And now we cry for the former “crying comedian,” who later gained fame for throwing confetti and enlivening every situation, whether it was a game show, a talk show or a movie full of jackasses. “Rip” Taylor has died. He was 88.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Charles Elmer “Rip” Taylor Jr. worked as a Congressional page before serving in the Korean War with the U.S. Army. The Army had him performing for the troops, both in Korea and Japan. When Taylor returned to the states, he began his nightclub career. His earliest act involved pantomiming to records, but his first big breakout bit involved him crying to beg audiences to laugh for him. That earned him a moniker as the Crying Comedian.
He became a hit in Las Vegas and on The Ed Sullivan Show, appearing some 20 times on the latter. He told Kliph Nesteroff in 2011 that he later became known for confetti unintentionally.
“I did props and I was ‘The Prop Comedian.’ I was dying like hell on Merv Griffin’s show. The jokes were dumb, and I tore the 5 by 8 cards, threw them up in the air and it became confetti,” he recalled. “I knocked over his desk, walked up the aisle, went to Sardi’s and said, ‘Well, that’s the end of my television career.’ I went home that night. Their switchboard had lit up. They said, ‘Get the guy that went crazy!’ And that is how the confetti started.”
Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, Taylor found a home on game shows such as Hollywood Squares, The Gong Show and The Match Game, and hosted his own show in 1978, The $1.98 Beauty Show. He also provided voice-over work for cartoons, and made memorable cameos in Wayne’s World 2 and all three Jackass movies.
Taylor carved out a niche where there wasn’t one before for gay men in show business. As Billy Eichner noted: “RIP, Rip. I can’t imagine how much bullshit you had to deal with in an industry that decided it was finally cool to be a gay man in comedy, like, a year ago. Nevertheless you ignored all that and delighted people for decades. RIP.”
Ron Funches noted that Taylor was “the reason I threw skittles on stage.”