Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Dick Shawn was born Richard Schulefand in Buffalo, New York and raised in adjacent Lackawanna.
The best remembered roles of his career are the hot-headed Sylvester Marcus, son of Mrs. Marcus (Ethel Merman), in Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and easygoing Lorenzo St. DuBois/Adolf Hitler in the musical Springtime for Hitler, the play within Mel Brooks's movie The Producers (1968).
He had continued success with his stand-up comedy act that he successfully performed for over 35 years in nightclubs around the world. His award-winning one-man stage show, The Second Greatest Entertainer in the Whole Wide World, was sometimes performed with a unique opening. When the audience entered the theater, they saw a bare stage with a pile of bricks in stage center. When the play began, Shawn emerged from the pile of bricks. The startling effect of this required complete concentration and breath control because the slightest movement of the bricks could ruin the surprise appearance.
In addition to roles in more than 30 movies and seven Broadway productions, Shawn made numerous television appearances, toured often, and periodically performed a one-man show that mixed songs, sketches, and pantomime.
In this video clip of his appearance on The Johnny Carson Show (hosted by Joan Rivers), Shawn does a monologue on Jews in athletics, announcing, and religion followed by a session on the interview couch with Rivers.
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