Nichols and May
Nichols and May is a Grammy Award-winning American improvisational comedy duo act developed by Mike Nichols and Elaine May. Their three comedy albums reached the Billboard Top 40 between 1959 and 1962.
Development and collaboration
Nichols and May met as students at the University of Chicago in the early 1950s. They began their career together at The Compass Players, a predecessor to Chicago's Second City which included Paul Sills, Del Close, and Nancy Ponder. Nichols dropped out of college in 1953 and moved to New York in 1954 to study acting with Lee Strasberg. May remained in Chicago at Compass, and Nichols returned in 1955. For a short time they worked as a trio with Shelley Berman, but Nichols felt a duo worked better for their style. Both Nichols and May held various jobs and pursued their craft until 1957, when Compass began an expansion to St. Louis, Missouri. Nichols rejoined the company but was fired in 1958, because May objected to Nichols' treatment of Close, and because the producer suspected Nichols and May were honing an act they planned to take with them. They soon auditioned for agent Jack Rollins in New York, and within weeks they were booked on The Steve Allen Show and Omnibus. Soon they were touring the country and doing voiceover work for ads, most notably a cartoon campaign for Narragansett Brewing Company. Their 1959 album "Improvisations to Music" featured the pianist Marty Rubinstein playing improvisations to existing classical and popular songs, as well as original material, with humorous conversations by Nichols and May. Their 1960 album An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May was a recording of their Broadway debut and won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Performance. Their next album Mike Nichols & Elaine May Examine Doctors was also nominated for a Grammy. Following that album, the duo began exploring separate projects, though they continued to perform and appear together in projects like the 1996 television special Nichols and May: Take Two.
- Improvisations to Music (1959) Mercury
- An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May (1960) Mercury
- Mike Nichols & Elaine May Examine Doctors (1962) Mercury MG 20680/SR 60680
- In Retrospect (1982) Polygram, re-released as compact disc in 1996
- Holland, Bill (September 28, 1996). '50s trailblazers brought social satire to the masses. Billboard, p. 1.
- Staff report (Nov 21, 1960). Fun with human foibles: Nichols and May's satire prickles and tickles. Life
- Coleman, Janet (1991). The Compass: The Improvisational Theatre That Revolutionized American Comedy. University Of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0-226-11345-6
- Lahr, John (2002). Show and Tell: New Yorker Profiles. University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-23377-5
- Nachman, Gerald (2004). Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. Back Stage Books, ISBN 978-0-8230-4786-4
- Turley Hazel B. (2007). Narragansett Brewing Company. Arcadia Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7385-4905-7
- Marks, Peter (May 19, 1996). Television: The Brief, Brilliant Run Of Nichols and May. New York Times