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Subject: Archive: Pat McCormick, July 29, 2005


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Comedian, actor
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Date Posted: Sunday, July 29, 02:14:28pm

Pat McCormick, a veteran comedian and comedy writer who made scores of appearances on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson, was a regular guest on "The Gong Show" and appeared in three "Smokey and the Bandit" movies, died Friday at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland Hills. He was 78.

McCormick entered the facility in 1998 after suffering a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and also affected his speech.

"Few, very few, will ever be able to craft a joke as beautifully as Pat," comedian Shelley Berman, a longtime friend, told The Times on Friday. "He was able to just make it all happen. I don't think he was great at telling them, but he was sure great at putting them down."
The walrus-mustachioed McCormick was known to have a gift for wacky and sometimes warped humor. Some of his tamer lines went like this:

On the television writers strike in 1988:
We writers will know we're missed when we see our pictures on milk cartons.
On going on the wagon:
I gave up drinking booze when my liver started showing up on airport metal detectors.
And a classic joke that Carson delivered after a big temblor hit the Southland:


Due to today's earthquake, the God is Dead rally has been canceled.

In sketches on Carson's show, McCormick played several human characters but dressed in costume to play a variety of wildlife, including turkeys, peacocks, squirrels and the shark from "Jaws."

In one memorable 1974 "Tonight Show," a naked 6-foot-7, 270-pound McCormick streaked across the stage behind Carson during the opening monologue.

McCormick was born June 30, 1927, in Lakewood, Ohio. He was a champion hurdler in high school and served in the Army from 1946 to 1948. After military service, he graduated from Harvard University. A year into Harvard Law School, he dropped out to work in advertising in New York City.
But his advertising career was short-lived after he began making money writing comedy material for television and nightclub performers, including Jonathan Winters, Henny Youngman and Phyllis Diller. He also briefly did a stand-up act with Marc London, whom he had known from Harvard.

Eventually, he became a full-time writer for "The Jack Paar Show," the start of a comedy writing career that spanned five decades. He wrote for Merv Griffin, Red Skelton and Danny Kaye. He also wrote and appeared on "Candid Camera."
He served as announcer and straight man on Don Rickles' short-lived TV variety show in 1968, and was a regular on "The New Bill Cosby Show" 1972. He also was a key player in the legendary Friars Club roasts for several years. McCormick was also a popular fixture on TV talk shows.
On radio, he voiced and wrote hundreds of commercials.

In addition to his role as Big Enos Burdette opposite Burt Reynolds in the "Smokey and the Bandit" films, McCormick was in two Robert Altman movies: "Buffalo Bill and the Indians," in which he played President Grover Cleveland, and "A Wedding," in which he played wealthy industrialist Mackenzie "Mac" Goddard, husband of the character played by Dina Merrill.

Comedic actor Jack Riley, who played the part of Elliot Carlin on "The Bob Newhart Show," commented Friday on his friend's career.

"Pat's life was enhanced by a never-failing comedic spirit, contagious to all around him," Riley said in a statement released by the Motion Picture & Television Hospital.


"I was walking with Pat one night outside of the Braille Institute on Ventura Boulevard. Pat looked to the second floor and noticed five or six totally darkened windows, 'Ah," he said, 'I see they're working late.'

"His mind went to places that most people's don't.... truly original places where poets are found."

McCormick is survived by his son, Ben McCormick, and a grandson.

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