Jack E. Leonard
When I was growing up the variety shows on TV were Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle, Steve Allen, Dinah Shore, Jack Benny, Kate Smith, The Colgate Comedy Hour, Sid Caesar & Imagine Coca, Ed Sullivan, Ernie Kovacs, Perry Como etc. All of these shows had live music and dancers. In addition, they all had guest comedians each week. One of the comedians who was very popular was Jack E Leonard. He was a very heavy set guy who wore a hat and loud looking shirts or jackets. What made him different from all of the other comedians was that he did not tell jokes or stories. He would just insult people. He was hilarious. He did it way before Don Rickels ever thought about doing it. He was the original. He was very quick-witted and could cut a heckler into pieces with his insults and great speed. In addition to all of this, for a man who was so large he was a great dancer. He danced with elegance and grace. It was really quite something to see.
I made an album with Jackie around 1966. It was called “Scream On Someone You Love Today.” It was never a huge commercial success, but I do remember the recording sessions and how he broke everyone up. At one point I remember I had to give the band a break because we were all laughing so hard no one could play their instrument. I also remember him chopping me up into pieces in front of the band. I should add that it was all done with affection and I loved it. Even though his persona was a rough, arrogant guy, he was quite the opposite. He was a real nice man. We got to be friends and he had great show business stories, which I loved listening to. We had many lunches together at Jack Demsey’s famous restaurant on Broadway. He would always order this huge corned beef sandwich that was bigger than my first car. From behind this huge sandwich would come some of the funniest jokes I ever heard … mustard and all.
This picture was taken at one of the recording sessions. Sadly, he passed away shortly after. All of the comedians I know all say the same thing about him. He was hysterically funny and a real nice guy. I agree.