Soupy Sales

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Born

1/8/1926 , Franklinton, North Carolina

Died

10/22/2009

Birth Name

Milton Supman

Gender

Male

Biography:

Soupy Sales had been a popular comedy performer since the early days of TV. Born Milton Supman in Franklinton, North Carolina, he was first introduced to comedy by playing the title role in a grammar school production of "Peter Rabbit". When his family moved to Huntington, West Virginia, he enrolled at Marshall University to study Journalism, but he also found the time to perform in nightclubs as a comedy performer, singer and dancer. His career was briefly interrupted by his serving in the US Navy during WWII. He saw action in the South Pacific, yet he still was able to entertain the troops by performing on the ship's PA system, telling jokes and playing crazy characters. It was during his stint on the USS Randall that Soupy created his most famous comedic character, White Fang. Using a sound effects record, he conjured up the image of a large dog that found sadistic joy in tormenting the bumbling seaman with his outrageous practical jokes. After his stint in the Navy, Soupy returned to Marshall U where he completed his studies and earn a master's degree in Journalism. Instead of joining a newspaper or becoming a radio newscaster, he returned to the clubs and continued to perform his songs and comedy skits. He also joined up with radio station WHTN as a copywriter and began writing, producing and hosting his own comedy and music program. In 1949, Soupy moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where he performed on the radio, in nightclubs and in the medium that would make him famous: Television. He hosted the very first dance and music TV show for teens called "Soupy's Soda Shop" on WKRC TV in Cincinnati and he was also the M.C. for a late night comedy/variety program known as "Club Nothing!". Both shows were quickly cancelled due to the lack of vision from the stations owners. Nevertheless, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he did some nightclub appearances and hosted more radio and TV shows. It was on his late night comedy/variety TV series "Soupy's On!" that he got his first pie in the face. The skit was a spoof of the then popular movie western "Broken Arrow". An Indian (Soupy) astride a wild horse was being chased all over the backlot (which was made to look like the western plains) by a Calvary officer (also on horseback). When he was caught by the Calvary officer, Soupy complained "White man come to Indian's land. You kill our deer, you kill our buffalo. What is there left for the Indian?". The Calvary officer then popped Soupy in the face with a pie and Soupy (covered with the pie made from egg whites) replied "That's not what I had in mind!". Sadly, the station execs at WEXL TV in Cleveland did not appreciate Soupy's humor and his show was once again cancelled. In 1953, he received an offer to audition for a new TV comedy show that WXYZ TV Ch.7 in Detroit, Michigan was preparing for its weekday afternoon schedule. He went to Detroit, auditioned for the station's president John Pival and before long "12 O'clock Comics" debuted in Motown. From 1953 to 1960, Soupy and his head puppeteer/comedy assistant Clyde Adler would perform puppet and comedy skits and Soupy would engage his viewers in zany, but meaningful bits of philosophy with the "The Words of Wisdom" segment and narrate old silent film comedies, while having lunch with his viewers.

The show became so successful that the program's title was changed to "Lunch with Soupy Sales!" and on October 3, 1959, "Lunch with Soupy Sales!" made its debut on the ABC Television Network. The series moved to The KABC TV Studios in Los Angels, California, where it remained on the air until the network execs at ABC TV dropped the show from its Saturday afternoon schedule on March 25, 1961. Soupy's kids show remained on TV as a local program until the winter of 1962. When ABC TV needed another series to replace the departing "Steve Allen Show", "The Soupy Sales Show!" debuted on ABC TV's Friday night schedule on January 26, 1962. Dropping the narrations of silent comedy films and the lunchtime segment, Soupy and Clyde performed comedy and puppet skits and joked with many well known performers and personalities, including a memorable encounter with Frank Sinatra. "The Soupy Sales Show" remained on the ABC TV airways until it was cancelled on April 13, 1962. The series was revived again on WNEW TV Channel 5 in New York City as a nationally syndicated and local NYC based kids TV comedy show. From September 7, 1964 to September 4, 1966, Soupy and his second assistant and puppeteer Frank Nastassi put on comedy and puppets skits, introduced well known rock music groups and clowned around with celebrities. Soupy made guest appearances on numerous TV shows and specials and he would appear as a semi-regular on such popular TV game shows as "What My Line" and "To Tell the Truth!". He attempted a comeback to series TV as the host of the game show "Junior Almost Anything Goes", which was seen Saturday afternoons on his old network, ABC TV in September of 1976. Again his show was sabotaged by interference from network management. In 1977, he became a regular on "Sha Na Na", first as a wisecracking cop and then as Igor, the manager of Sha Na Na's clubhouse.

His last regular TV series was "The New Soupy Sales Show", which was taped at KTLA TV Channel 5 in Hollywood, California and was seen in national syndication during the 1979/1980 TV season. Once again, Soupy was partnered with Clyde Adler, who would manipulate Soupy's puppet pals White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie the Lion and Hippie the Hippo. The pair would perform new comedy skits, including "The Adventures of Soupyman" (a parody of The Superman feature films). Soupy also provided the voice of "Donkey Kong the Giant Gorilla" for CBS TV's Saturday morning cartoon series, "Saturday Supercade" during the mid 1980's. During the 1960's and 70's, he often appeared in plays, musicals, summer stock and dinner theaters as well as numerous films. He cut seven records and he hosted one more radio program, "Lunch with Soupy Sales" for WNBC Radio in New York City during the late 1980's. In his final years, he performed in nightclubs and appeared at nostalgia conventions. Soupy also found the time to write his memoirs, "Soupy Sez: My Life and Zany Times!" and he authored two joke books, "Soupy Sales: Did You Hear the One About?!" and "Stop Me If You've Heard This One?!".