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Amsterdam was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Austrian Jewish immigrants Max and Jennie (Finder) Amsterdam. He began working in vaudeville in 1922 as the straight man for his brother's jokes. He was also a cellist, a skill which he used throughout his career. By 1924, he was working in a speakeasy operated by Al Capone. After being caught in the middle of a gunfight, Amsterdam moved to California and worked writing jokes. His enormous repertoire and ability to come up with a joke on any subject earned him the nickname The Human Joke Machine. He sometimes performed with a mock machine on his chest, hanging by a strap. He turned a hand crank and paper rolled out; he would then read the machine's joke, although actually the paper was blank.
During the 1930s, Amsterdam was a regular on The Al Pearce Show radio program, and by 1937 was the master of ceremonies on The Night Club of the Air. He also wrote songs, including "Why Oh Why Did I Ever Leave Wyoming." He copyrighted the popular "Rum and Coca-Cola," although the song was written by a Trinidadian calypso singer named Lord Invader. Amsterdam lost a copyright suit over the song. In the early 1940s he was a screenwriter, contributing dialogue for two East Side Kids films. By 1947, he was performing on three daily radio shows. Beginning in 1948, he appeared on the radio show Stop Me If You've Heard This One. The Morey Amsterdam Show aired on CBS radio from July 10, 1948 to February 15, 1949. For three months, it was on both radio and TV, using different scripts with the same premise and cast.
The Morey Amsterdam Show ran on CBS television from December 1948 to March 1949 and on DuMont from April 1949 to October 1950. Among Morey's regular guests was a song-and-dance man named Art Carney. The cigarette girl was future author Jacqueline Susann, wife of the producer of the show, Irving Mansfield. Jazz musician Johnny Guarneri led the band. Also in 1950, he briefly hosted the comedy-variety show, Broadway Open House, television's first late-night entertainment show, on NBC.
In 1957, he appeared as Jack Connors in the third episode entitled "The Pretenders" of the syndicated television sitcom, How to Marry a Millionaire, with Barbara Eden and Merry Anders.
His best-known role was as comedy writer Buddy Sorrell on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–66), a role suggested for him by his friend Rose Marie, who also appeared on the show. Amsterdam wrote lyrics for the show's theme song, which were never heard on the air but have been performed by Dick Van Dyke in concert.
Amsterdam was an occasional panelist on Match Game during the 1970s. He appeared as a small-time criminal in several episodes of the soap opera The Young and the Restless in the 1990s. Amsterdam and Rose Marie later appeared as panelists on The Hollywood Squares and guest-starred together in a February 1996 episode of the NBC sitcom Caroline in the City (his final television appearance).
He played Cappy, owner of the local nightclub, in the Beach Party movies of the 1960s. Amsterdam and Rose Marie also co-starred in the 1966 film, Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title, a comedy co-written and co-produced by Amsterdam. The film features Richard Deacon, their co-star on The Dick Van Dyke Show, plus a cameo by the show's co-producer Danny Thomas. In 1958 Morey appeared in the low-budget film Machine-Gun Kelly with Charles Bronson.
Amsterdam died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California in 1996 at age 87, survived by his wife Kay Patrick and their children, Gregory and Cathy. He was entombed at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.
- Keep Laughing. Citadel Press, 1959. ASIN B0007E665M
- Morey Amsterdam's Benny Cooker Crock Book for Drinkers. Regnery, 1977. ISBN 0809281384
|This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Morey Amsterdam. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.|