Legendary Comedian Mort Sahl Dies at Age 94

Mort Sahl.
Photo: CBS Photo Archive/CBS via Getty Images

Mort Sahl, the stand-up comedian whose political satire and intimate, conversational approach set American comedy on a new course in the 1950s and 1960s, has died at the age of 94 in Mill Valley, California. The New York Times confirmed the news from a friend of his who was “helping oversee his affairs.” Sahl was born in 1927 in Quebec and began his stand-up career after dropping out of a master’s program at the University of Southern California in 1950. Sahl got his start performing weekly gigs in San Francisco before breaking out to national acclaim through appearances in New York and Los Angeles clubs and the release of his 1958 comedy album, The Future Lies Ahead. Three years prior, he recorded what the Library of Congress cites as “the earliest example of modern stand-up comedy on record.” At the height of his fame, Sahl appeared on the cover of Time and worked as a joke writer for John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign. His ripped-from-the-headlines political humor has been said to influence comedians ranging from Lenny Bruce to John Cleese. During his storied career, Sahl released numerous comedy albums and appeared in a run of films; his final role was in the Jerry Lewis film Max Rose in 2016.

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