“Norm Crosby, a Comedian Who Mangled Words With Great Extinction, Drawing Standing Ovations.”

From a Washington Post obit by Harrison Smith headlined “Norm Crosby, comedian who mangled words with great extinction, dies at 93”:

Norm Crosby, a comedian who mangled words with great extinction, drawing standing ovulations for more than four decades with his fractured English, scrambled syntax and marvelous malapropisms, died Nov. 7 at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 93, but his work, as he might have said, was sure to live on in posterior. . . .

As a novice comedian in the 1950s, Mr. Crosby developed his act using material he saw on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” borrowing a gag, line or idea from comedians such as Red Buttons, Buddy Hackett and Jan Murray. It wasn’t quite stealing, he later said, but was far from original. When the proprietor of the Latin Quarter nightclub in New York offered him a week onstage, he found himself desperate for fresh material.

Mr. Crosby was in the dressing room of a Springfield, Mass., club when he began to develop his signature shtick. The venue’s performers often drove in from Boston and spent the night, and one of the club’s owners turned to Mr. Crosby, inquiring how long a lively young dancer might be in town. “Find out if the girl is staying over or if she communicates,” the man said in garbled English.

“I knew he didn’t mean that word, but this was for real,” Mr. Crosby later told author Kliph Nesteroff. “I said, ‘My God, a lot of people talk like that. Maybe that would be fun.’ ” He began developing a series of deliberately mixed-up phrases: “President Johnson declared war on puberty,” “singers sing from their diagrams,” “women need tenderness and affliction.”

It took time for audiences to catch on to Mr. Crosby’s wordplay. In his first week at the Latin Quarter, in 1963, he was tasked with performing for 12 minutes between dance numbers, with no introduction or music to announce his set. “I was out there for five or six minutes before anybody even knew I was on,” he recalled.

Nonetheless, Mr. Crosby amused enough audience members that the club’s manager gave him better placement in the lineup. He stayed for 18 weeks, and after being plugged in print by gossip columnist Walter Winchell (“he’s a comic who is comical”) he was signed by the William Morris talent agency.

Mr. Crosby went on to perform on the Borscht Circuit, where he opened for a promising new singer named Robert Goulet. They toured together for three years before Mr. Crosby established himself as a headliner in his own right, performing at Las Vegas casinos and on television programs hosted by Garry Moore, Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, Merv Griffin, Ed Sullivan and Glen Campbell.

He was also a regular on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and “The Dean Martin Show,” where he once praiseda “beauteous” group of young women — “they are so demure and so voluctuous and so adhesive and so protruding” — and noted that Martin treated them “with such tenderness and affliction.”. . .

Mr. Crosby was on hand for many of Martin’s celebrity roasts, lampooning figures such as Sen. Barry Goldwater (“a man of depth, a man of perversion . . . his rise to fame was vitriolic”) and actor Kirk Douglas (“a serious equestrian performer . . . he should be raised to a pinochle”).

He also appeared on game shows such as “Liar’s Club” and “Hollywood Squares,” guest-starred on episodes of “Adam-12,” “The Love Boat” and “Roseanne,” and hosted “The Comedy Shop” (1978-80), a syndicated showcase for veteran comedians such as Don Rickles and Jim Nabors, as well as for relative newcomers such as Jay Leno, Brad Garrett, Michael Keaton and Nathan Lane. . . .

Mr. Crosby also lent his talents to charitable causes, co-hosting Jerry Lewis’s annual Labor Day telethon to raise money for muscular dystrophy research. Another cause, as spokesman for the Better Hearing Institute in Washington, was more personal: He had developed a hearing problem while serving as a Coast Guard radar operator, when he was subjected to the noise from anti-submarine depth charges.

“I think I was the first person on television to talk about hearing loss and hearing aids,” he later told an interviewer, adding that he received “thousands and thousands of letters from people who went out and got hearing aids.”. . .

Mr. Crosby joked that he grew up in “a tough neighborhood,” where he was part of a gang that also included a pickpocket known as “One-Finger Louie” who stole nothing but bagels and doughnuts.

After graduating from high school, Mr. Crosby worked in advertising for his father’s shoe company. He befriended Boston comics on the side and eventually started performing at restaurants and bars, followed by mayoral charity dinners and other civic functions. . . .

Mr. Crosby starred in the late 1980s on “The Boys,” a short-lived Showtime sitcom created by Alan Zweibel. He later worked on Adam Sandler projects, voicing a judge in the animated movie “Eight Crazy Nights” (2002) and playing a Kmart employee in “Grown Ups 2” (2013), his last screen credit.

“The mind is an incredible thing,” Mr. Crosby once said, performing at a muscular-dystrophy telethon. “Think about this: The mind starts working the minute you’re born, and it doesn’t stop until you have to stand up in front of an audience.”

Harrison Smith is a reporter on The Washington Post’s obituaries desk. Since joining the obituaries section in 2015, he has profiled big-game hunters, fallen dictators and Olympic champions. He sometimes covers the living as well, and previously co-founded the South Side Weekly, a community newspaper in Chicago.

Also see the Norm Crosby obit in the New York Times written by Daniel E. Slotnick—the last two grafs:

Mr. Crosby was not the only person known for mangling words: So, too, was the 43rd president, George W. Bush. Mr. Bush’s misstatements reminded some people of Mr. Crosby’s malaprops, even though they were not part of a routine.

“Everybody was saying, ‘Hey! He’s doing your act,’” Mr. Crosby said.

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