Critics really got under Ed Sullivan's skin

The press regularly tore into the iconic TV host.

"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

For most of us, this is one of the first big life lessons we're taught about kindness and humility. It's a great reminder that we just don't need to spread more negative energy. The world's already got plenty of it. So, instead, it's important to filter some of our thoughts that might have nasty consequences if spoken. After all, do we really need to tell that one television host that his stoic face is off-putting?

Evidently, television critics didn't quite get the memo about not saying nice things. In fact, they make a living from pointing out what's wrong with TV shows. Critics very rarely have any television production experience, but they're still paid to speak on the matter.

In the first fifty or so years after the advent of television, no man was beaten up by critics more than Ed Sullivan. Everything about him was dragged over the coals as writers tried and failed to harm his career. However, Sullivan unwaveringly continued to appear on TV. While the criticism may not have had the intended effect on his ability to work, it did adversely affect the man behind the mic.

According to a 1967 interview with The San Francisco Examiner, Sullivan was very aware of his standing with the press. He reportedly all of his bad press in envelopes and filed it all away alphabetically. He would occasionally pull out the criticism and reread the negative writing.

"I hate adverse criticism. I loathe it. I will never 'get used to it.' Furthermore, I suspect anybody who says he's immune to it of being a really big liar."

Fortunately for his blood pressure, Sullivan seemed to mellow out a tiny bit regarding the matter later in life.

"Ed used to write letters to critics," said his wife Sylvia. "I'd try to get him to tear them up, or at least wait until the next morning to mail them."

So, the next time someone has something lousy to say about you or your work, just be glad it's not on a nationally publicized platform.  

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

18 Comments

daDoctah 2 months ago
On the flip side, Ed used to delight in watching comedians imitate him on his own show. John Byner, Will Jordan, and one hilarious bit where Johnny Carson played all three parts at a poker game between Ed and the two shows opposite him: Maverick and Steve Allen.
cperrynaples daDoctah 2 months ago
Will Jordan's career was just playing Sullivan! He even did it in a Billy Joel video! And yes I have seen Johnny's version which was on Allen's show! Ironically, Allen was the first Tonight Show host!
Runeshaper 2 months ago
I could definitely see that getting under many people's skins, as it were.
harlow1313 2 months ago
I'm not sure what critics said, but sports fans used to love to hate Howard Kossel.
cperrynaples harlow1313 2 months ago
That's Cossell! "Down goes Harlow"...LOL! Fun Fact: He hosted a variety show from the Ed Sullivan theater called Saturday Night Live! Even stranger, he had a comedy troop called the Prime Time Players! And would you believe it included a young Bill Murray? In the words of Jack Paar, "I kid you not!"
LoveMETV22 cperrynaples 2 months ago
It's Cosell- at least according to bio's on him.
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 2 months ago
Loved the episode when Mr. Cosell was on " The Odd Couple", Classic !
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 2 months ago
I wasn't sure how many S's, but yes I remember The Odd Couple & his SNL! BTW, I was making an allusion to when he called the Frasier-Foreman fight 50 years ago!
harlow1313 LoveMETV22 2 months ago
Funny the things we remember. As I recall, Felix takes control and says a player "...is running with the dexterity of a lizard..." Perhaps it is a false memory.
MrsPhilHarris LoveMETV22 2 months ago
Love that episode!
MrsPhilHarris 2 months ago
Hmmm…I remember reading Ed Sullivan’s scathing review of a Max Baer Sr. fight. I know he was a sports reporter at the time but it was pretty brutal.
Yes he was and Baer was in The Harder They Fall, Bogie's last movie!
It’s a good movie.
It certainly is! Bogie is so good you almost forget he was dying of cancer!
Moody 2 months ago
"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

My grandfather used to tell us that all the time. He was a man of few words.
justjeff 2 months ago
From Oxford languages:
crit·ic /ˈkridik/ noun 1. a person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something.

This probably started way back when Sullivan was an entertainment reporter and got into constant fueds with Walter Winchell...
cperrynaples justjeff 2 months ago
TRUE! Winchell actually hosted a variety show before narriating The Untouchables!
LoveMETV22 2 months ago
Although I enjoy The Ed Sullivan Show. Don't feel bad for Mr. Sullivan as he was a critic in his own regard. Kind of a double-edged sword.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?