Soupy Sales, 1926-2009: He Made People Laugh for More Than 40 Years

Or download MP3 (Right-click or option-click and save link)

I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Doug Johnson with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.

Today, we tell about comedian Soupy Sales who made people laugh for more than forty years.

Soupy Sales was an actor, and a radio and television performer. He was perhaps best known for getting hit in the face with pies.

SOUPY SALES: "I've always been a devotee of slapstick, and it sort of emphasizes sometimes jokes and you know I think everybody really deep inside would sometime or another would like to throw a pie or get hit with a pie."

During the course of his career, he said he was hit with a pie twenty thousand times.  He was equally well known for throwing pies at other famous people.  Among those were the entertainers Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Junior and Trini Lopez.  All three men were hit with pies during a 1960 broadcast of "The Soupy Sales Show."

Soupy Sales was born Milton Supman in 1926 in Franklinton, North Carolina.  He was the youngest of three sons born to Irving and Sadie Supman.  His older brothers were nicknamed "Hambone" and "Chickenbone."  Milton became known as "Soupbone," based on a common mispronunciation of his last name.

The nickname "Soupbone" was later changed to "Soupy."  "Sales" was added years later, based on a 1920s comedian named Charles "Chic" Sale.

Milton's father died when he was five years old.  His mother moved the family to Huntington, West Virginia. The young man was voted the most popular boy in high school.

Milton served in the United States Navy during World War Two. He entertained his shipmates with comedy routines broadcast over the ship's sound system.

When he returned to West Virginia, he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Marshall College in 1949.   While attending school, he spent his evenings performing in nighttime social clubs as a comedian, dancer and singer.

Soupy Sales began his career as a scriptwriter and disc jockey who played records on the radio.  He became one of the most popular radio personalities in Huntington, West Virginia.  He began his television career in 1950 with the show "Soupy's Soda Shop."  It was one of the nation's first dance shows for teenagers on television.

"Soupy's Soda Shop" was later followed by a variety show called "Club Nothing."  The show featured comedy, appearances by famous entertainers and music.

Both shows lasted less than a year.  Soupy Sales was said to have left the shows for health reasons.  In his words: "They got sick of me."

Several months later he moved to Cleveland, Ohio and began another television show called "Soup's On."  Soupy Sales received his first pie in the face on that show. That show was also cancelled. But the pie-throwing later became a regular part of Soupy Sales' comedy act.

In 1953 he started another television show in Detroit, Michigan.  "Lunch with Soupy" became an instant success.  It was the first comedy show that appealed to all ages, attracting children, young people and adults alike.

Soupy Sales was also a huge fan of jazz.  During his time in Detroit he hosted a nighttime music and comedy show called "Soupy's On."  Some of the most famous jazz musicians in the world appeared on his show.  Among them were Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald and Detroit native Miles Davis.  Charlie Parker also appeared on the show.  His song "Yardbird Suite" became the theme song for "Soupy's On."

During his career, Soupy Sales also made regular appearances on "The Tonight Show."  And he appeared on popular television game shows.  They included "What's My Line," "To Tell the Truth," "Hollywood Squares" and "The Match Game."  He also appeared on Broadway, starred in several movies and even tried his luck at music.

He released two albums in 1965.  One was called "Spy with a Pie."  The other was "Soupy Sales Sez Do the Mouse and Other Teen Hits." Both albums were on the Top Two Hundred Albums Chart in Billboard Magazine.  His single "Do the Mouse" sold hundreds of thousands of copies.  Soupy Sales created a new dance called The Mouse which he often performed on his show.

In the late 1980s, Soupy Sales had a radio show in New York. His new show aired between two other radio personalities known for their sometimes shocking behavior, Don Imus and Howard Stern.

In 2003, Soupy Sales told his life story in a book called "Soupy Sez! My Zany Life and Times."  It became a best-selling autobiography.

And in 2005 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  The comedian, actor, radio and television performer died in 2009.  Soupy Sales was eighty-three years old.  We leave you with his song "Do the Mouse."

This program was written and produced by June Simms.  I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Doug Johnson.