Return of the Variety Show for Covid-19 Seniors and Shut-ins

originally published: 03/26/2020

Covid-19 Special Entertainment – Curtain Up! Features Live Performances for Homebound Seniors – Time for Old Variety Shows Return

When my dad was in skilled nursing facility I actually enjoyed the frequent entertainment that came around. There were musicians who traveled the ‘senior circuit’ as well as story tellers, lecturers, authors, etc. It was like a daily real-life variety show. Now, the concept has come into concentrated reality with online variety shows like the new ‘Curtain Up’. One can also provide his or her own variety shows by summoning up YouTube on the big screen. We’ve provided a little help, with some suggested videos below from ‘the good old days’ when Ed Sullivan was king. We have enlisted JB to be your host, below. Enjoy!

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Seniorly has announced the launch of a free daily show for seniors called Curtain Up! airing live on streaming YouTube. The show began airing March 26th at 4:00pm (EST) and will air every weekday following at the same time. It includes performances by actors, singers, comedians, and many other artists. Broadcasting into senior communities and homes nationwide through Seniorly’s relationships with thousands of senior living providers, Curtain Up! will be streamed live via YouTube.

Curtain Up! was created in response to the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic that has isolated more seniors now than ever before. In the U.S. there are more than 12 million people over 80, many of them living at home alone or in senior living communities. During this unprecedented time, Seniorly has teamed up with performers from Broadway, Hollywood and all across the country including Bethany Joy Lenz (“One Tree Hill”), Will Roland (Be More Chill, Dear Evan Hansen), Jean Louisa Kelly (Uncle Buck, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Yes, Dear), Aaron Lazar (Sting’s The Last Ship, Dear Evan Hansen) Alyse Alan Louis (Soft Power, Amélie), Eric William Morris (King Kong), Harrison Chad (The Black Suits, Caroline or Change), Branden & James (“America’s Got Talent”), Lauren Marcus (Be More Chill), Sheridan Mouwad (And Peggy Tour of Hamilton) and many others who are volunteering their time to entertain and connect with these seniors live.

Curtains Up or JB’s Variety 1/2 Hour – or both?

(Editor’s Note: We believe the above performers don’t include seniors. As far as the programming we will have to wait and see but it might be nice to enlist some senior performers, of which there are many still kickin’ -and probably more talented that some of today’s young stars- to include in the show. How’s about 97-year-old Betty White, for example, if she’s still performing , or Dick Van Dyke, or Mel Brooks or any number of others… Not to get to political, but when’s the last time you saw a performer whose over 65 on late night TV? Pretty rare, other than some politicians, who some of us rather NOT see. In the meantime, instead of having to wait for the next ‘Curtains Up,’ we’ve included some favorite entertainers from the past who you can view here and now… Call it JB’s Variety Hour (or half hour of my own):

jack benny variety show for housebound covid pandemickers

I’ll be your host, if you will, coming out of retirement. The old violin’s a little rusty but if you don’t mind, I’ll begin the show, below. So, Welcome to the New Toast of the Town.. and a one -a two – a three….
For my ‘world premier’ variety show, we have the lovely Ann Margaret along with another surprise or two... Hope you enjoy it.. If not, it’s only a half hour (that’s all the network would take a chance on…sorry about the black and white budget, too ) Following, you may prefer...JB
Rodney Dangerfield and I go back a few years, before his prostate troubles and the urinal in his bedroom- it’s true- ask Larry King). Keeping to our ‘stayin in’ theme, we’ve got Rodney with Tim Allen and friends doing some home improvement. Well, they may have forgotten the new six foot social distancing rule but at least they’re stayin at home… with ties, no less! –JB
Many forget that old buddy Dean Martin had his own kind of variety show for a decade. Here are some highlights with a little commentary from Orson Welles thrown in…Lots of old favorites make appearances like Red Skelton, Bob Newhart, Ann Margaret, again, and Gee, that looks like me in there, too!
Another old actor friend became president and expounds on some timeless wisdom, political or otherwise, with long time Tonight Show host and another good friend you’ve probably heard of whose initials are JC
Then there was the Sonny and Cher Comedy (variety) Hour that had a good run and featured a true variety of guests like Jerry Lewis and the Supremes, here tonite!
Yet another friend, Johnny (no last name needed) had his own variety show EVERY NIGHT for about 30 years with ‘Golden Era’ performers you rarely see any more on late night – or any- TV, people like Don Rickles, Glen Campbell and Dom DeLuisenow That’s Entertainment – and variety!
Say what you want about it- the show that some loved to hate- but the Lawrence Welk (variety) Show was – and still is (PBS) – one of the most popular variety shows of all time. especially among seniors. Even if you weren’t a fan of Welk, himself, the music stands on is own – and in this retrospective Doc Severinson stands in as MC, reminiscing about Welk’s favorite 25 band leaders with clips
The one and only Robin Williams was one of the funnest guests on ANY variety show since you never knew what to expect – definitely the comedian of the baby boomer generation. Here he’s with perhaps the last REAL late night VARIETY SHOW host, David Letterman (and arguably Jay Leno and Conan O’brien if that’s your schtick)
Nat King Cole was the first black performer to have his own show. This one from 1957 features the great crooner with another great singer, the eternal Tony Bennett and a group known as Natalie and the Beachcombers.
Williams is back with his mentor, Jonathan Winters and THE late night variety show. We are reminded that Williams is as much an actor as he is a comedian. Put the two together and it’s true magic you don’t see anymore on TV, except for reruns. But Williams and Winter live on here
Johnny Cash had one of the biggest, if not the most popular variety show featuring a lot of country music, here with Grandpa Jones, Melanie, O.C. Smith and the recently passed Kenny Rogers
Here’s an oldie from the 1950s. Anyone remember the Perry Como Show? Here is the most relaxed entertainer with pianist/comic Victor Borge and Patty Page, one of the top female singers of the 1950s , comfortable doing pop, country or the blues.
The Beatles were probably the most popular guest on the iconic Ed Sullivan Show, this from a series of 1964 appearances
Topo Gigio , the italian mouse, was probably the most famous non-human performer on Ed Sullivan with countless performances over 18 years. Of course Topo was synonymous with her alter ego Maria Perego (1923-2019)
Joan Rivers, who couldn’t get away with too much in the 1970s, here on the Flip Wilson Variety Show, but was still way ahead of her time , no doubt the female comic of her era.
‘Mr Dynamite’ Jackie Wilson, also known as the ‘black Elvis’ on Ed Sullivan
All of Elvis’ appearance on Ed Sullivan
Don’t recall Ed Sullivan doing many interviews on his show but he truly must have enjoyed Mario Lanza because he did at least two of them , including one in Italy, along with ‘Arrivederci Roma’
Will Jordan’s only real claim to fame was his impersonation of Ed Sullivan. Somewhat surprisingly, Sullivan had no problem with his somewhat self-decrecating impersonation of Sullivan. One isn’t sure if he’s doing Richard Nixon instead, though David Frye was better known as a Nixon impersonator.
Well folks, we hope you’ve enjoyed some REAL variety shows and since I’m the MC I started out with me and would like to end with me on what wasn’t truly a variety show (more comedy )… not my all time best performance but an iconic show, Laugh In . Thanks for tuning in.
So, here’s to all the shut ins. Hope the ‘Return of the Variety Show’ has helped make the hours go by.. They tell me you can somehow watch these on your big screen TVs but don’t ask me. I’m still trying to operate my 8 track player. Later alligator =JB
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