Morey Amsterdam credits himself for discovering these stars

Some big names got their start on The Morey Amsterdam Show.

Morey Amsterdam. You know him and love him as Buddy Sorrell on The Dick Van Dyke Show. He's the joke-a-minute gag writer of the fictional Alan Brady Show. But, start looking into Amsterdam's biography, and you'll discover that he was much more than just Buddy Sorrell. For instance, he was a joke-a-minute gag writer in real life, as well! That's what we in show biz call "range."

Amsterdam's vaudeville beginnings meant he was a comedy veteran before he ever appeared onscreen. He was an accomplished cellist and songwriter, and he wrote hilarious novelty tunes like "Rum & Coca Cola," and "Why, Oh Why Did I Leave Wyoming?" before he was a household name.

On his road to the top, Morey Amsterdam wrote jokes for a murderers' row of headline acts, like Milton Berle, Jack Benny, and Henny Youngman.

Then, in 1948, he hosted one of the first variety shows on TV, The Morey Amsterdam Show. To hear Amsterdam tell it, he booked the show full of greats-to-be, paving the way for the stars of (what was then) tomorrow. In a 1983 interview with The Tampa Tribune, Amsterdam spoke about his eye for talent.

"I gave a lot of people their first national exposure," he said. "Performers like Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan, and Vic Damone. I discovered Art Carney. He was a great natural comedian. He played Charlie the Doorman and then Newton the Waiter. He still had a year on his contract when I gave him up to Gleason."

Hollywood would've been a completely different place if it weren't for Morey Amsterdam. And it would've been a whole heck of a lot less funny.

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7 Comments

Pacificsun 5 months ago
On the BarMitzva episode recently, Buddy says he's 35, which has to fit in with the storyline. But I wonder how old was in 1966 the date of the episode. If he was in Vaudeville, he had to be a lot older.
Moverfan Pacificsun 4 months ago
I just checked IMDb and he was born December 14, 1908...so he was fifty-seven or fifty-eight, depending on what side of December they were on.
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Pacificsun 5 months ago
So performers are typed as a personality. Damone made sense fitting with Alan Brady's Variety Show. But a special purpose would've needed to be written in to accommodate Art Carney. He carried so much of his own weight (recognition) by that time. Not only would the appearance need to make sense. It would need to justify itself. In fact, Amsterdam was working a different aspect of the media, as opposed to being in supporting cast member.
LoveMETV22 6 months ago
Fun article. I like Morey Amsterdam, not only for his role on "TDVDS" but his one/few episode roles on other series as well. I wish sometimes that he instead of Ed Sullivan had the variety series showcasing talent. Mr. Amsterdam just seemed more affable than Mr. Sullivan.(jmo)
Andybandit 6 months ago
I love MA as Buddy on TDVDS. It is so funny how he looks like George Jetson on The Jetsons. I don't mean it in a mean way
Andybandit 6 months ago
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Runeshaper 6 months ago
Amsterdam sounds like a talented guy!
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justjeff 6 months ago
Here's an addendum from that same Wikipedia article about "Rum and Coca-Cola"...

"After the release of "Rum and Coca-Cola", Belasco and Lord Invader sued for copyright infringement of the song's music and lyrics, respectively. In 1948, after years of litigation, both plaintiffs won their cases, with Lord Invader receiving an award of $150,000 in owed royalties. However, Morey Amsterdam was allowed to retain copyright to the song. Lord Invader also wrote a follow-up song to "Rum and Coca-Cola", titled "Yankee Dollar".

Calypsonian and Calypso Monarch winner Devon Seale, first premiered his tribute to Lionel Belasco entitled "Lio", at the Calypso Revue tent in 1999. That year, he would take it to the annual Calypso Monarch finals. In the tribute, Seale references the Andrews Sisters' recording of "Rum and Coca-Cola" and the winning copyright case. He sings, "I bring evidence quick to show them that I write the song in 1906", and "thirty years later Invader changed the lyrics ... I am Lio-Lionel Belasco." Since the Andrew Sisters' release, many other artists have shared their renditions of the popular tune, including American singer-songwriter Harry Belafonte."
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