In 1954 George Gobel began a television series on NBC, a comedy show that showcased Gobel's 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.
Its centerpiece was a monologue about situations and experiences that had supposedly happened to him, as well as stories 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 catch phrases, notably "Well, I'll be a dirty bird", "You don't hardly get those any more" and "Well then there now" (spoken by James Dean during a brief imitation of Gobel in Rebel Without a Cause).
Gobel had the benefit of some of television's top writers: 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 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 small stature. Several dozen of this "L-5CT" or "George Gobel" model were produced in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He also played harmonica.
In 1957, three B-52 Stratofortress bombers made the first nonstop round-the-world flight by turbojet aircraft. One of the aircraft was christened "Lonesome George." The crew appeared on George Gobel's primetime television show and recounted their mission which took them 45 hours and 19 minutes. Lonesome George, the tortoise, is also named after Gobel.