The Man Who Pushed Johnny Carson, Charlie Callas Dies at 83
For many people under a certain age (probably 40), the passing of Charlie Callas on January 27, 2011, will be met with indifference or “who was he?” But for anyone who had seen Callas interviewed on his numerous appearances on the late night talk shows or seen his cameos in movies, it marks the end of one the last true eccentrics in Hollywood.
Charlie Callas was bizarre.
He could do strange things with his voice and get laughs out of things that were not necessarily funny. It was Callas himself that was funny and there was that underlying danger that an appearance by Callas on a show could go in an unintended direction at any second. That unpredictability would nearly end his show business career when he shoved Johnny Carson during a 1982 Tonight Show appearance and in front of the studio audience Carson subsequently banned him from ever appearing on the show again.
Charlie Callas will always be remembered for one of the strangest performances in Mel Brooks’ send-up of Alfred Hitchcock films, 1976’s High Anxiety. Callas plays a man who has been committed to an asylum because he thinks he is a cocker spaniel. It is 1 minute and 40 seconds of sheer silliness.
Here is the link to Charlie Callas in High Anxiety:
(UPDATE – 2013 High Anxiety clip- all copies removed from youtube)
A staple of 1970’s TV, The Dean Martin Roasts, where celebrities were insulted and joked about mercilessly by other Hollywood celebrities, Callas has comedian Don Rickles and the rest of the attendees laughing hard as he delivers Don Rickles’ eulogy.
The appearance may not be as funny to today’s audience as Callas is doing an impression of George Jessel, who made a living it seemed at delivering eulogies of many of the entertainment world’s luminaries from the 1920’s right until Jessel’s own demise in 1981.