R.I.P. Norm Crosby, comedian who always knew the wrong words to say
He performed for Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson and guest starred on Adam-12 three times.
Norm Crosby was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1927. After serving in WWII while still a teenager, he went into advertising. Inspired by comedians he saw on The Ed Sullivan Show, Crosby began trying out jokes at local bars and clubs. He soon developed material around the idea of using completely unrelated but similar sounding words in place of the correct ones. These malapropisms, which sounds exactly like the kind of word Norm Crosby would substitute in, became his signature act.
He toured the country and performed on the very shows that inspired him to pursue comedy. Ed Sullivan, who described his guest as "wanted for the cold-blooded murder of the English language," invited Crosby on his show eleven times. But that was nothing compared to the number of appearances Crosby made on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Starting in the 1960s and continuing well into the 1980s, Crosby appeared on the iconic late-night program more than 50 times.
Crosby was also a favorite of Dean Martin, getting laughs on both Martin's variety show and celebrity roasts. Even brands took advantage of his act. In the 1980s, he pitched the "ecumenical" prices of Red Lobster's "shrimp and seafood complications."
Crosby wore hearing aids his whole adult life after suffering hearing loss during the war. "I was on a sub-chaser in the North Atlantic and the depth charges made a terrific sound, it was very loud and you could feel it through your bones," he said in a 2003 interview. But Crosby was never ashamed and even brought it up on The Tonight Show.
"I remember telling Johnny Carson, on the air, that I had a wonderful new hearing aid," Crosby related. "He asked, 'What kind is it?' And I said, 'About a quarter to eleven.' So, he let me bring this up and make it a topic for discussion in America's living rooms."
In addition to comedy, Norm Crosby guest-starred on classic shows like Adam-12, The Love Boat and L.A. Law. He was 93.