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Comedian Shelley Berman Dies At 92

Shelley Berman was first known for his comedy albums.
Shelley Berman was first known for his comedy albums.

Some know comedian Shelley Berman from his Emmy-nominated role as Larry David's father on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Others will remember him as old Judge Sanders on "Boston Legal," or his guest roles on "L.A. Law."

But loyal WNOP-AM listeners will remember the iconic 1960s comedian - who died Friday at 92 at his California home of complications from Alzheimer's - from the station identification spots he recorded for the Newport jazz station that aired bits from comedy albums.

Shelley Berman's 1960s publicity photo.
Credit Steve Allen Show
Shelley Berman's 1960s publicity photo.

Berman was so grateful for promotion of his albums on the station that he recorded spots saying:

WNOP, Where Nonsense Occasionally Prevails

WNOP, We Never Offend Porcupines

WNOP, Who Needs Our Problems

Former WNOP DJ Bob Nave adds these to my list:

We Never Overlook Pay

We Never Order Pizza

Where Nude Ogres Proliferate

Wet Nooses Often Pinch

Berman's "Inside Shelley Berman," released in early 1959, became the first comedy album to be awarded a gold record, and the first non-musical recording to win a Grammy Award, Deadline says. 

The first of his six Verve albums also reached No. 2 on the Billboard album chart, paving the way for 1960's hit comedy albums by Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, the Smothers Brothers and others.

"I was nervous about that record, because I thought no one would want to see me anymore if they could just play it," Mr. Berman told the New York Times in 2003. 

"Then, after it came out, I went to play a show on Sunset Boulevard, and there was a line around the block! I told my wife, 'I can buy two suits now.'"

"Inside Shelley Berman" was released in 1959.
Credit Verve Records
"Inside Shelley Berman" was released in 1959.

Like Newhart, Berman became popular in the 1960s for routines doing fictional phone calls. He also wrote sketches for Steve Allen; trained as a serious actor; performed improvisational comedy with Mike Nichols and Elaine May with Chicago's Compass Players (later named Second City); and made numerous TV appearances.

His credits include "The Twilight Zone," "Rawhide,"  "Bewitched," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Adam-12," "Night Court," "MacGyver," "Walker, Texas Ranger," "King Of Queens," "Grey’s Anatomy," "Entourage," "Hannah Montana," "CSI: NY" "Hawaii Five-0" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm (2002-09), for which he received an Emmy nomination in 2008.

Thanks for all the laughs, Shelley Berman. You helped so many of us cope... when nonsense occasionally prevailed.

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