Steve Allen Westinghouse Show, The
About This Show
From 1962 to 1964, Allen re-created his Tonight Show format on a new late-night The Steve Allen Show, which was syndicated by Westinghouse TV. The five-nights-a-week taped show was broadcast from an old vaudeville theater renamed The Steve Allen Playhouse on 1228 N. Vine St. in Hollywood. (Several sources have erroneously identified Allen's show using the name of his theater.)
The show was marked by the same wild and unpredictable stunts and comedy skits that often extended down the street to a supermarket known as the Hollywood Ranch Market. He also presented Southern California eccentrics, including health food advocate Gypsy Boots, quirky physics professor Dr. Julius Sumner Miller, wacko comic Prof. Irwin Corey, and an early musical performance by Frank Zappa.
During one episode, Allen placed a telephone call to the home of Johnny Carson, posing as a ratings company interviewer, asking Carson if the Television was on, and what program he was watching. Carson didn't immediately realize the caller was Allen, and the exchange is classic humor from both, beginning to end. A rarity is the exchange between Allen and Carson about Carson's guests, permitting him to plug his own show on a competing network.
One notable program, which Westinghouse refused to distribute, featured Lenny Bruce during the time the comic was repeatedly being arrested on obscenity charges; footage from this program was first telecast in 1998 in a Bruce documentary aired on HBO. Regis Philbin took over hosting the Westinghouse show in 1964, but only briefly. Allen's show also had one of the longest unscripted "crack-ups" on live TV when Allen began laughing hysterically while imitating an announcer reading the sports news. He laughed uncontrollably for over a minute, with the audience laughing along, because, as he later explained, he caught sight of his unkempt hair on an off-camera monitor and found his look ridiculous.
The show also featured plenty of jazz played by Allen and members of the show's band, the Donn Trenner Orchestra, which included such virtuoso musicians as guitarist Herb Ellis and flamboyantly comedic hipster trombonist Frank Rosolino (whom Allen credited with originating the "Hiyo!" chant later popularized by Ed McMahon). While the show was not an overwhelming success in its day, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Robin Williams, and a number of other prominent comedians have cited Allen's "Westinghouse show," which they watched as teenagers, as being highly influential on their own comedic visions.
Allen later produced a second half-hour show for Westinghouse, titled Jazz Scene, which featured West Coast jazz musicians such as Rosolino, Stan Kenton, and Teddy Edwards. The short-lived show was hosted by Oscar Brown, Jr.
Video clip: Frank Zappa on The Steve Allen Show.
- Steve Allen on a tug-of-war with an elephant on The Steve Allen Westinghouse Show
Clip begins at: 10:19, Duration: 02m 00s
- Steve Allen on a tea-bag sketch on The Steve Allen Westinghouse Show
Clip begins at: 16:44, Duration: 00m 57s
- Steve Allen on funny phone call sketches on The Steve Allen Westinghouse Show
Clip begins at: 18:38, Duration: 04m 13s
- Steve Binder on directing the Steve Allen Westinghouse Show
Clip begins at: 22:39, Duration: 07m 47s