The exact year stand-up comedy was born is up for debate. People have been telling jokes for centuries, but when did they start doing it on stage? A strong case can be made for the 1948 premiere of The Ed Sullivan Show. One of America’s first primetime variety shows, The Ed Sullivan Show featured musical acts, vaudeville performers, and stand-up comedians. The show slowly and steadily gained popularity until it became a staple, attracting millions of viewers across the country. With the rise of the show came the increased popularity of the performers, and stand-up became a legitimate and recognized art form. In the 60s, comedy clubs began popping in New York, and eventually other major cities around the country. By the 1980’s, hour-long stand up specials were hugely popular on TV, with huge stars, budgets, and audiences. Even though stand-up as a medium and a business has changed drastically over the past 60 years, the five-minute variety show spot is still a jumping off point for many comedians. Here are some clips of legends when they first introduced stand-up to the country on The Ed Sullivan Show:
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