What better day than Throwback Thursday to celebrate our friend of the site’s site, Classic Television Showbiz.
That’s where Kliph Nesteroff, a comedian from Vancouver, British Columbia, dives deep into the archives of show business to share the treasures he finds that we almost had forgotten, and also interviews comedians from generations that didn’t enjoy the ability to share their stories via social media when their careers were at their peaks.
This week: Nesteroff brings us part two of his lengthy interview with Willie Tyler and Lester. Willie Tyler was one of the most popular ventriloquist acts of the 1970s. With his dummy partner, Lester, Willie Tyler, a Detroit native, grew up to tour with several of Motown’s biggest singers and musical groups. Among his TV credits, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as well as national ad campaigns for McDonald’s and Toyota, and appearances in sitcoms and game shows in between, including The Jeffersons and Match Game.
Tyler spoke with Nesteroff about starting out with Motown and touring for eight years, playing the Las Vegas casinos, Laugh-In, meeting Edgar Bergen and more. In this excerpt, Willie Tyler reflects upon walking outside of his Los Angeles home in the early 1970s and noticing a new comedy club on the Sunset Strip called The Comedy Store. He soon began performing there.
“It was a good place to try new material and watch other acts that were trying stuff out, honing their sets, before their Tonight Show. Jay Leno had just moved out here then and David Letterman became the regular emcee. A lot of folks were around. Jimmy Walker. Sammy and his friend had opened the club. They were trying to make it work, but Sammy Shore got a contract with Elvis in Las Vegas around the same time. So he had to go to Vegas and he let Mitzi run the club until he got back. When Sammy left to go do Vegas the club wasn’t really making any money. When Mitzi was running it, it started making money. Soon after that they got a divorce and Mitzi got the club. From then on it was Mitzi and not Sammy. Mitzi loved Lester. She always wanted to talk to Lester.”
And here is one of multiple McDonald’s commercials from the 1980s featuring Willie Tyler and Lester. Roll it!