Thursday, August 21, 2014
If you're old enough to remember the TV series Welcome Back, Kotter, which ran from 1975 to 1979, you're old enough to remember the comedy of Gabe Kaplan. After the show's run ended, he became a professional poker player. Now, at 69, he's doing stand-up comedy again.
Kaplan started out as a bellman at a hotel in Lakewood, New Jersey. Touring comedians would sometimes perform at the hotel, and Kaplan began to work toward his own career as a stand-up comedian. Gabe honed his standup routine in 1964 in places such as the Cafe Tel Aviv at 250 West 72nd Street, New York City.
Kaplan's comedy was successful, and he toured the country with his act based on his childhood experiences in Brooklyn. He appeared five times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from May 1973 to December 1974. During this period he also recorded the comedy album Holes and Mello-Rolls, which included long routines about his high-school days, among other topics; the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, whose central characters he helped Eric Cohen and Alan Sacks create and whose core format he helped them to develop, was in part based on his comedy act.
In the sitcom, Kaplan played Gabe Kotter, who returns as a teacher to the dysfunctional high school where he had himself been a student. The series ran from 1975 to 1979.
Here's a video clip fro 1976 showing Kaplan doing stand-up comedy with a pretty good imitation of Ed Sullivan, parodying the way Sullivan always had something on his TV show for every ethnic group, including Jews.
(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS. YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)