Robin Williams: Our Funny, Troubled Cousin

The report that Robin Williams had died on Aug. 11 of an apparent suicide by asphyxiation came like that dreaded phone call, the bad news regarding a friend or relative about whom you’ve long feared the worst. >> Robin Williams’ 10 Unforgettable Roles If celebrities have become something of an extended family to us, Robin was the cousin we instinctively worried about. We knew of his cocaine addiction in the 1980s; about his hospitalization for alcoholism in 2006. And although we never heard much …

Jay Leno Wins Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will honor comedian Jay Leno with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the nation’s top award for humor, according to the Associated Press. Leno, 64, has a rich, long-standing career entertaining American audiences. He took over as host for NBC’s The Tonight Show after Johnny Carson stepped down in 1992. Since relinquishing his chair to Jimmy Fallon last February, Leno has created Jay Leno’s Garage, an online series dedicated to his love of …

CNN Summer Series ‘The Sixties’ Debuts May 29

Let’s just proclaim Tom Hanks America’s Official Historian. The first TV program Hanks ever produced was the monumental miniseries From Earth to the Moon (1998).  His G.I. dramas Band of Brothers (2001) and The Pacific (2010) remain the definitive World War II miniseries. And now he’s the executive producer of CNN’s ambitious attempt to crystalize the most turbulent decade of the past half-century, the 10-part documentary series The Sixties. CNN has made a few episodes available to the press for …

David Brenner: The Comic Who Made Everyday Life Seem Funny

As a stand-up comic, David Brenner’s trademark line was “Did you ever notice … ?” Brenner, who died on March 15 at age 78 in New York City, made his living calling the myriad absurdities of everyday life to our attention – “the dumb things we say and do,” he once put it. Brenner, in fact, could get an entire routine out of, say, the frustrations that drivers experience when they have to ask for directions. Here he is, doing that …

The Man Who Gave Us ‘Twister’

If you were a teenager at a party in the mid-1960s, and you yearned to get up close and personal with someone else, slow dancing wasn’t much of an option unless you wanted to look like a square who couldn’t do the Frug. Thank heavens, then, for Twister, the Milton Bradley party game in which participants had to contort themselves into unlikely positions by putting their hands and feet in various colored spots on a big mat, as determined randomly …

Carson and Best Guests Are Back on TCM

Johnny Carson wanted to book Elizabeth Taylor as a Tonight Show guest for 30 years, and in February 1992, just a few months before Carson ceded his late night throne and franchise to Jay Leno, the mercurial actress finally said yes. During the interview the two legends traded good-natured barbs about marriage and divorce (about which each of them knew more than most). It was a meeting of Hollywood royalty, and it’s one of the fascinating old-school celebrity chats to …