It made me sad looking over the list of all the great people we lost in 2010, and I really don’t want to have to do it again. Here’s an agreement, me and you: if you promise not to kill anyone else funny between now and the New Year, which would mean this post would be out-of-date and would require me to feel bad for not paying more respect to said funny person’s life while they were still alive, I promise to only listen to songs by Grim Reaper for all of January, including “Lord of Darkness (Your Living Hell).” Kapeesh?
On a personal note: you’re doing a killer job. (Get it?!?)
Below are the 15 funniest people that meanie Death took away from us in 2010. (Of course, there were hundreds of thousands of millions individuals who made us laugh and passed away this year, but that would be too long of an article, even for the Internet.)
January 27, age 80
You know what makes a great sitcom? Great writers, and without the talents of the Emmy-winning Blitzer, The Phil Silvers Show, The Flintstones, Gomer Pyle, Land of the Lost, Get Smart, The Love Boat, and The Jetsons would have been a lot less funny.
Peter Graves/Barbara Billingsley
March 14, age 83/October 16, age 94
Neither was known as a comedian – as June Cleaver, Billingsley was the original TV Mom, while Graves starred in Mission Impossible for six seasons – but they both have critical roles in one of the funniest movies of all-time. No, not Killers from Space. Only Graves was in that. I’m talking, of course, about Airplane! Without her jive talking and his wondering if Joey has ever seen a grown man named, the movie wouldn’t have deserved the exclamation point in its title.
May 28, age 42
Admit it: you weren’t quite sure how to feel when you heard the news that Gary Coleman passed away. When you get the news that someone’s died, you immediately feel bad, of course, but once the name Gary Coleman registered, you briefly chuckled, then you felt bad again because a) someone’s dead, and b) you started to laugh instead of cry. Something tells me that Coleman, most famous for playing Arnold in Diff’rent Strokes and his catchphrase, “What’choo talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?” would have been okay with that. He was quite aware of his legacy, and would have done anything for a laugh.
June 3, age 76
I’m just going to come out (no eventual-pun intended) and say it: I’ve only seen a few episodes of The Golden Girls, and I’ve never spent a single minute of my life hanging out with the gals of Tuckahoe, New York in Maude. But I recognize the importance of McClanahan’s Blanche Devereaux on fans of irony and the gay community.
June 4, age 73
Whether you knew him as Pep Pep on Tim & Eric or the 110-Year-Old Man on Parks and Recreation, one thing was for sure: he was funny to all.
September 3, age 60
A typical joke from the occasional Howard Stern Show guest: “I flew out here on Southwest Airlines. Southwest has a plane that’s painted like Shamu the whale from Sea World. Yeah, that’ll be easy to find if that went down in the ocean. That’ll be nice, when you’re trying to get out and a real whale’s humping your window.” Angry, provocative, funny.
September 19, age 84
In the apartment of a Woody Allen fan, it’s a toss-up which you’ll see more often: a Manhattan poster or a collection of Inside Woody Allen, a comic strip drawn and written by Hample, who also created Rich & Famous and Children’s Letters to God. It’s likely that you when you picture Woody Allen in your head, it’ll come out looking a bit like Hample’s drawings.
September 29, age 44
If you’ve ever watched Comedy Central Roast, it’s likely you’ve seen Giraldo make fun of Bob Saget, Pamela Anderson, William Shatner, and Chevy Chase. The comedian also appeared on David Letterman and Conan O’Brien many times, as well. My favorite joke of his: “You got a cop under five feet tall, what if he’s gotta plant evidence on a high shelf? What then? What if he’s gotta chase a suspect onto a ride at Disneyland?”
September 29, age 85
Whether or not you agree (I don’t) that Some Like It Hot is the funniest movie of all-time, like the AFI voted it in 2000, doesn’t really matter; what does matter is that when Curtis, who played Joe/Josephine in the 1959 comedy, died in late-September, we lost someone who could act dramatically (Sweet Smell of Success) as well he could make us laugh (Sex and the Single Girl). The fact that I still like Curtis even though the AFI ranking makes me (oddly) furious goes a long way in showing the late actor’s charms.
October 22, age 90
Nothing short of an entertainment legend, Anderson created the characters Crusader Rabbit (the eponymous main character on TV’s first animated series), Dudley Do-Right, and Rocky & Bullwinkle. Without that moose and squirrel duo, there’d be no Simpsons. Yeah, think about that for a second.
October 23, age 68
The New Yorker published over 800 (!) of Cullum’s cartoons in his lifetime, including this, this, and this. Even without the animation accompanying it, the line “Actually, it’s pronounced ‘an-gel’” is funny.
November 28, age 84
Where to begin? Although Nielsen began his career as a dramatic actor, or whatever he’s trying to do in Forbidden Planet, he became a star in Airplane!, Spy Hard, and my personal favorite, The Naked Gun. Frank Drebin is one of both film and TV’s greatest characters, and it’s impossible to imagine anyone but Nielsen in that role. To be a fan of comedy is to be a fan of Leslie Nielsen.
December 15, age 88
Supposedly, Edwards, the director, and Peter Sellers, the star, butted heads many times on the set of the Pink Panther – and yet, they would go on to make six films together for the series, and you get the impression that they brought each other’s greatness. Edwards would receive an honorary Oscar in 2004, not only for the Pink Panther, but also Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Operation Petticoat.
December 17, age 69
Don Van Vliet, a.k.a. Captain Beefheart, was a poet/painter/musician, and pretty damn funny to boot. Like his friend and musical partner Frank Zappa, the Captain could wow you with his experimental mix of jazz, folk, and rock, while simultaneously making you laugh to lines like, “Rather than I want to hold your hand, I wanna swallow you whole/’n I wanna lick you everywhere it’s pink, ‘n everywhere you think/Whole kit ‘n kaboodle ‘n the kitchen sink.”
December 20, age 74
Although a whole generation knows him as Dr. Rosenbaum from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Landesberg’s career stretches back to the 1970s, where he played Arthur Dietrich on the long-running sitcom Barney Miller. In-between, he appeared on The Golden Girls, That 70’s Show, and Head Case.
Josh Kurp is still around.