The Soupy Sales Show, aka Lunch with Soupy Sales
Lunch with Soupy Sales
Sales is best known for his daily children's television show, Lunch with Soupy Sales. The show was originally called 12 O'Clock Comics, and was later known as The Soupy Sales Show. Improvised and slapstick in nature, Lunch with Soupy Sales was a rapid-fire stream of comedy sketches, gags, and puns, almost all of which resulted in Sales receiving a pie in the face, which became his trademark. Sales developed pie-throwing into an art form: straight to the face, on top of the head, a pie to both ears from behind, moving into a stationary pie, and countless other variations. He claimed that he and his visitors had been hit by more than 20,000 pies during his career. He recounted a time when a young fan mistakenly threw a frozen pie at his neck and he "dropped like a pile of bricks."
The show originated in 1953 from the studios of WXYZ-TV in Detroit. Beginning in October 1959, it was telecast nationally on the ABC television network.
During the time that Lunch with Soupy aired in Detroit, Sales hosted a nighttime show, Soupy's On, to compete with 11 O'Clock News programs. The guest star was always a musician, and frequently a jazz performer, at a time when jazz was popular in Detroit and the city was home to twenty-four jazz clubs. Sales believed that his show helped sustain jazz in Detroit, as artists would regularly sell out their nightclub shows after appearing on Soupy's On. Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, and Stan Getz were among the artists who appeared on the show; Miles Davis made six appearances. Clifford Brown's appearance on Soupy's On, according to Sales, may be the only extant footage of Brown, and has been included in Ken Burns' Jazz and an A&E Network biography about Sales.
In 1960, Sales moved to the ABC-TV Studios in Los Angeles, California. ABC dropped the show from the network schedule in March 1961, but it continued as a local program until January 1962. The show briefly went back on the ABC network as a late night fill-in for the Steve Allen Show in 1962 but was canceled after three months. All of the puppets on the show during its Los Angeles run were also operated by Clyde Adler.
In 1964, Sales found a new weekday home at WNEW-TV in New York City. This version was seen locally until September 1966, and 260 episodes were syndicated by Screen Gems to local stations outside the New York market during the 1965–1966 season. This show marked the height of Sales' popularity. It featured guest appearances by stars such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, Judy Garland and Sammy Davis, Jr., as well as musical groups like the Shangri-Las and The Supremes.
As with his earlier shows, Sales performed musical numbers on the show and his extensive jazz record collection was used in his TV work. "Mumbles" by Oscar Peterson with Clark Terry was Pookie's theme. "Comin' Home Baby" by Herbie Mann was the theme for Sales' "Gunninger the Mentalist" character (a parody of Dunninger the Mentalist). This was also the period when Sales starred in the movie comedy Birds Do It. During the run of the New York show, actor Frank Nastasi played White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie, and all the "guy at the door" characters
The New Soupy Sales Show appeared in 1978 with the same format, and ran for one season. 65 episodes were briefly syndicated, through Air Time International, to local stations in early 1979. It was taped in Los Angeles at KTLA, with Clyde Adler returning to work as a puppeteer with Sales.