Image of George Kirby

George Kirby

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. George Kirby (June 8, 1923 – September 30, 1995) was an American comedian, singer, and actor from Chicago, Illinois. Kirby broke into show business in the 1940s at the Club DeLisa, a South Side establishment that employed a variety-show format and preferred to hire local singers, dancers, and comedians. His first recording was as a stand-up blues singer, performing "Ice Man Blues" on a Tom Archia session done in 1947 for Aristocrat Records. He was one of the first African-American comedians to begin to appeal to white as well as black audiences during the height of the Civil Rights era, appearing between 1966 and 1972 on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He was an excellent impressionist — targeting, somewhat scandalously for the time, many white actors such as John Wayne and Walter Brennan rather than solely black stars such as Bill Cosby and Pearl Bailey — and, for a man of his ample girth, an unexpectedly agile dancer. He also did vocal impressions of such singers as Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. In 1970, he was allowed to produce a television special, The George Kirby Show, to gauge whether he could attract an audience for a weekly series. This led to his hosting a sketch comedy and variety show, Half the George Kirby Comedy Hour, which lasted for 22 episodes in 1972; it was also one of the actor-comedian Steve Martin's first credits in front of the camera. The series was in many ways an uneasy compromise between Kirby's natural gifts and what the public would accept of black actors at the time; a regular feature was a shaggy dog story segment entitled the "Funky Fable". He was also a regular in the British-produced ABC Comedy Hour series The Kopycats, alongside such other impressionists as Rich Little, Charlie Callas, Marilyn Michaels, and Frank Gorshin. Following the demise of his show, Kirby's career declined, especially as audiences began to look for more cutting-edge comedy. He had been an occasional drug addict; now, to make up for lost income, he took to selling drugs. In 1977 he sold heroin to an undercover cop; he plea bargained to a ten year prison term and was released after 42 months. His career never again reached its former heights, but he did register featured guest appearances on Gimme a Break with Nell Carter, Crazy Like a Fox, and 227. He then took ill with what was later diagnosed as Parkinson's Disease. He was well-loved enough within the comedy community that friends and admirers formed the "Friends of George Kirby", which performed an all-star tribute to him in 1995 to help pay his mounting medical bills, only a few months before he died. Description above from the Wikipedia article George Kirby, licensed under CC-BY-SA, full list of contributors on Wikipedia.

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Jun 8, 1923 In Chicago, Illinois, USA
Movie/TV Credits:
First Appeared:
In the movie Cynara 1932-12-24
Latest Project:
Series Baby Talk 1991-03-08
Known For
Poster of 227
Poster of Murder, She Wrote
Poster of Fame
Poster of The ABC Comedy Hour
Series Baby Talk Unknown 1991-03-08
Series 227 Unknown 1985-09-14
Movie Puss in Boots King 1985-09-09
Movie Trouble in Mind Lieutenant Gunther 1985-12-11
Series Murder, She Wrote Eubie Sherwin 1984-09-30
Series Crazy like a Fox Unknown 1984-12-30
Movie Sunset Limousine Elmer 1983-10-12
Series Fame Unknown 1982-01-07
Series Faerie Tale Theatre King Fortuitous 1982-09-11
Series Gimme a Break! Unknown 1981-10-29
Movie On Location with George Kirby Self 1978-01-01
Movie Joys Unknown 1976-03-05
Movie Saga of Sonora Bartender 1973-05-03
Series The ABC Comedy Hour 1972-01-12
Movie The Special London Bridge Special Kirk Douglas Impressionist 1972-01-01
Movie The Temptations Show Himself 1969-07-10
Series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Unknown 1968-01-22
Movie Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad Moses 1967-02-15
Movie A Man Called Adam Party Guest (uncredited) 1966-03-16
Series ABC Stage 67 Unknown 1966-09-14
Series Kraft Music Hall Self 1958-10-08
Series The Ed Sullivan Show Unknown 1948-06-20
Movie Frenchman's Creek Dr. Williams (uncredited) 1944-09-20
Movie The White Cliffs of Dover Old Man (uncredited) 1944-05-11
Movie Make Your Own Bed Man in Waiting Room (uncredited) 1944-06-10
Movie Forever and a Day Wartime Newspaper Vendor 1943-01-21
Movie Action in the North Atlantic Pilot Johnson (uncredited) 1943-06-12
Movie A Guy Named Joe Fisherman (uncredited) 1943-12-24
Movie The Constant Nymph Moving Man (uncredited) 1943-06-23
Movie His Butler's Sister Fat Man (uncredited) 1943-11-26
Movie Raffles Villager (uncredited) 1939-11-11
Movie We Are Not Alone Bailiff (uncredited) 1939-11-25
Movie Marie Antoinette Priest (uncredited) 1938-08-26
Movie Cynara Mr. Boots 1932-12-24