According to The Hollywood Reporter, comedian Rip Taylor—known for his extremely flamboyant and enthusiastic personality as well as his penchant for showering people with confetti—has died. A cause of death wasn’t given, but the news was confirmed by Taylor’s publicist. Taylor was 84.
Born in Washington, D.C. in 1935, Taylor briefly worked as a congressional page and quickly began to suspect that he was destined from something more theatrical, saying in a ‘90s interview that, rather than go through the underground tunnels to get from one building to another, he would march out into the public areas and announce what he was doing, saying, “I was so hammy even then.” During the Korean War, Taylor joined up with the special services and worked to entertain troops, where he came up with a comedy routine that made him famous. When telling a joke, he would cover his face and pretend to break down crying as he begged for laughs. It would end up getting him bigger laughs, than a more straightforward shtick, and by the ‘60s he had become a regular player in the Catskills.
As THR explains, that’s how Taylor eventually got on The Ed Sullivan Show. As the story goes, Taylor heard a booking agent for Sullivan was going to be at one of his shows, so he spent his own money to get the audience drunk beforehand and make him seem funnier. It worked, and Taylor’s comedy became a recurring feature on the The Ed Sullivan Show—though Sullivan himself only referred to Taylor as “The Crying Comedian” when he couldn’t remember his name. His frequent TV appearances made Taylor an in-demand comedian, landing him high-profile gigs in Las Vegas in the ‘70s opening for performers like Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, Judy Garland, and The Kingston Trio.
The ‘70s also saw him transition to the world of television, regularly appearing on Hollywood Squares, The Gong Show, and as a guest host on The Match Game. He played a genit on Sigmund And The Sea Monsters, popped up on The Brady Bunch Hour, and hosted a weird pageant parody series called The $1.98 Beauty Show. Taylor also did voice work in stuff like Scooby Goes Hollywood, The Emperor’s New School, and Tom And Jerry: The Movie, and he appeared in movies like Wayne’s World 2, Chatterbox, and Indecent Proposal (making a rare appearance without his usual toupee). Taylor also somehow became a fixture of the Jackass movies and made a post-credits cameo in Johnny Knoxville’s Dukes Of Hazzard.
THR notes that Taylor is survived by his longtime partner, Robert Fortney.