1950s1960sBob HopeComediansComedyComedy SkitsComedy SpecialsEntertainersL E StoriesMusicMusic ComedyMusical HumorNBC

Comedy – George Gobel – Stand-Up / TV Sitcoms / TV Variety Shows – L E’s Stories Special – “Lonesome George & Spooky Old Alice” – The Story of Comedian George Gobel

One television program that Bone Daddy and his family watched religiously on a black and white TV with “rabbit ears” antenna from the mid-1950’s to the early 1960’s was The George Gobel Show…..as the family would gather around the television set for the 30 minute comedy TV series from 1954 –1960….when they watched every one of the 136 episodes…..which features a half-hour series….when Gobel used a successful comedy format of a monologue segment…..followed by a story set up segment….then a musical interlude with the show’s girl singer…..after which came the main skit with Gobel’s guest performers.  It was the George Gobel Show that cemented the idea in Pop’s (BD’s Dad) head to personally cut his three son’s hair in the “crew cut style” which George Gobel fashioned on every show.  To this day, Bone Daddy has many fond memories of the laughs and joy that he and his family shared while being fans of the show…..and for this reason, I have chosen George Gobel to be my featured story today.

Comedy – 1954 – The George Gobel Show – Part 1 – “The Monologue”                                                                                                                                                        

Comedy – 1954 – The George Gobel Show – Part 2 – “The Weekly Skit”                                                                                                                                                        

Comedy – 1954 – The George Gobel Show – Part 3 – “The Weekly Skit Cont”

George Gobel (May 20, 1919 – February 24, 1991) was an American humorist, actor and comedian…..who was best known as the star of his own weekly comedy variety television series, The George Gobel Show….which broadcast from 1954 to 1959 on NBC….and on CBS from 1959 to 1960…. while alternating in its final season with The Jack Benny Program.  He was also a familiar panelist on the NBC game show Hollywood Squares.

Comedy – 1960 – The George Gobel Show – With Imogene Coca In “The Kooky Girl Ranger Leader”

He was born George Leslie Goebel in Chicago, Illinois, on May 20, 1919.  His father, Hermann Goebel….who was then working as a butcher and grocer…. and had emigrated to the United States in the 1890’s with his parents from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  His mother, Lillian (MacDonald) Goebel, was a native of Illinois, as was her mother, while Lillian’s father, a tugboat captain, had immigrated from Scotland.  Following his graduation from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Chicago in 1937, Gobel initially pursued an entertainment career as a country music singer….while performing on the National Barn Dance on WLS radio….and later on KMOX in St. Louis.  In 1942 Gobel married his high school sweetheart, Alice Rose Humecki. During World War II, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces and served as a flight instructor in AT-9 aircraft at Altus, Oklahoma….and later in B-26 Marauder bombers at Frederick, Oklahoma.  He resumed his career as an entertainer after the war….albeit he decided to focus predominantly on comedy rather than just singing.  Much later, in a 1969 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Gobel joked about his stateside wartime service by saying “There was not one Japanese aircraft that got past Tulsa.”

Comedy & Music – 1969 – The Johnny Cash Show – With Guest George Gobel Singing “The Audiance Rose With A Hey-Diddle-Diddle”

Gobel debuted his comedy series on NBC on October 2, 1954.  It showcased his quiet, homespun style of humor….which was a low-key alternative to what audiences had seen on Milton Berle’s shows.  A huge success, the popular series made the crew-cut Gobel one of the biggest comedy stars of the 1950’s.  The weekly show featured vocalist Peggy King and actress Jeff Donnell (semi-regularly)….as well as numerous guest artists….which included such stars as Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Fred MacMurray, Kirk Douglas and Tennessee Ernie Ford.  In 1955, Gobel won an Emmy Award for “most outstanding new personality”.

Comedy & Music – 1957 – Comedian George Gobel Sings “A Fatal Glass of Beer”

On October 24, 1954, Gobel did a twelve-minute spot on Light’s Diamond Jubilee….which was a two-hour TV special broadcast on all four US television networks of the time.  Gobel and his business manager David P. O’Malley formed a production company, Gomalco, a composite of their last names, Gobel and O’Malley. This company also produced the first four years (1957–61) of the 1957–63 television series Leave It to Beaver.

Comedy & Music – 1958 – The George Gobel Show – With Guest Burl Ives + George Singing “In The Summertime”

The centerpiece of Gobel’s comedy show was his monologue about his supposed past situations and experiences….with stories and sketches allegedly about his real-life wife, Alice (nicknamed “Spooky Old Alice”), played by actress Jeff Donnell (for the first four years of the series’ run)….as Gobel’s hesitant, almost shy delivery and penchant for tangled digressions were the chief sources of comedy….which was more important than the actual content of the stories. His monologues popularized several catchphrases….with notably “Well, I’ll be a dirty bird” (spoken by the Kathy Bates character in the 1990 film Misery)….“You can’t hardly get them like that no more”….and “Well then there now” (spoken by James Dean during a brief imitation of Gobel in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause….and as part of the closing lyric in Perry Como’s 1956 hit record “Juke Box Baby”Gobel’s show used some of television’s top writers of the era: Hal Kanter, Jack Brooks and Norman Lear. Peggy King was a regular on the series as a vocalist, and the guest stars ranged from Shirley MacLaine and Evelyn Rudie to Bob Feller, Phyllis Avery and Vampira.

Comedy – 1967 – The Dean Martin Show – With Guest George Gobel Singing “A Song About His Pet Cockatoo”

Gobel labeled himself “Lonesome George,”…..and the nickname stuck for the rest of his career.  The TV show sometimes included a segment in which Gobel appeared with a guitar and started to sing….then he would get  sidetracked into a story…..with the song always left unfinished after fitful starts and stops….which was a comedy approach akin to one used by Victor Borge….that prefigured the Smothers Brothers.  He had a special version of the Gibson L-5 archtop guitar constructed featuring diminished dimensions of neck scale and body depth, befitting his own smaller stature.  Several dozen of this “L-5CT” or “George Gobel” model were produced in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s….plus, he also played the harmonica.                                     

Comedy – 1970 – The Johnny Cash Show – With George Gobel In “The Story of Lonesome George”

In 1957, three U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers made the first nonstop round-the-world flight by turbojet aircraft…..as one of the bombers was called “Lonesome George”….when the entire crew later appeared on Gobel’s primetime television show and recounted the mission….which took them 45 hours and 19 minutes.  Lonesome George, the non-breeding Galapagos tortoise that was the last of its subspecies and that died in June 2012, was also named after Gobel.

Comedy – 1966 – The Red Skelton Show With George Gobel – ” Dr. Ludwig Van Humperdoo Inventor”

From 1958 to 1961, Gobel appeared in Las Vegas at the El Rancho Vegas…. and in Reno at the Mapes Hotel.  In 1961, George Gobel and Sam Levene starred as Erwin and Patsy in Let It Ride….which was an original Broadway musical based on the 1935 original Broadway play Three Men on a Horse…. which was co-authored by George Abbott and John Cecil Holm….while having an initial Broadway run of 835 performances….which also starred Sam Levene as Patsy.  With a book written by Abram S. Ginnes….and a score by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans….Let It Ride was directed by the Stanley Prager…..as the musical opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre October 12, 1961 and closed December 9, 1961…..after 68 performances and one preview…..when critics compared the show unfavorably to How to Succeed in Business.  Gobel continued to work club dates….and performed in many of the Playboy Club properties.

Comedy & Music – 1971 – The Dean Martin Show – With George Gobel + Sid Caesar + Dean Singing “Dames Medley”

George Gobel was also a skilled guitar player….and as such was issued a specially designed electric guitar in his name commissioned by the Gibson guitar company in 1959 as “The George Gobel Model”.  Gibson chose “George Gobel” as a model name…..as a result of Gobel being one of the most well known television personalities at the time….with a nationally broadcast show five nights a week.  Gibson believed their new model guitar would enjoy greater exposure on national television….as opposed to naming the model after a lesser known jazz musician, for example. Gobel accompanied himself with this guitar on a number of his comedy routines.

Music & Comedy – 1953 – The Liberace Show With Guest George Gobel – “Guitar And Piano Duet”

Gobel was a guest on various TV programs….which included The Red Skelton Show….The Dean Martin Show….The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford….The Bing Crosby Show….The Dinah Shore Show….Death Valley Days….Wagon Train….The Carol Burnett Show….and  Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show….in addition to an episode of My Three Sons starring Fred MacMurray in December 1960….which was titled “Lonesome George” in which Gobel played himself on the episode….plus he appeared on F Troop as Henry Terkel in the 1966 episode “Go for Broke.”

Comedy – 1955 – The George Gobel Show – With Barbara Britton + George Liberace

In an often-replayed segment from a 1969 episode of The Tonight Show….when Gobel followed Bob Hope and Dean Martin….while walking onstage with a plastic cup with an unidentified drink…..when Gobel ribbed Carson about coming on last…..and having to follow major stars Hope and Martin….as he quipped to Carson, “Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a black tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?”….to which Carson, Hope, Martin along with the audience came unglued with laughter. After the laughter died down, Carson asked Gobel about his career in World War II as a fighter pilot….to which Gobel feigned bewilderment at why people laugh when he says that he spent the war in Oklahoma….while pointing out with mock pride that no Japanese plane ever got past Tulsa deep in the center of the continental US.  Gobel also began to get some unexpected laughs, being unaware that Dean Martin had begun flicking his cigarette ashes into Gobel’s drink.  Observing all of this, Carson finally asked rhetorically, “Exactly what time did I lose control of the show?!”  Gobel had employed the tuxedo joke at least once before, on the June 22, 1957 episode of his show. The comedian complained that the TV director and crew treated him: “…as if they were a tuxedo and I was a pair of brown shoes.”….when on that occasion, the gag received a respectable, but not overwhelming, response.

Comedy – 1969 – The Johnny Carson Show – With Bob Hope + Dean Martin + George Gobel

In the 1970’s, Gobel was a regular panelist on the television game show Hollywood Squares hosted by Peter Marshall.  He was also the voice of Father Mouse in the 1974 Christmas special Twas the Night Before Christmas…..and sang the song “Give Your Heart a Try” in that production. He also made a guest appearance on Hee Haw in 1976.  In the early 1980’s Gobel played Otis Harper, Jr., the mayor of Harper Valley in the television series based on the film Harper Valley PTA.

Comedy & Entertainment – 1957 – What’s My Line With Special Mystery Guest George Gobel

When ratings soared on The George Gobel Show….which was rated in the top ten of 1954–55….that is when Paramount Pictures promoted Gobel as their new comedy star….while casting him as the lead in The Birds and the Bees in 1956….which was a remake of The Lady Eve in 1941…..which featured David Niven playing a 3rd-billed supporting role under Gobel and leading lady Mitzi Gaynor.  However, Gobel’s TV success did not translate to the big screen. The film performed so poorly at the box office that release was delayed on his second movie, I Married a Woman, filmed in 1956 by RKO Radio….but not released until 1958.  Although scripted by Goodman Ace, it also resulted in disappointing ticket sales, and Gobel’s career as a Paramount movie star came to an abrupt end…..as he settled into a succession of TV guest star appearances and did not return to movie screens until two decades later….as a character actor in Joan Rivers’ Rabbit Test in 1978…..which was followed by The Day It Came to Earth  in 1979…. and Ellie in 1984…..plus, he appeared in nine TV movies during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Gobel was considered for the voice of Winnie-the-Pooh by Walt Disney, but turned it down after reading the books and finding Pooh to be “an awful bore.”

Music & Comedy – 1961 – Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall Special – With Paul Anka + Gwen Verdon + George Gobel Singing A Medley Of Songs

George Gobel died in 1991, shortly after undergoing heart surgery.  He was survived by his wife Alice and their three children; daughters Georgia Bryan of Palos Verdes and Leslie McIntosh of Palmdale, and son Gregg Gobel of Palm Desert, as well as three grandchildren.  He is interred in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, Los Angeles, California.

Comedy & Music – 1968 – The Dean Martin Show With George Gobel Singing “There;s A Hole In The Bucket”

In concluding this tribute and story of George Gobel….I hearken back to the days of Bone Daddy’s early teenage years….when folks referred to him as Lonesome George….which was partly because of his “crew cut” hair style and his penchant ability to make folks laugh with his home-spun humor and casual delivery.  The truth be known, George Gobel was a very talented entertainer….whose comedic genius was studied replicated by many comedians like Bob Newhart, Steve Martin, Martin Mull and Tim Conway….and we here at ImaSportsphile are “tickled pink” to have this collection of his work on video in our museum.

Comedy & Music – 1971 – The Johnny Cash Show – With George Gobel Singing “Skyball Paint”



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