Alan KingAlan King

Alan King

Comedian

BIO

Early Years
• Alan King was born Irwin Alan Kniberg on December 26, 1927 in Brooklyn, New York.
• Alan King’s parents, Minnie and Bernard Kniberg, were Russian immigrants. His father made leather handbags.
• By the age of eight, King was earning small change by doing impersonations on street corners.
• In high school, King performed in school plays.
• When he was fourteen, he was a runner-up in an amateur talent radio contest whose host invited him on a nationwide tour.

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Alan King bio pic



Early Years

  • Alan King was born Irwin Alan Kniberg on December 26, 1927 in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Alan King’s parents, Minnie and Bernard Kniberg, were Russian immigrants. His father made leather handbags.
  • By the age of eight, King was earning small change by doing impersonations on street corners.
  • In high school, King performed in school plays.
  • When he was fourteen, he was a runner-up in an amateur talent radio contest whose host invited him on a nationwide tour.

Career

Early Career

  • At fifteen, Alan King dropped out of high school to perform comedy at the Hotel Gradus in the Catskill Mountains. He was fired from his job for telling his audience, “When you work for Gradus, you work for gratis.” There were plenty of other resorts willing to hire him.
  • Eventually, King moved to Canada, where he worked in burlesque shows and even took to boxing.
  • While successful at both, King returned to New York as “Alan King,” having adopted the surname of his victorious boxing opponent for his stage act.
  • While working as a doorman at Leon and Eddie’s, a 52nd Street nightclub, King met Milton Berle. Berle quickly recognized King’s potential and took him under his wing.
  • King began cultivating his style – primarily a man angry with suburban society.
  • King started with one-liners and other material concerning mother-in-law and Jews.

Events and Venues

  • In 1972, Alan King hosted the Academy Awards.
  • King was the opening act for many well-known people including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Nat “King” Cole, and Lena Horne.
  • He was a popular performer at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
  • King appeared in several New York shows, including the long-running The Impossible Years.
  • He also produced a number of shows in New York, including The Lion in Winter and Dinner at Eight.
  • In the early 1990s, King sponsored a pro tennis tournament in Las Vegas that bore his name.
  • He started the Toyota Comedy Festival.
  • King was the first recipient (1988) of the award for American Jewish humor from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. The award was eventually renamed in his honor.

TV and Film

  • In the 1950s and ‘60s, Alan King was a frequent guest on the Ed Sullivan Show and a guest host of the Tonight Show.
  • In the early 1990s, he hosted a popular comedian-interview program on cable television.
  • King appeared in 29 films [see below]. He usually played serious character roles.
  • One of his final roles was as film producer Samuel Goldwyn in the off-Broadway production of Goldwyn in 2002.

Print

  • Alan King co-wrote a number of books [see below].

Influences and Thoughts

  • Alan King used humor to survive in the tough Brooklyn neighborhoods where he grew up.
  • King learned a crucial skill from Danny Thomas, whom he admired – to talk to his audiences.
  • Comedian Jerry Stiller told CNN.com that King was “in touch with what was happening with the world, which is what made him so funny. He always talked about the annoyances of life.” He was described as the “Jewish Will Rogers.”
  • King’s comedy inspired many comedians, including Joan Rivers, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Billy Crystal, Robert Klein, and Bill Cosby.

Philanthropy

  • Alan King was involved in charity work throughout his life.
  • He founded the Alan King Medical Center in Jerusalem.
  • King raised funds for the Nassau Center for Emotionally Disturbed Children (near his home in Kings Point, New York).
  • He established a chair in dramatic arts at Brandeis University.
  • King also created the Laugh Well program, which sends comedians to hospitals to perform for patients.

At the End

  • Alan King was a lifelong cigar smoker, which caused cancer in his later years. He has his jaw replaced in 1992.
  • King died of lung cancer on May 9, 2004 at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Center in Manhattan, New York. He was 76.
  • He was survived by his wife, Jeanette Sprung, two sons, and a daughter.
  • King was buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, Queens, New York.

Sources

Chicago Tribune, May 10, 2004, sec. 4, p. 11.

Entertainment Weekly, May 21, 2004, p. 20.

Independent, (London), May 21, 2004, p. 35.

Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2004, p. B9.

New York Times, May 10, 2004, p. B7.


Alan King Books, Movies, and Television

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  • Sale!

    Alan King’s Great Jewish Joke Book

    “Jesus saves. Moses invests.” “Why spoil a good meal with a big tip?” “What did the Jewish mother ask her daughter when the daughter told her she had had an affair?—‘Who catered it?’ ” “I’ve probably heard—and told—some of the jokes in this book a thousand times; more than a few are older than I […]

    $27.07 $16.95
  • Author! Author!

    Alan King stars as Kreplich. Life is getting complicated for Broadway playwright Ivan Travalian (Pacino). His flaky wife Gloria (Weld) is moving in with her lover, his director hates his new play and his leading lady (Cannon) is a terrified movie star who’s never been on the stage. With five children to look after (most […]

    $9.99
  • Bonfire of the Vanities

    Alan King stars as Arthur Ruskin. Shrink-wrapped

    $6.79
  • BYE, BYE Braverman

    Alan King stars as The Rabbi. Serpico. Dog Day Afternoon. Prince of the City. In these gritty and distinguished films, director Sidney Lumet held a mirror up to his adopted hometown, New York. In Bye Bye Braverman, he uses a funhouse mirror. The result is hilarious, satiric, wise, giddy – and no less trenchant. Sparked […]

    $11.99
  • Casino

    Alan King stars as Andy Stone. Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci star in director Martin Scorsese’s riveting look at how blind ambition, white-hot passion and 24-karat greed toppled an empire. Las Vegas, 1973, is the setting for this fact-based story about the Mob’s multimillion-dollar casino operation, where fortunes and lives were made […]

    $5.99
  • Chicago Hope – Season 5

    Alan King stars as Larry Lensky in “Big Hand for the Little Lady” – Episode 15 The penultimate season of David E. Kelley s acclaimed medical drama comes to DVD for the very first time in this 6 disc set. In Season Five of the award-winning show, there are accusations of racism when two of the […]

    $27.03
  • Sale!

    Enemies, A Love Story

    Alan King stars as Rabbi Lembeck. Herman Broder (Ron Silver) is a Holocaust survivor in postwar New York, wed out of gratitude to the peasant woman who hid him from the Nazis. He carries on a mad affair with a concentration camp survivor (Lena Olin), only to find out that the snappish wife (Anjelica Huston) […]

    $29.98 $19.98
  • Family Guy – Season 1-5

    Alan King stars as the Don in “There’s Something about Paulie” Season 2, Episode 16 All the episodes from the first five seasons of the animated sitcom created by Seth MacFarlane. The Griffins are an average North American family living in an average North American home in an average North American town. The dad Peter (voice […]

    $26.20
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