Ed McMahon died earlier today at the age of 86, and while most will remember him as the affable sidekick to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show (or as the pitchman for Publisher's Clearing House, or even as cohort in TV bloopers and practical jokes with Dick Clark), we should also pause for a moment to reflect on the legacy he had on stand-up comedy by presiding over TV's Star Search from 1983 to 1995.
Among the many comedians who got introduced to America by McMahon and Star Search: Eddie Brill, Drew Carey, Dave Chappelle, Kim Coles, Bill Engvall, Brad Garrett, Dana Gould, Jenny Jones, Kevin James, Richard Jeni, John Kassir, Martin Lawrence, Norm MacDonald, Jackie Martling, Kevin Meaney, Carlos Mencia, Dennis Miller, Steve Mittleman, John Mulrooney, Rosie O'Donnell, Ken Ober, Steve Oedekerk, Ray Romano, Adam Sandler, Frank Santorelli, Sinbad, Joe Yannetty. If I'm missing anyone, please let me know.
As a teen, I can remember seeing several of these stand-ups. Aspiring comedians had many places to showcase themselves on TV during the 1980s, but none of those allowed stand-ups to stand out quite like Star Search did.
Here is a clip of Ed McMahon introducing a young mullet-wearing Bill Engvall: