Comedy WriterChris Bearde

(Reading Time: < 1 minute)

An Australian, Bearde was the host of a children’s TV series there called Smalltime. That led to assignments to write for other shows, particularly comedies. That got him attention from Canadian TV executives, and he was recruited by CTV to write for their show, Network; he also created two shows for CBC: Front and Centre, and the political late night satire Nightcap. Then Bearde was recruited to Hollywood, where his political slapstick humor was particularly suited for a new show: he was quickly made a staff writer for Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. That show was so popular, and attracted so many big names, that Bearde’s career was set: he wrote and/or produced TV shows for Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Sonny & Cher, Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, Jim Carrey, Andy Williams, The Jackson 5, The Osmonds, Dinah Shore, The Hudson Brothers, Diana Ross, and Lucille Ball. But perhaps he’ll be most infamous for creating a bizarre little amateur talent contest series: The Gong Show, which he decided not to produce; he sold the concept to Chuck Barris instead. Bearde was nominated for Emmy Awards nine times, but only won one: for his work on Laugh-In. The Elvis show, especially, was ground-breaking: Presley hadn’t had a hit record for three years, and needed something to get his career going again. The 1968 special was part live rock concert, and part an intimate look at the singer, “an early example of the ‘unplugged’ [style show] that MTV would popularize more than a decade later,” says entertainment writer Erik Pedersen at Deadline Hollywood. The show is now known as the “Elvis Come-Back Special.” Bearde died of a heart attack at his home in Westlake, Calif., on April 23. He was 80.

From This is True for 23 April 2017