Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Carl Ballantine

Comedian and actor Carl Ballantine passed away on Tuesday, at age 92.

Ballantine is perhaps best-known for playing the character Lester Gruber, on the 1960s TV series McHale's Navy.

Yet he was also well-known, for decades, as “The Amazing Ballantine” (or, “Mr. Ballantine”, or “The Great Ballantine”). He performed magic tricks that did not work.

In the fall of 1950, in this capacity, he made several guest appearances on Kay Kyser’s College of Musical Knowledge, on NBC-TV.

Steve Martin has spoken of his admiration for Carl Ballantine’s work as “The Amazing Ballantine.”

"Carl Ballantine influenced not only myself but a generation of magicians and comedians," he said, in a statement to The Los Angeles Times, after Ballantine’s death.

In January of 2009, Martin was interviewed by Terry Gross, on NPR’s Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS: So, did you feel like you had kindred spirits in the performance world when you were getting started who had a more, like, conceptual or avant-garde approach to what they were doing like you?

STEVE MARTIN: Well, I'm trying to think. I just respected comedians whether they were or they weren't, you know, from, you know, new or old. Bob Newhart I loved, and George Carlin was hilarious at the time, and Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor. And there was a comedy magician who's still alive, Carl Ballantine, who did an act of all magic tricks that didn't work. And it was, still is, one of the funniest things I've ever seen…

(Photo, above: Carl Ballantine, on McHale's Navy.)