Kip Addotta, a stand-up comedian who performed 32 times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the 1970s-1980s and whose punny songs found great success through the Dr. Demento radio show, has died. Addotta was 75.
Born June 16, 1944, in Rockford, Ill., Addotta’s family had immigrated to Rockford two decades earlier from Sicily, and the comedian would talk and write later in life about his family’s mob connections. In his autobiography published last year, “Confessions of a Comedian,” he revealed that his mother had abandoned him as a baby, that he slept in a crib until he was 9, suffered from an abusive alcoholic father, and spent time in an orphanage until a grandmother and an uncle who was a “made man” in Brooklyn took him in and cared for him.
In an interview to promote the book, Addotta said further that “not even my children knew that part of my life. Which is why I wrote the book, mainly.”
At 27, he was running a hair salon in Rockford when he took his second wife and three children to Hollywood to make a go of his comedy career. In less than two years, he’d scored his first Tonight Show gig. Many more followed. As did gigs opening for musical greats such as Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli, performing on other TV shows such as Mike Douglass and Midnight Special, and four years on the game show Make Me Laugh.
Here he was on Dick Clark’s Nitetime Show telling the audience the secrets to comedy.
Later in the 1980s, Penn and Teller introduced Addotta to the viewers of Showtime’s Comedy Club All-Stars.
Wait, did we mention the puns yet? Here’s his big hit, “Wet Dream,” which should be taken literally, now that we mention it.
In the 1990s, he sent up his image with an appearance on HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show, as the “guest no one really wants,” but comedians adored and respected Addotta.
As Ritch Shydner remembered: “The first time I saw Kip Addotta live was the New York Improv in 1980. Kevin Rooney I and stood in the back and watched him transfix the audience. He had great material, and a charismatic stage presence, a Jack Benny way with the pause. At the bar he gave us a tutorial, the first person to explain comic timing to me. I never forgot his line. “Don’t be afraid of the silence.” I had no idea how to do it, or what it really meant, but the words stuck with me. So did the best joke I ever heard on diet: “The reason you can’t lose weight is this hole (points to his mouth) is bigger than this hole (points to his butt).” That night I became a fan. Not only was he funny onstage but a killer comic willing to share his knowledge, and almost just as important at the time, his drugs. God, could he tell a story. His funny Vegas tales painted an accurate picture, giving me valuable information before I ever stepped on a casino stage. No doubt he saved me some grief there. When the clubs were opening, Kip was often the first comic to play the room. He taught the new owners a lot about sound, lighting and crowd control. He sure made things a hell of a lot easier for us other happy idiots. In 1985, I was at the Columbia SC Punchline when Kip did their anniversary show. He had his “bitches,” two women who sang backup on his humorous songs. He also used them as “backup laughers.” He’d purposely do a bad joke. These two women would laugh insanely, and the audience couldn’t help but follow. It was ingenious, original and funny. The guy was such a powerhouse comic he got laughter, not groans, but actual laughs with clean puns in “Life in the Slaw Lane.” He was a rogue, with an honest laugh. My kind of guy. He truly had a passion for standup comedy. In the past few years, we had many an argument about the state of standup. Kip would usually say, “Maybe I care too much.” Nah. You cared just the right amount. RIP, Kip.”
As his family broke the news to friends and fans on Facebook: “Thank you to all of his friends and fans who have supported him throughout his life and career. His wit will be missed but his writings will live forever.”
Rest in peace, Kip.