Saturday, October 24, 2009

20,000 Pies in the Face: Soupy Sales
(January 8, 1926 – October 22, 2009)

Soupy is DeadImage by John McNab via Flickr

Soupy Sales passed away on Thursday.

Through the 1960s and 1970s, Sales was known as one of those "do anything for a laugh" comedians. Unlike many who traded in the over-animated goofball ad-lib slapstick style and relied on being loud and clownish enough to cover for weak material, Soupy was a genuinely funny person. Yes, he was responsible for, by his own count, over 20,000 pies thrown in peoples' faces over the years (most often, Soupy himself being the recipient!), but if you only focused on the zany, broad physical shtick he was doing, you missed a lot of wit in the one-liners he'd throw out there: "You show me a giant rooster chasing a member of Parliament, and I'll show you a Chicken Catch A Tory!"

Whether hosting his own shows (Lunch with Soupy in 1965-66; the brief comeback New Soupy Sales Show in 1978) or appearing as a guest panelist on numerous game shows throughout the 1970s (including a steady gig on the panel of What's My Line? in the early part of the decade), Soupy brought his insane world to every corner of television. His high-energy craziness was not for everyone's tastes, but those who got it often found themselves literally doubled over in tears laughing.

The characters he created and interacted with on his shows were legendary: Pookie the Lion and Hippy the Hippo, puppets with whom he would interact through a giant picture window on the set of his show, often pantomiming along to records; and his "dogs" White Fang and Black Tooth, who were only ever seen as giant white or black paws, respectively, and who communicated in hysterical growls and grunts which Soupy would translate.

Soupy had been having health issues in recent years, and was in hospice care in New York when he passed at age 83.

RIP, Soupy. The world is now a little less funny, and a little less silly.

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