Jack Carter was a hoot. His patter was rapid-fire and pointed. Coming up in the school of insult comics he held his own with Don Rickles and the rest. And while he was deserving of it he never really attained that headliner status, which is quite a shame.
Born Jack Chakrin, he changed his name early on. For Jewish comics in those days if you wanted to “fit in,” if you didn’t want to sound “too ethnic,” if you wanted to work, you changed your name. And Carter worked a lot.
Named by many as one of the most prolific stand-ups of his time, Carter started performing at age 19 and has never really stopped since. Even today he remains viable and in the spotlight with a small role on the Showtime series Shameless.
Trying to make a name for oneself in comedy during the time of such luminaries as Milton Berle and Sid Caesar couldn’t have been an easy task. Carter however had a shtick that was fresh and memorable and distinguished him from other comedians.
Like many of those contemporaries he started out doing stand-up in Vaudeville and Burlesque shows. He later went on the famous radio talent show “Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour” and won twice.
He then found local success on a small-scale variety show called Cavalcade of Stars but was soon lured away by NBC to star on his own show, aptly called The Jack Carter Show. It was the beginning days of television and there was plenty of opportunity. It was on right before Caesar’s Your Show of Shows and was a major success.
That led to other bookings. Fred Allen featured him on his radio show. Ed Sullivan (who really loved comics) was a huge fan and Carter made a number of appearances.
However he loved playing Vegas most of all, describing his act as “incomparable”. Other comics tried to duplicate (or steal) his style to little success. He was a spot-on mimic and known throughout town as a “comic’s comic”. He was also one of the biggest lounge acts there along with Jan Murray and Shecky Greene.
A few years ago he was in a terrible car accident and lost his wife. He also sustained injuries that plague him today. However his mind is still sharp and his sense of humor as keen as it’s ever been.
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About the Author: Lawrence Dorfman is the bestselling author (Yeah, right) of The Snark Handbook; The Snark Handbook: Insult Edition; The Snark Handbook :Sex Edition; and the forthcoming Snark Handbook: Politics and Government Edition (really good at the whole naming thing, eh?). He honed his snark chops while working in publishing for more than 30 years. Like you really care.