Show: Remembering When

Episode: 868-098 The George Gobel Show


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Episode Description:

George Leslie Gobel (May 20, 1919 – February 24, 1991) was an American comedian and actor. He was best known as the star of his own weekly NBC television show, The George Gobel Show, which ran from 1954 to 1960 (the last season on CBS, alternating with The Jack Benny Program).

He was born George Leslie Goebel in Chicago, Illinois, His father, Hermann Goebel, was a butcher and grocer who had emigrated to the United States with his parents in the 1890s from the Austrian Empire. His mother, Lillian (MacDonald) Goebel, was born in Illinois to immigrant parents from Scotland. He was an only child.

Gobel graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Chicago in 1937.

Gobel initially pursued an entertainment career as a country music singer, appearing on the National Barn Dance on WLS radio. Gobel enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II and served as a flight instructor in AT-9 aircraft at Altus, Oklahoma and later in B-26 Marauder bombers at Frederick, Oklahoma. In a 1969 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Gobel joked about his stateside service, "There was not one Japanese aircraft got past Tulsa." After his discharge at the end of the war, he switched from singing to comedy.

Gobel began a comedy show on NBC in 1954. It showcased his quiet, homespun style of humor, a low-key alternative to what audiences had seen on Milton Berle's shows. A huge success, the popular series made the crewcut Gobel one of the biggest comedy stars of the 1950s. The weekly show regularly featured guest artists, and the biggest stars of the day appeared (including Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda and Tennessee Ernie Ford). In 1955, Gobel won an Emmy Award for "most outstanding new personality." Gobel and his business manager David P. O'Malley formed a production company, Gomalco, a composite of their last names Gobel and O'Malley. This company also produced the first four years (1957–61) of the 1957-63 television series Leave It to Beaver.

The centerpiece of Gobel's comedy show was his monologue about his supposed past situations and experiences, with stories and sketches allegedly about his real-life wife, Alice (nicknamed "Spooky Old Alice" and played by actress Jeff Donnell). Gobel's hesitant, almost shy delivery and penchant for tangled digressions were the chief sources of comedy, more important than the actual content of the stories. His monologues popularized several catchphrases, notably "Well, I'll be a dirty bird" (spoken by the Kathy Bates character in the 1990 film Misery), "You don't hardly get those any more" and "Well then there now" (spoken by the James Dean character during a brief imitation of Gobel in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause).

Gobel's show used some of television's top writers of the era: Hal Kanter, Jack Brooks and Norman Lear. Peggy King was a regular on the series as a vocalist, and the guest stars ranged from Shirley MacLaine and Evelyn Rudie to Bob Feller, Phyllis Avery and Vampira.

Gobel labeled himself "Lonesome George," and the nickname stuck for the rest of his career. The TV show typically included a segment in which Gobel appeared with a guitar, started to sing, then got sidetracked into a story, with the song always left unfinished after fitful starts and stops, a comedy approach that prefigured the Smothers Brothers. He had constructed a special version of the Gibson L-5 archtop guitar featuring diminished dimensions of neck scale and body depth, befitting his own smaller stature. Several dozen of this "L-5CT" or "George Gobel" model were produced in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He also played the harmonica.

In 1957, three U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers made the first nonstop round-the-world flight by turbojet aircraft. One of the bombers was called "Lonesome George." The crew later appeared on Gobel's primetime television show and recounted the mission, which took them 45 hours and 19 minutes. Lonesome George, the non-breeding Galapagos tortoise that was the last of its 10 million year old species and that died in June 2012, was also named after Gobel.

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File Name of SD Episode: 868-098 The George Gobel Show.mpg

Total SD Episode Video Runtime (hh:mm:ss): 00:32:01

File Size of SD Episode Video: 1,499,644,180 Bytes

Resolution of SD Episode Video: 720x480

Date SD Episode Video Uploaded: Sunday, February 3, 2013 - 23:53


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