Phil Silvers grew up in relative poverty in New York. To escape, he began singing and cracking jokes. He performed in various vaudeville shows until his voice changed at 16. Afterwards, he began to act rather than sing in touring vaudeville shows. While performing in a burlesque comedy act, he met Herbie Faye. Faye and Silvers would form a friendship and working relationship that would last throughout Silvers' career.
Silvers' comedy act caught the eye of Broadway producers, where he appeared in the show Yokel Boy. His comedic performance in the musical lead to small film roles in Hollywood. He returned to Broadway and had surprising success, even earning a Tony. Once again Hollywood took notice. This time the small screen called, and Silvers found more success than he'd ever had before when his character Ernie Bilko garnered legions of fans.
When the Bilko series ended, Silvers moved easily back to Broadway. Over the next years, he would appear on TV shows and specials and on Broadway.
In August of 1972, Silvers had a major stroke. With therapy, he recovered enough to make infrequent appearances, but he never regained his famous comedic timing. He worked steadily until his death in 1985.