Fast Facts

  • His 80+ years in show business began in 1913 at age 5 when he won a Charlie Chaplin imitator contest; the following year he appeared with Chaplin in Tillie's Punctured Romance.
  • Made his first TV appearance on an experimental station in Chicago in 1929.
  • Widely regarded as the medium's first big star, he became permanent emcee on the variety show Texaco Star Theater on September 21, 1948. At its peak in the late 1940s and early 1950s, his live show drew an astonishing 80 percent of the audience and sold countless TV sets.
  • Signed an exclusive 30-year, $6 million contract with NBC in 1951; it was renegotiated in 1966 and his annual salary was lowered to $120,000, but he could work on other networks.
  • Was said to have memorized between 100,000 and 150,000 jokes, and was often ribbed by other comics for stealing a good number of them. (Berle once said of another comic, "I laughed so hard I almost dropped my pencil.")
  • Was in the inaugural class inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1984, along with Lucille Ball, Paddy Chayefsky, Norman Lear, Edward R. Murrow, William S. Paley and David Sarnoff.
  • Was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2007.

Awards

  • 1995, Emmy — Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1950, Emmy — Most Outstanding Kinescoped Personality: Winner
  • 1962, Emmy — Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Nominee

Relationships

  • William Berle — Son
  • Francis Berlinger — Brother
  • Joyce Mathews — Ex-wife
  • Rosalind Berlinger — Sister
  • Phil Berlinger — Brother
  • Jacob Berlinger — Brother
  • Ruth Cosgrove — Wife (deceased)
  • Sarah Glantz — Mother
  • Leslie Brown — Stepdaughter
  • Susan Brown — Stepdaughter
  • Lorna Adams — Wife
  • Moses Berlinger — Father
  • Victoria Berle Walton — Daughter

Details

  • Birth Name: Mendel Berlinger
  • Birth Place: New York, NY
  • Birthday: July 12, 1908, Cancer
  • Died: March 27, 2002
  • Profession: TV host, Actor, Comedian
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