He epitomized a particular pedigree of American comedian: the lovable lump who honed his skills in New York’s Catskill resorts. But Buddy Hackett, 78, who died June 30 in Malibu, Calif., of undisclosed causes, was also a trailblazer whose often outrageously blue stand-up act helped sustain a career of more than 50 years.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Hackett first endured a string of unsuccessful nightclub gigs in New York City — until he headed west to Los Angeles and Las Vegas. But it was his long-running show at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills, where his ribald routines — like his now-classic ”Chinese waiter” — won raves from audiences and fellow comics alike. ”[The jokes] just flowed out of him,” marvels fellow Borscht Belt legend Sid Caesar.
Hackett capitalized on his anti-matinee idol looks and cross-eyed gaze in such films as ”It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and ”Everything’s Ducky.” In ’89, he lent his nasal voice to The Little Mermaid’s Scuttle; seven years later, he retired from stand-up after suffering onstage panic attacks. He took his final bow last month, as a judge on NBC’s ”Last Comic Standing.” ”He made you laugh in spite of yourself,” says friend Barbara Eden. Adds ”Ducky” costar Mickey Rooney: ”Buddy couldn’t be topped. The world should be sorry.”
2002 The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn, in the ”Tuesdays with Buddy” skit
1999 Action, the Fox series starring Jay Mohr, as Uncle Lonnie
1968 The Love Bug, as Herbie’s mechanic pal Tennessee Steinmetz
1956 Stanley, the NBC series that costarred a young Carol Burnett
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