D.O.B.: December 1, 1929 (Buffalo, NY)
D.O.D.: April 17, 1987
Cause of Death: Heart Attack (While on stage doing his stand-up act).
Location: Hillside Memorial; Mausoleum, atrium
A charismatic entertainer, Shawn was (along with Jonathan Winters) picked to be one of the big stars in comedy when he hit his stride in the 50's. It was all a matter of finding a way to harness his talent for zany characters and weirdly hip free-form. For average viewers, he only succeed twice in the next thirty years: as the horrifyingly zany Hitler in "The Producers" and a distraught hippie in "Mad Mad Mad Mad World."
Although he didn't make many film or TV appearances over the years, Shawn did tour often over the years and periodically performed a one-man show that mixed songs, sketches and even pantomime.
Shawn once said, "I think of my relationship with any audience as a love affair. It lasts only a little while but I always look forward to a happy ending. For both of us." He was performing at the University of California at San Diego one night. He was telling a gag about nuclear war. He was his manic self as he began to imagine the holocaust. Nobody would survive, he explained, except the audience in the little sheltered theater! Then he shouted, "And I would be your leader!"
He fell forward, flat on his face. He lay there while the audience laughed. Shawn's son Adam was in the audience and he knew this was no act.
In writing about Dick Shawn's death, New York Post columnist Cindy Adams recounted what the comedian said about trying to find the right audiences for his brand of comedy: "I can't work places like Vegas or the Catskills where people are belching. Maybe I belong in colleges. At least if I die, I die in front of intelligent people who know what I'm talking about."
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