Broadway Open House

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents




From Wikipedia:

Broadway Open House, network television's first late-night comedy-variety series, was telecast live on NBC from May 29, 1950 to August 24, 1951, airing weeknights from 11pm to midnight. The show was one of the pioneering TV creations of NBC president Pat Weaver; it demonstrated the potential for late-night programming and led to the later development of The Tonight Show.[1]


The show was originally to be hosted by comic Don "Creesh" Hornsby (so named because he yelled "Creesh" often), but he died of polio two weeks before the premiere broadcast. Hornsby's popularity at the time with celebrities who caught his act can be judged from this anecdote by Sharlotte Spencer (in her book From CIA Wife to Sobriety ):

"I knew Don Hornsby, from my days in Long Beach and Belmont Shores when Bob Hope was helping Don get his start. Don was appearing in the San Fernando Valley at the Sportsman Lodge. One evening, Bob and I, Monty and a friend went out to see his show. The showroom was all on one level and sitting in front of us were Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman, Bill Holden and wife (Brenda Holden). I kept scooting around but couldn’t see around Ronnie, so I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "If you will just move an inch that way, I could see the show." Well, he didn’t move and sat up straighter than ever. Needless to say, he never got my vote! Even Holden smiled and shook his head.[2]"

Hornsby's replacements, hosting different nights each week, were Morey Amsterdam (Monday and Wednesday) and the raucous Jerry Lester (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays), the brother of character actor Buddy Lester. However, Amsterdam soon exited the show, leaving Lester the sole host, performing sketches with his crew of sidekicks (including some of the earliest TV appearances of brassy Barbara Nichols), running through standard nightclub comedy routines and introducing the show's vocal group, the Mello Larks. Lester's signature bit was to twist his eyeglasses at a 45 degree angle on his face. The show had occasional guests, including Lenny Bruce, who appeared May 1950, and there were also audience participation bits, such as having women from the audience join the female cast members in modeling fur coats. The sponsors included Anchor Hocking glassware and Blatz Beer.[1]


Who talked about this show

Paul Bogart

View Interview
Paul Bogart on being a stage manager on Broadway Open House

Milton Delugg

View Interview
Milton Delugg on NBC exec Sylvester L. "Pat" Weaver's idea to have morning, noon, and night shows on NBC, and on becoming bandleader on the night show Broadway Open House (precursor to The Tonight Show)
Milton Delugg on being conductor on Broadway Open House and working with host Jerry Lester and "girl singer" Dagmar, and on the production aspects of the show

Herb Granath

View Interview
Herb Granath on memories of Broadway Open House Theater

Alan Neuman

View Interview
Alan Neuman on directing Broadway Open House

Dick Smith

View Interview
Dick Smith on Fred Allen being recognized by an appearance he made with Jerry Lester on Broadway Open House

Leonard Stern

View Interview
Leonard Stern on working as a consultant for Broadway Open House  for Norman Abbott and Gabe Dell

All Shows