|Sheldon "Shelley" Berman|
February 3, 1925 – September 1, 2017
Friday, September 01, 2017
As a culture I see us as presently deprived of subtleties. The music is loud, the anger is elevated, sex seems lacking in sweetness and privacy.
Shelley Berman died from Alzheimer's disease in the early this morning. He was 92 years old. When I was a kid I used to listen to my dad's copy of Inside Shelley Berman. When ever I would fly, Shelley Berman was always part of the in flight entertainment. My wife Donna Allen-Figueroa has a personal story about Mr. Berman that I will share later.
Berman was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Irene (née Marks) and Nathan Berman. His acting career began with an acting company in Woodstock, Illinois. Leaving Woodstock in 1949, Shelley and his wife Sarah made their way to New York City. However, acting jobs were scarce. To make ends meet, Shelley found employment as a social director, cab driver, speech teacher, assistant manager of a drug store, and a dance instructor at Arthur Murray Dance Studios. Eventually, Berman found work as a sketch writer for The Steve Allen Plymouth Show.
Berman started as a straight actor, receiving his training at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, honing his acting skills in stock companies in and around Chicago and New York City. In the mid-1950s, he became a member of Chicago's Compass Players, which later evolved into The Second City. While performing improvised sketches with Compass, Berman began developing solo pieces, often employing an imaginary telephone to take the place of an onstage partner.
In 1957, Berman landed his first job as a comedian at Mister Kelly's in Chicago, which led to other nightclub bookings, and a recording contract with Verve Records. His comedy albums earned him three gold records and he won the first Grammy Award for a non-musical recording. He was the first standup comedian to perform at Carnegie Hall. Berman would go on to appear on numerous television specials and all of the major variety shows of the day.
He starred on Broadway in A Family Affair and continued with stage work in The Odd Couple, Damn Yankees, Where's Charley?, Fiddler on the Roof, Two by Two, I'm Not Rappaport, La Cage aux Folles, Prisoner of Second Avenue and Guys & Dolls.
Berman's voice was used as the inspiration for the voice of Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Fibber Fox, as done by Daws Butler.
Berman's success as a comedian enabled him to continue with his first love - acting.
In 1962, he portrayed the role of Mendel Sorkin in the episode, "The Peddler", on CBS's Rawhide. Comedic and dramatic acting roles on television began to come his way, including appearances on episodes of The Twilight Zone (both radio and TV versions), Bewitched, Peter Gunn, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Adam-12, Emergency!, Brothers, Night Court, MacGyver, L.A. Law, Friends, Walker, Texas Ranger, The King of Queens, Grey's Anatomy, Boston Legal, Hannah Montana, CSI: NY and Hawaii Five-0. He also had a recurring role on the short-lived sitcom Walter & Emily.
From 2002 to 2009, Berman appeared as Larry David's aged father on Curb Your Enthusiasm, a role for which he received a 2008 Emmy Award nomination.
Among Berman's film credits are Dementia (1955, with Shorty Rogers), The Best Man (1964, with Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson), Divorce American Style (1967, with Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds), Every Home Should Have One (1970, with Marty Feldman), Beware! The Blob (1972, with Robert Walker Jr.), Rented Lips (1988, with Martin Mull and Robert Downey Jr.), Teen Witch (1989, with Robyn Lively and Zelda Rubinstein), The Last Producer (2000, with Burt Reynolds), Meet the Fockers (2004, with Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller), The Holiday (2006, with Cameron Diaz), and You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008, with Adam Sandler).