerry plays both a father and his baby son. When the two appear together, impersonator Sammy Petrillo plays the son. Joyce Randolph (Trixie on The Honeymooners) is the baby's mother. Martin and Lewis's former agent Howard Ross has a cameo in a dancing school skit. Kitty sings "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "Please Take Me Home." Variety raved about this show, reporting, "Zanies continue to prove that their antic style is as potent on video as it's been in theatres, cafes and films."
Host: Fred Allen
Guests: H. Allen Smith, Sheila Bond, Billy Tabbert
Host: Bob Hope
Guests: Marilyn Maxwell, Jimmy Wakely, The Taylor Maids, The High Hatters, Judy Kelly, Nelson Case, Les Brown and his Band of Renown
Note: This was Bob Hope's debut on the show. Based on his opening monologue, it's been widely reported that this was his third television show. But according to Vincent Terrace's Television Specials, Hope had already made three prior appearances as a TV host. (What Bob actually says is, "This is my third...I've had three shots on television." The first part of the sentence implies two prior shows [probably a slip of the tongue], while the second implies three.) The audience is made up entirely of servicemen, and the troupe is the one Hope took on his recent tour of Korea and the Pacific theater. This episode was sponsored by Frigidaire.
Host: Eddie Cantor
Guests: Joe Bushkin, Jack Albertson, Dick Van Patten, Connie Sawyer, June Keegan, dancers Les Zoris, acrobats The Amadis
Note: Pianist Bushkin accompanies Eddie on "Dust Off That Old Piano" and "Ballin' the Jack." The latter also does a "Maxi the Taxi" skit.
"Tickets Please!"
Stars: The Hartmans (Paul and Grace), Jack Albertson, Tommy Wonder, Dorothy Jarnac, Patricia Bright, Bill Norvas, The Upstarts, Mildred Hughes, Warde Donovan
Note: With Martin and Lewis in Hollywood shooting That's My Boy, this production was substituted in their place. It was the first Broadway musical adapted for television by The Colgate Comedy Hour. "On the Rialto boards," wrote Jack Gould of The Times, "Tickets Please! was an amusing evening, if not exactly an uproarious one. On television, the Hartmans still have many delightful moments, but the show as a whole was slowed down a good deal, perhaps in part because the cameras seemed so confining in comparison to the broader perspective enjoyed at the theatre."

Host: Fred Allen
Guest: Doc Rockwell, opera singer Eileen Farrell, acrobats The Christianis, Minerva Pious, Kenny Delmar, Peter Donald, Parker Fennelly, Al Goodman and his Orchestra
Note: This was Fred Allen's last appearance as host, though he did show up a few subsequent times as a guest. Eileen Farrell sings "Un Bel Di" from Madame Butterfly. "Allen himself evidently tried hard," reported Variety, "but seldom could he overcome his weak material."

Host: Bob Hope
Guest: Eleanor Roosevelt, Lily Pons, Robert Cummings, dancer Betty Bruce, harpist Robert Maxwell, B. S. Pully, Jerry Bergen, Boys' Choir from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Mayor Vincent Impellitteri of New York City, Charles Sandford and his Orchestra
Note: Charles Boyer was to have been a guest star but is not mentioned in the Variety review. Lily sings the "Bell Song" from Lakme while Eleanor Roosevelt offers a Yuletime message of peace and goodwill. This episode was sponsored by Frigidaire.
Host: Eddie Cantor
Guests: Danny Thomas, Ed Wynn, Sigmund Romberg
Hosts: Bud Abbott and Lou Costello
Guests: Evelyn Knight, Hal Le Roy, Paul Remos and his Toy Boys, Jimmy Ford Four, Art and Mort Havel, Patricia Shea, Valerie de Cadenet, Al Goodman and his Orchestra
Note: Martin & Lewis were still in Hollywood making That's My Boy, so Abbott & Costello filled in. This episode, not only A&C's first for The Comedy Hour but their first TV appearance ever, includes the team's famous "hot dog and mustard" routine. Gould of The Times observed, "As is not unusual with television debuts, both Mr. Costello and Mr. Abbott seemed a little ill at ease on stage and far from relaxed," and noted, "their medium was much newer than their material." Despite Gould's reservations, the boys are in fine form, and the audience roars with laughter.
Host: Jerry Lester
Guests: Joan Bennett; Fred Allen; Pat O'Brien; Kukla, Fran & Ollie; the cast of Broadway Open House: Dagmar, David Street, The Mello-Larks, Milton DeLugg, Wayne Howell, Jack Adrian
Note: Lester was host of Broadway Open House, a late-night comedy/variety/talk show, and NBC decided to give him and his cast a shot at prime time. The Times's Gould considered the experiment "a mistake. The informality and private jokes which may go well with an audience at 11 o'clock were flat and meaningless for viewers who tune in at 8 for entertainment." Lester never returned toThe Comedy Hour.
Host: Bobby Clark
Guests: Julie Wilson; Willie, West and McGinty; acrobats The Maxwells; dancers Bobby Lane and Claire; Jack Mann; Dick Dana; Miriam Wakefield, Tom Jones and his Orchestra
Note: According to Variety, "If ever a television program showed the need for better writing, it was the Bobby Clark stanza on NBC's Comedy Hour Sunday night. Comic...was so weighted down with antique material and skits...that neither he nor the show had a chance." This episode was sponsored by Frigidaire.
Host: Eddie Cantor
Guests: Basil O'Connor, Estelle Sloan, Dave Powell, Lee Fairfax, Joe Marks
Note: Variety blamed "weak scripting" for a "generally uninspired stanza" - Cantor's first bad review from the trade paper. The finale features radio-TV editor Jack O'Brian of the New York Journal-American presenting Eddie with the Hearst press award to The Colgate Comedy Hour for "best comedy hour" on TV.
Hosts: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis
Guests: Polly Bergen, Bob Fosse and Mary Ann Niles, Dick Stabile and his Orchestra
Note: This was Martin and Lewis's first Colgate appearance in nearly three months, following a stay in Hollywood to make That's My Boy. Big band trumpet sideman Mickey Bloom can be seen (and heard) in a hilarious sequence depicting how Dean and Jerry got their start in show biz.
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Host: Spike Jones
Guests: The City Slickers featuring Doodles Weaver, George Rock, Sir Frederick Gas, Freddy and Dick Morgan, Bill King, The Wayne Marlin Trio, Lois Ray; also singer Gale Robbins, "belly bouncer" Laverne Pearson, and a cameo by Today's Dave Garroway
Announcer: Mike Wallace
Note: This was the first TV appearance of Jones and his band of zanies, and they make the most of it, with warped renditions of such famous hits as "Laura," "Glow Worm," "Chloe," and "Cocktails for Two." The show originated from Chicago.
Host: Bobby Clark
Guests: Basil Rathbone, Sarah Churchill, Walter Abel, Mary Boland, Fran Warren, Danny Scholl, Nelson Case
Note: The entire hour is devoted to an adaptation of Moliere's Would-Be Gentleman, in which Bobby Clark appeared on Broadway in 1946. This was Clark's last appearance on the show. The episode was sponsored by Frigidaire.
Host: Eddie Cantor
Guests: Lena Horne, Jack Albertson, Charlie Cantor,
Bil and Cora Baird Marionettes, dancers Landre and Verna, Phil Kramer, Marcia Walter, Al Goodman and his Orchestra
Note: Eddie does a "Maxi the Taxi" skit, and he and Charlie Cantor appear in drag as a couple of housewives. Lena sings "Where or When" and "Deed I Do." According to Variety, she wore "a gown cut so low that it was probably a good thing she didn't bend over for her bows."
Host: Tony Martin
Guests: Milton Berle, The Andrews Sisters, Leonard Sues
Note: Tony sings "La Vie en Rose," "Lullaby of Broadway," "There's No Tomorrow," and "Louise." The Andrews Sisters perform a medley of their hits. Trumpeter/actor Leonard Sues was a replacement for ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson.
Hosts: Bud Abbott and Lou Costello
Guests: Opera star Jarmila Novotna; Lon Chaney Jr.; Sid Fields; Jesse, James & Carnell; Ann Thomas; Milton Frome; Gregg Sherwood; Al Goodman and his Orchestra
Note: Bud and Lou do their famous "Who's on First?" routine, and Lon Chaney Jr. appears twice as Frankenstein's monster, first in a haunted house sketch and then in an opera spoof entitled "Don Juan Costello."
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Host: Beatrice Lillie
Guests: Rex Harrison, Jean Sablon, Valerie Bettis, Wally Cox, Nelson Case
Note: Bea and Rex do a comedic turn on "Hamlet." This episode was sponsored by Frigidaire.
Host: Eddie Cantor
Guests: Jimmy Durante, Eddie Jackson, Al Goodman and his Orchestra
Note: Guest Durante would go on to become a Comedy Hour host himself. Eddie Jackson was his long-time partner from their vaudeville days. This episode pays tribute to the USO and includes a filmed speech by Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall. Variety called it "a genuine tour-de-force" for Cantor and hailed it as evidence of the star's position "on top of the heap."
Host: Eddie Cantor
Guests: Eddie Fisher, soprano Evelyn Gould, Joel Grey, William Warfield, dancers Gehrig and Weismuller, lip synchers Tony and Eddy, violinist Michell Auclair
Note: Eddie presents this showcase of young talent, some of whom (particularly Joel Grey) went on to real success. Eddie Fisher, already a big star, was due to join the Army the following week.
Host: Bob Hope
Guests: Rex Harrison, Lilli Palmer, Janis Paige, Arthur Treacher, Frank "Sugar Chile" Robinson, and small bits by Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Tex and Jinx McCrary, Frank Sinatra, Eddie Cantor, Ed Wynn, Jimmy Durante, Faye Emerson, Ken Murray, and Toots Shor
Note: The premise of this show's finale was that the "surprise" guest stars were dropping by to wish Bob well on his upcoming engagement at a London venue. But most of them appeared with him soon after at a Cancer Fund benefit at the Paramount Theater on Broadway. This episode was sponsored by Frigidaire.
Host: Tony Martin
Guests: Fred Allen, Celeste Holm, ballerina Kathryn Lee, clarinetist Peanuts Hucko, Richard Loo, Lynn Loring, Art & Mort Havel, Joe Silver, Al Goodman and his Orchestra
Note: Tony sings "For Every Man There's a Woman," "You," and "If." Fred revives his characterization of Chinese detective One Long Pan.
Host: Eddie Cantor
Guests: Anne Jeffreys, Charlie Cantor, Robert Gari, dancers Gehrig and Weismuller, dancers Hal Loman and Joan Field
Note: Eddie and Anne do a scene from The Taming of the Shrew, Eddie plays "Maxi the Taxi," and Eddie and Charlie once again appear in drag.
Hosts: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis
Guests: Helen O'Connell, Bob Fosse & Mary Ann Niles, Ladd Lyon, Dick Stabile and his Orchestra
Announcer: Mike Wallace
Note: Once again, Variety raved about the two hosts. "Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis have probably reached the topmost level of their development. At this point, it's probable that this team can do no wrong. Call them the funniest twosome extant and you can't be far wrong." Dean sings "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now." This episode originated from Chicago, where Martin and Lewis and guest star Helen O'Connell were appearing at the Chez Paree. It was the duo's first Colgate Comedy Hour since February 4th, following a Hollywood sojourn to film The Stooge.
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Host: Phil Silvers
Guests: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Vivian Blaine, Joey Faye, Al Goodman and his Orchestra
Note: Vivian sings "What Is This Thing Called Love?" and duets with Phil on "When You And I Were Young Maggie Blues." Jackie Gleason was announced as host this week, but his appearance was postponed until June 10th.
Host: Beatrice Lillie
Guests: Victor Moore, Dick Haymes, Wally Cox, Harold Lang and Helen Gallagher
Note: Dick sings "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "Without a Song." This episode was sponsored by Frigidaire.
Hosts: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis
Guests: Jane Morgan, Bob Fosse & Mary Ann Niles, Dick Stabile and his Orchestra; cameo by Eddie Cantor
Note: There's been some confusion about this episode's guest star. The Jane Morgan who appears here is a singer (born 1920), not the actress (1890-1972) who played Eve Arden's landlady on Our Miss Brooks. The former's biggest hit was "Fascination" in 1957.
Host: Eddie Cantor
Guests: Connie Haines, Charlie Cantor, Joel Grey, Herbert Coleman, Monsieur Crayone, Lou Wills Jr., Joe Silver; cameo by Eddie Fisher (now a private in the Army)
Note: Eddie does his "Maxi the Taxi" bit, and he and Charlie appear in drag.
Hosts: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis
Guests: The DeMarco Sisters, The Johnny Conrad Dancers, Sonny King, Tommy Farrell, Danny Arnold, Rosette Shaw, Dick Stabile and his Orchestra; cameo by Tony Curtis
Note: Dean sings "Too Young" and "Isle of Capri," and The DeMarco Sisters sing "I'm Late."
Host: Jackie Gleason
Guests: Fred Allen, Joan Carroll, Vivian Blaine
Note: Variety considered this show "a disappointment" and felt "the pedestrian scripting left much to be desired." The sponsor was Frigidaire.
Host: Eddie Cantor
Guests: Milton Berle, Jack E. Leonard, Phil Foster, Dagmar, Junie Keegan; also Eddie's wife Ida and daughter Marilyn and Uncle Miltie's daughter Vicki
Note: This episode features a 10-minute tribute to Irving Berlin and a "Maxi the Taxi" skit with Eddie and Phil Foster.

Hosts: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis
Guest: Janis Paige, The Johnny Conrad Dancers, Danny Arnold, Dick Stabile and his Orchestra; cameo by Tony Martin and Joe Louis
Note: Janis sings "Those Old Phonograph Records."

      Replaced for the summer by American Inventory and Recital Hall