Comedian Marty Allen still earning laughs at age 91


Most people are long retired by age 91. Not Marty Allen, whose comedic talent has spanned the decades.

His signature line, “Hello, dere,” starts every show. He appears in nightclubs and theaters along with his wife, Karon, an accomplished pianist and singer.

Allen is writing his autobiography. The working title is “Hello Dere: Welcome to my Life.” It’s expected to be finished soon.

View caught up with the timeless comic near the couple’s home in The Lakes.

Allen recalled being booked on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964, that historic night when the Beatles made their U.S. debut. Allen said he and partner Steve Rossi were scheduled to appear just before the Fab Four’s set, and the audience’s anticipation was at a fever pitch.

“There were teenagers everywhere, screaming their heads off,” he recalled. “I walked out (on stage) and said, ‘Hello dere, I’m Ringo’s mother.’ ”

Back then, live shows were performed twice. One was shot for camera angles, and the other was the actual performance. A new audience was brought in for the second performance, so the cutaways to people screaming showed girls who were no longer seated there.

Sullivan was a very nice man, Allen said, and never worried that the tag team of Allen and Rossi would perform any inappropriate material.

“I never did anything blue,” Allen said. “I’m one of the few left who does a clean show.”

These days, the act doesn’t need to resort to bad language, as the bantering between him and Karon is entertaining without it. Sometimes, he doesn’t even have to speak to get a laugh.

As Karon plays and sings “Hey, Big Spender,” Allen will walk out in a dress and play up to some man in the front row. He exposes undergarments that say, “Hello, dere,” something that was not written in the script.

“He’ll do anything to try and crack me up,” she said.

One time, she told the audience that Allen would dance the next segment as she played a song. That’s what the act called for. Instead, he froze in an awkward pose, complete with “deer-in-the-headlights” look, eliciting hoots of laughter from the audience.

“They call us ‘the new George Burns and Gracie Allen,’ ” he said.

The couple met in Los Angeles 31 years ago, where she was running a restaurant and his manager had an office nearby. The two men came in for lunch. After ordering, Allen marked up his menu, writing, “Instead of the fruit salad, I’ll take you instead. I like how you walk in that dress.”

“When I saw it, I started laughing, and I made him autograph it,” Karon said.

She never expected to see him again, but Allen had other ideas. He kept coming in for lunch. One day, he heard Karon play the piano and sing.

“She plays better than Jerry Lee Lewis,” he said.

He convinced her to be part of his show for his next gig in Pittsburgh. When she was booked at the Stratosphere, she began bringing him up on stage. Their relationship, and their act, grew from there. They were married 29 years ago at the late author Sidney Sheldon’s estate in California. Sheldon was the best man. The couple now perform together all over the country and are booked often with Royal Caribbean cruise line.

Allen owes more to his wife than a new act. She is known for eating brown rice and vegetable-dominated meals and taking supplements and got him to change his diet to be more nutritious.

“I said, ‘If we’re going to get married, we owe it to ourselves to be as healthy as possible,’ ” she said.

He now exercises twice daily. Allen’s not as strict with his eating habits, but, by following Karon’s guidelines, he has dropped from a size 48 suit jacket to a 44.

People are so amazed that Allen is still performing, they often assume he is an impersonator. One time, he had to get out his driver’s license to convince a fan.

In March, Allen celebrated his 91st birthday with another engagement. The couple were booked at a Mill Valley theater in Northern California. The owner threw him a birthday party the night before where two special guests, comedians Robin Williams and Mort Sahl, joined the celebration.

When Allen wasn’t doing his comedy act, he was on TV shows such as “Hollywood Squares.” He said as much as people enjoy his show, he enjoys making them laugh.

“I love people,” he said. “In my heart, I just love entertaining. ... Working with her, she’s phenomenal, and not because she’s my wife. On her own, she’s absolutely brilliant.”

He ticks off his accomplishments by the celebrities in his life, including Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck and being invited to the White House.

Has he ever considered retirement?

“Where am I going to go?” he asked. “No, as long as I can still entertain and well, walk out on stage.”

Allen had hip-replacement surgery in November 2012. Even coming out of the anesthesia, his sense of humor kicked in.

“I asked the doctor, ‘Did I have a boy or a girl?’ ” he said.

Three weeks later, he was back performing, with Karon placing props strategically around the stage before the show, items on which he could lean. He still uses a cane.

The couple are considering doing a show in Las Vegas this fall, but no details were available.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

 

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