In Memoriam: The year in R.I.P. in comedy for 2017

It’s rather remarkable that most all of the funny nonagenarians profiled in this year’s HBO documentary, If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast, managed to make it through 2017 unscathed.

But several other comedy legends passed away in 2017, old and not-so-old.

Let us take one more look back at the comedians we still love and miss so dearly, who left us in the past year.

UPDATED Dec. 30 with the death of Danny Breen at age 67.

UPDATED with the Dec. 28 death of Rose Marie at age 94.

R.I.P. Jim Nabors, aka Gomer Pyle (1930-2017)


Jim Nabors, best known in his younger years for playing country bumpkin Gomer Pyle on two different hit TV sitcoms, and in his later years for singing — particularly at the opening of every Indy 500 — has died. He was 87. Nabors died in his home in Hawaii, his longtime partner and husband, Stan Cadwallader, reported.   His website lists a short but sweet bio: Jim Nabors was born in 1930 in Alabama and raised there, graduating from the University of Alabama. He moved to Los Angeles due to his asthmatic condition and was discovered on stage doing…


R.I.P. Ken Shapiro

KEN SHAPIRO (1942-2017)

Before Saturday Night Live, before The Groove Tube even, Ken Shapiro was making funny faces on television with Chevy Chase when nobody knew their faces. Shapiro and Chase performed sketches together on Channel One, then on PBS as the first people seen on-air on The Great American Dream Machine, before making sketch comedy movie The Groove Tube in 1974 (a year before everyone discovered Chase on SNL). Shapiro later wrote and directed Modern Problems, the 1981 comedy starring Chase as an air-traffic controller who acquires superpowers in a toxic accident. Shapiro died Nov. 18, at his home in New…


R.I.P. Sean Hughes (1965-2017)

SEAN HUGHES (1965-2017)


R.I.P. Ralphie May (1972-2017)

RALPHIE MAY (1972-2017)

R.I.P. Joey Edmonds

JOEY EDMONDS (1940-2017)

R.I.P. Shelley Berman (1925-2017)

SHELLEY BERMAN (1925-2017)


R.I.P. Jerry Lewis (1926-2017)

JERRY LEWIS (1926-2017)


R.I.P. Dick Gregory (1932-2017)

DICK GREGORY (1932-2017)

All of the comedians and comedy fans who claim Richard Pryor was the greatest stand-up comedian ever have Dick Gregory to thank for that. Before Pryor or George Carlin embraced the so-called counterculture, Gregory was out there on the front lines of 1960s activism and breaking the racial barriers for black comedians to achieve mainstream success. Dick Gregory died Saturday night from heart failure after being hospitalized earlier this month in Washington, D.C. Gregory was 84. As his son, Christian, wrote: “One of his finest gifts was the ability to make you sit up and pay attention.” Dick Gregory…


R.I.P. Patti Deutsch (1943-2017)

PATTI DEUTSCH (1943-2017)


R.I.P. Stevie Ryan (1984-2017)

STEVIE RYAN (1984-2017)


R.I.P. Bill Dana, 1924-2017

BILL DANA (1924-2017)

Bill Dana, the comedian who pretended to be an astronaut and became a fan of America’s original astronauts, has died. Dana was 92. Dana was born William Szathmary on Oct. 5, 1924, into a Hungarian Jewish family in Quincy, Mass., adopting a variation on his mother’s name for his stage name because he felt Szathmary was too difficult to pronounce (for a modern example of same: see Louis Szekeley becoming Louis CK). A WWII vet who earned a Bronze Star in combat as an infantryman, Dana enrolled at Emerson College on the G.I. Bill. He graduated from Emerson College in…


R.I.P. Tino Insana, 1948-2017

TINO INSANA (1948-2017)


R.I.P. Gary Shapiro

GARY SHAPIRO (1964-2017)

Singer. Songwriter. Comedian. Rabbi. Cantor. Gary Shapiro touched many lives in and around Los Angeles in ways a typical comedian never did. Shapiro died unexpectedly on Thursday. More details on that as they become available. Shapiro was born July 1, 1964. He was only 52. Memorial services will be held at 12:30 p.m. Monday, May 1, at Mount Sinai, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, in Los Angeles. Shapiro (@ElSmoocho on Twitter) had just performed at the beginning of the week at the monthly Top Tune showcase for singer/songwriters. At @thehotelcafe last night for #TopTune (L-R): hilarious host @Henlips groove master…


R.I.P. Charlie Murphy (1959-2017)

CHARLIE MURPHY (1959-2017)


RIP Dorothy Hofert Letterman Mengering, aka “Dave’s Mom”


Dorothy Hofert Letterman Mengering was 72 when she first began appearing on her son’s late-night television show, and delighted millions in the 1990s with her reports from the Olympics, her pies from the kitchen and her advice for her son. Mengering died Tuesday peacefully at home, a day before David Letterman’s 70th birthday. Dave’s Mom was 95. Her three children, Jan, Gretchen and David, wrote her obituary in the local paper, The Indianapolis Star. Here’s an excerpt about her experiences in public that we saw: Perhaps the Mengerings’ most memorable travels were the result of “Dave’s Mom” becoming a huge…


RIP Lashonda Lester


Lashonda Lester, a Detroit native named 2016’s Funniest Person in Austin, was supposed to record her first half-hour comedy special for Comedy Central two weeks from tonight in New Orleans. Instead, Lester has died. From Martha Kelly, Austin resident and co-star on FX’s Baskets: “Lashonda was one of the most naturally talented comics I’ve ever seen and a pleasure to know off stage as well. She was truly beloved by the Austin comedy community and will be terribly missed. RIP Shondee.💔💔💔💔” I just learned Lashonda Lester passed away. She opened for me last week in Austin. Very sad. Very…


R.I.P. Don Rickles (1926-2017)

DON RICKLES (1926-2017)

Don Rickles, the legendary comedian and actor who could roast President Ronald Reagan, Frank Sinatra and just about everyone else, has died. Rickles was 90. Rickles died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles from kidney failure, his publicist confirmed. He hadn’t stopped performing even in old age. Just a couple of weeks ago, AARP had announced Rickles would star in his own sit-down interview series for their new digital platform. No word if any of the segments for “Dinner With Don” already had been produced. But Rickles, a quick wit and master of insults for decades, entertained audiences…

R.I.P. Gary Austin, founder of The Groundlings (1941-2017)



R.I.P. Alan Colmes (1950-2017)

ALAN COLMES (1950-2017)


R.I.P. “Professor” Irwin Corey (1914-2017)


The “World’s Foremost Authority” and oldest living stand-up comedian, Professor Irwin Corey, has died. Corey was 102. Praised by Lenny Bruce as one of the brightest voices in comedy, Corey was born July 29, 1914, in Brooklyn. Eight decades before the “World Champion” Judah Friedlander took on any audience member’s questions and the absurd doublespeak of Reggie Watts, Corey was dazzling and confusing audiences with his own colorful explanations about anything and everything, seemingly saying nothing. A teen during the Great Depression, Corey left the orphan asylum in NYC where he’d grown up (despite both of his parents still living),…


R.I.P. Tony Rosato (1954-2017)

TONY ROSATO (1954-2017)


Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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