Stubby Kaye

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Stubby Kaye
Kaye with Shirley Bonne in 1960
Bernard Shalom Kotzin

(1918-11-11)November 11, 1918
DiedDecember 14, 1997(1997-12-14) (aged 79)
Rancho Mirage, California, U.S.
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • vaudevillian
  • singer
Years active1939–1988
Jeanne Watson
(m. 1960; div. 1961)
Angela Bracewell
(m. 1967)

Bernard Shalom Kotzin (November 11, 1918 – December 14, 1997), known as Stubby Kaye, was an American actor, comedian, vaudevillian, and singer, known for his appearances on Broadway and in film musicals.[1]

Kaye originated the roles of Nicely-Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls and Marryin' Sam in Li'l Abner, introducing two show-stopping numbers of the era: "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" and "Jubilation T. Cornpone." He reprised these roles in the movie versions of the two shows. Other well-known roles include Herman in Bob Fosse's Sweet Charity, Sam the Shade in Cat Ballou, and Marvin Acme in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.


Kaye was first generation born Bernard Sholom Kotzin on the last day of the First World War, at West 114th Street in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan. His parents were Jewish-Americans originally from Russia and Austria-Hungary. His father, David Kotzin, was a dress salesman, and the former Harriet "Hattie" Freundlish was his mother. He was raised in the Far Rockaway section of Queens and later in The Bronx, where he acted in student productions at DeWitt Clinton High School, and where he graduated in 1937.

In 1939, he won the Major Bowes Amateur Hour contest on radio where the prize included touring in vaudeville,[1] where he was sometimes billed as an "Extra Padded Attraction." During the Second World War, he joined the USO where he toured battle fronts and made his London debut performing with Bob Hope. After the war, he continued to work in vaudeville and as master of ceremonies for the swing orchestras of Freddy Martin and Charlie Barnet.[2]

Directors viewed Kaye as a master of the Broadway idiom, evidenced by his introduction of three show-stopping numbers of the era: "Fugue for Tinhorns" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" from Guys and Dolls (1950) and "Jubilation T. Cornpone" from Li'l Abner (1956).[1] In 1953 he played in You Can't Run Away from It, a remake of It Happened One Night. Kaye is best remembered for creating the role of Nicely-Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls, first on Broadway and then in the film version.[1] He also played Marryin' Sam in Li'l Abner, again on both stage and screen.[1] He played the title character in Michael Winner's film The Cool Mikado (1962).

In the mid-1950s, Kaye guest starred on NBC's early sitcom The Martha Raye Show. In 1958, he appeared on the short-lived NBC variety show The Gisele MacKenzie Show. About this time, he also appeared on ABC's The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom. In the 1959–60 television season, Kaye co-starred in the short-lived NBC sitcom Love and Marriage.[1]

Kaye in 1964, promoting game show Shenanigans

In the 1960-61 television season, Kaye appeared as Marty, the agent of aspiring actress Eileen Sherwood, in the CBS sitcom My Sister Eileen, starring Shirley Bonne, Elaine Stritch, Jack Weston, Raymond Bailey, and Rose Marie.[1]

In the 1960s, Kaye became known as the host of a weekly children's talent show, Stubby's Silver Star Show. During the 1962–63 television season, he was a regular on Stump the Stars. On April 14, 1963, he guest-starred as "Tubby Mason" in NBC's Ensign O'Toole, a comedy series, starring Dean Jones.

From 1964 to 1965, he hosted the Saturday morning children's game show Shenanigans on ABC.

Kaye appeared alongside Nat King Cole as a Shouter in the western/comedy Cat Ballou (1965), starring Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin.[1] He played Herman in the Universal musical film Sweet Charity (1969), directed by Bob Fosse and starring Shirley MacLaine in the title role.[1] In that movie, he sang the song "I Love to Cry at Weddings."

Kaye's later stage productions included the 1974 Broadway revival of Good News, Man of Magic in London (with Stuart Damon as Harry Houdini), and his final Broadway show Grind, co-starring Ben Vereen, in 1985.[1] He made a guest appearance in the British series Doctor Who, in the serial "Delta and the Bannermen" (1987). His last featured film role was as Marvin Acme in Robert Zemeckis's film Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).[1]

Shenanigans was a children's television game show produced by Heatter-Quigley Productions which aired on ABC Saturday mornings from September 26, 1964 to March 20, 1965, and again from September 25 to December 18, 1965.[1] The series began as local programming in New York City and later aired nationally on ABC. The show was similar to Video Village Junior, another program produced by Heatter-Quigley which featured children as contestants moving about a life-sized game board.

Stubby Kaye hosted the program, dubbed "the Mayor of Shenanigans," and Kenny Williams was the announcer, known as "Kenny the Cop". Williams portrayed a similar role on Video Village.

Kaye died on December 14, 1997, of lung cancer at the age of 79.[3][4]

Partial filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 228/9. ISBN 1-85227-937-0.
  2. ^ Vallance, Tom (17 December 1997). "Obituary: Stubby Kaye". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2022-05-25.
  3. ^ "Stubby Kaye, 79, Rotund Comic and Singer". The New York Times. December 16, 1997.
  4. ^ "Comic Actor Stubby Kaye Dies At 79". Deseret News. Associated Press. 16 December 1997.

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