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Creesh, We Hardly Knew Ye…

| May 21, 2021

By Mark Wainwright
Talk Show Host

CNN’s “The Story of Late Night” overlooked both “Broadway Open House” and the brilliant young comedian/host who was stricken by tragedy on the eve of his network television debut.

SYRACUSE — Although I’ve enjoyed the first three episodes of “The Story of Late Night,” I was surprised that CNN barely acknowledged Jerry Lester and NBC’s “Broadway Open House,” which was TV’s first late night comedy/variety show. NBC aired it live, five nights a week between 11pm and midnight, and while a couple different personalities took brief turns hosting the program, most of the show’s run was emceed by the veteran vaudeville comic Jerry Lester.

Lester led a small troupe of performers through sketches, musical numbers, audience-participation gags, and whatever other silliness he could improvise. The program debuted in May of 1950, and after some early success, the show began to fade a bit over time. And when Lester walked away from the show a year later – evidently frustrated that cast member Jennie “Dagmar” Lewis was accidentally becoming the true star of the show, at his expense – that doomed the whole effort. NBC pulled the plug on August 24, 1951.

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