Charlie Callas, a rubber-faced comedian who dominated television screens and the nightclub circuit in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, has died at the age of 83.
He passed away in a hospice in his home city of Las Vegas on Thursday evening. According to his son Mark, the legendary comic died of natural causes. Michael Murphy, the coroner in Clark County in Nevada, confirmed the death, the New York Times states.
Charlie Callas was known for his immense character diversity and often punctuated punch lines with sound effects emanating from his motormouth.
The zany comedian was an old-fashioned one, whose work would probably not be seen politically correct today. He often played off physical tics such as stuttering, speech problems and shaking but was also a great impressionist who could do dead-on sound effects of almost anything – one of his standard acts was a phone call that began with his impression of a rotary telephone being dialed, according to the Washington Post.
“Somebody once told me, ‘You look like a cartoon that somebody just drew,’ ” he recalled in a 1991 interview with New York’s Newsday, the LA Times cites. “And that’s what I am, a cartoon come to wreak havoc, like a wild kid. I’m silly.”
Fellow comedian Jack Carter commented: “He did great sounds and noises, like water spouting. And he did great double talk. He was really a character comedian more than anything. But he was a cute guy, totally without malice, and he was fun to be around. He was always working, always trying things.”
Sound has always interested Callas, so many find it unsurprising that he started his showbiz career as a musician. The young drummer toured the country with major bands, including those led by Tommy Dorsey. It was during these performances that he discovered his ability to engage and entertain a crowd, cracking up audiences and musicians alike.
[adsense]He finally turned to comedy in 1962 and made his first TV network appearance on “The Hollywood Palace”. His popularity grew quickly and soon he was touring with Frank Sinatra and appearing on Dean Martin’s programs and Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, as well being a regular on The Andy Williams Show and ABC Comedy Hour.
In 1975, he tried his hand at drama, starring opposite Eddie Albert and Robert Wagner as a former con man in the crime show Switch. But was just a temporary detour from comedy.
“Charlie Callas was a cast of thousands all by himself,” director Mel Brooks said in a statement to The Times. “He could do a thousand faces, a thousand voices and a thousand sound effects. In ‘High Anxiety,’ he played a cocker spaniel. He cost me a lot of money — it was almost impossible to finish a scene without the whole crew collapsing in laughter.
“The world of comedy will miss him very much.”
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