Famous Comedians and Comediennes Graves
Bob Hope. Comedian, Actor, Entertainer. Legendary comic performer whose career spanned from the 1930s to the 1990s. One of the most beloved in American History, he has earned over 2,000 awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2 honorary Oscars, 2 Emmys, the National Medal of Arts (received from President Bill Clinton), 58 honorary degrees, and was knighted (honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II. He has four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, more than any other actor. He was famous for his USO Shows, where he entertained United States troops in every major conflict from World War II to the 1991 Gulf War. For his long career and efforts, he had been awarded a total of 5 special Academy Awards. He was named an honorary veteran of World War II by an act of Congress in 1997. He is the holder of two Guinness Book of Records: Most Honored Entertainer, and Entertainer with the longest running contract with a single network (NBC – 61 years). His signature song “Thanks for the Memories” was first sung in the film “The Big Broadcast of 1938” (1938). Born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham, near London, England, he was the fifth of seven sons born to William Henry Hope and Avis Townes Hope. His English father was a stonemason, and his Welsh mother was an aspiring concert singer. In March 1908, he immigrated with his parents to Cleveland, Ohio. He reportedly changed his name to Bob, when his early classmates teased him over his first name. He became a United States citizen in 1920 and, after a variety of jobs, including boxer (under the name Packy East), dancer, and comedian on vaudeville, he worked for a while on Broadway, and made a number of comedy shorts in New York during the early 1930s. He starred on the radio show “The Pepsodent Show” in 1938, and made his first feature film debut that year, “The Big Broadcast of 1938” in which he and Shirley Ross sang “Thanks for the Memories,” a tune that would become his signature theme song. He continued making films all through his career, but some became notable in the public’s memory, including a series of “Road” films, starting with the “Road to Singapore” (1940) with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, which became a hit. Several additional “road” films were made, including “Road to Zanzibar” (1941), “Road to Morocco” (1942), “Road to Utopia” (1945), “Road to Rio” (1947), “Road to Bali” (1952), and “Road to Hong Kong” (1962). He tried writing films, but stopped at his first, “Paris Holiday” (1958), and produced four films, two in the late 1950s and two in 1976. Although continuing to make movies, Hope began a television career in 1950, with his first special, a run that would go for the next 40 years. He has worked in films and on TV with many of the industry greats, including Bing Crosby, Paulette Goddard, Dorothy Lamour, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante, George Burns, Jackie Gleason, and even had a cameo on “Spies Like Us” (1985), with Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase. Beginning in May 1941, Hope became involved with the United Services Organization (USO), and organized entertainment to the troops during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War, giving it up only in 2001. He even organized entertainment for the troops between the wars, and served as the USO Entertainment Coordinator from 1941 until 2001, finally relinquishing his position to Wayne Newton.
John Belushi. Actor. Comedian. Born John Adam Belushi in Chicago to Albanian immigrant parents. As a boy, his family moved to Wheaton, where John played on the high school football team and was homecoming king. He attended the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater where he co-founded an acting troupe. Belushi then auditioned for and won a spot with Chicago’s famous Second City ensemble. In 1973 John moved to New York City and landed a role off-Broadway in National Lampoon’s “Lemmings”. The part led to a job as a writer for the syndicated National Lampoon’s Radio Hour. In 1975 a new skit comedy program was being cast and John won a spot with an audition featuring his soon to be familiar Samurai character as a pool hustler. John formed a partnership with fellow cast mate Dan Aykroyd and together they introduced the Blues Brothers with a rendition of “Hey Bartender” in the spring of 1978 on SNL and followed it with the released of an album; “Briefcase Full of Blues”. That same year saw the release of “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and John became a huge star. John continued as a member of SNL until September of 1979. He and Aykroyd then threw themselves into the creation of “The Blues Brothers”. Released in 1980, it set a record for the most cars crashed in one movie and sparked a renewed interest in the blues. John partnered with Aykroyd again in 1981’s “Neighbors” and, in a departure from his usual persona, played the romantic lead in the comedy “Continental Divide”. Unfortunately, with his fame apparently came a cocaine addiction. John became known as a hard core party man. His last days were spent in West Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont Hotel, with similar hard core users. Witnesses said that on March 5, 1982, John mainlined a cocktail of heroin and cocaine called a speed ball. The overdose caused a complete respiratory failure and killed him. On
Stan Laurel. Comedian. He found his greatest success when paired with Oliver Hardy. Born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston, England, the second of five children. His father, A. J. Jefferson managed a number of vaudeville theaters, and his mother was an actress. He lived with his grandparents until age six, then moved in with his parents to begin his education. Young Laurel liked theater so much that he set up a small stage in his parent’s attic, and used the neighborhood children as actors. He went to school in Glasgow, where he finished his formal education, and went to work in the Metropole Theater, which his father owned. His father encouraged him to get into theater management, but at age 16, he decided to try acting. In 1907, he joined a traveling group of actors as a bit player, becoming the understudy of the group’s star performer, actor Charlie Chaplin. When the group broke up, he went into vaudeville, and in 1917, he won a small bit role in the Hollywood film, “Nuts in May” (1917), deciding to stay in the United States.
Chris Farley. Actor, Comedian. Known for his loud, energetic comedic style, he was a cast member of the NBC sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live” between 1990 and 1995.
Minnie Pearl. Country Music Commedienne/Icon. Her first performance onstage as Minnie Pearl was in 1939 in Aiken, South Carolina, but it was her introduction to the audience of the world famous Grand Ole Opry in 1940 at age 28 that catapulted her to stardom through live performances, radio and eventually television. For over 50 years, she entertained the music world with Minnie’s tales of her fictional hometown, Grinders Switch, Tennessee, stepping onstage proclaiming “Howdeee! I’m just so proud to be here” in her straw hat adorned with flowers and a $1.98 price tag. In reality, she was known as a gracious lady of refinement, hospitality and down to earth charm, living down the street from the Tennessee Governors Mansion and known as a competitive tennis player at the local country club.
Bernie Mac. Comedian, Actor. Born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough, he began his career as a stand up comic in Chicago’s Cotton Pickin’ Club and in 1990, he won the Miller Lite Comedy Search at age 32. As a popular comedian, he toured the country appearing on late night TV and hosted the HBO talk show “Midnight Mac”. In 2001, Fox Television Network gave him his own sitcom, “The Bernie Mac Show” which he received two Emmy nominations for Best Actor in a Comedy Series, in 2002 and 2003. His many feature film credits include Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003), Mr. 3000 (2004), Ocean’s Twelve (2004), Guess Who (2005) and Ocean’s Thirteen (2007).
Ralphie May. Comedian. Born Ralph Duren May in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he grew up in Clarksville Arkansas, where at age 17, he won a contest that awarded him the opening act for comic Sam Kinison. In 2003, he rose to fame after finishing in second place for the first season of the television contest, “Last Comic Standing.” He then made appearances on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “The Wayne Brady Show.” Known for his size and his disdain for political correctness, in 2005, he released a comedy album, “Just Correct,” then progressed to starring in his own specials on the Comedy Central network, “Girth of a Nation” (2006), “Prime Cut” (2007), “Austin-tatious” (2008), and “Too Big to Ignore” (2012). In 2011, he was hospitalized with a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. After his release from hospital, he toured almost constantly, and recorded two more specials for Netflix in 2015, “Unruly” and “Imperfectly Yours.” In 2017, he took a residency at Harrah’s Las Vegas where in October, he won Casino Comedian of the Year at the Global Gaming Expo. He was ill at the time, however, having battled pneumonia for over a month, and had canceled several dates for his “Unruly” stand-up tour. Two days later, he suffered heart failure and succumbed at age 45.
Tiny Tim. Entertainer. Born Herbert Buckingham Khaury to a Lebanese father and a Jewish mother he became famous for his ukulele playing and falsetto voiced singing. A native of New York City the high school dropout began singing in clubs and participating in talent shows hoping to be discovered. He used several stage names before deciding on “Tiny Tim” which was based on the character in Charles Dickens‘ “Christmas Carol”. His big break came when he was asked to appear on the American variety show, “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In”. The public was enthralled with his unique act and soon he appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson as well as the “Ed Sullivan Show” and the ” Jackie Gleason Show”. In 1968 he released his first album, “God Bless Tiny Tim” which included is biggest hit “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”. The following year he released two more albums including a popular children’s album. 1969 was also the year he married his first wife, a seventeen year old known as “Miss Vickie. They were married on “The Tonight Show”. The marriage ended in divorce but they did have a daughter together named Tulip. By the 1970s his popularity was declining. He did perform some in Las Vegas and even joined a circus for awhile but he never reached the popularity that he enjoyed in the 1960’s. During the 1990s he was making a nostalgic comeback with appearances on the Conan O’Brien and Howard Stern shows. However, in 1996 he suffered a heart attack while performing at the Ukulele Hall of Fame. He continued to tour after that incident and suffered another heart attack a few months later that proved to be fatal. The eccentric entertainer was buried with a ukulele in his hand and a tulip.