A lot of kids my age grew up watching Soupy Sales.
I wasn’t one of them.
This was simply because Soupy’s show (somehow I can’t refer to him by his last name) wasn’t shown in my area.
I did, occasionally, see Soupy on other shows. He struck me as a nice enough guy, though maybe a bit too silly and corny for my taste.
But I didn’t dislike him; he seemed to know he was silly and corny – he never pretended to be Noel Coward – and maybe that was part, or most, of his charm.
And as I got older and watched him on game shows, I began to fully appreciate him, to become aware of something that I don’t think has been pointed out very often, if at all:
Unlike some comics, Soupy, who got his start in radio, was a total pro as a broadcaster, knowing when to crack wise and when to play the game, never hogging the spotlight, looking out for the needs of the show first.
Case in point: an episode of the syndicated, post-John Daly version of “What's My Line.” The mystery guest is Rodney Dangerfield. Someone (Soupy, I think) guesses him right away. This means that the host has some time to fill.
During a lull in the post-game interview, Soupy jumps in -- not with a joke of his own, but with a setup line for Rodney (something like, "Rodney, how's you're wife been?") and Dangerfield is off and running for a very funny couple of minutes.
I remember thinking that this was a classy thing to do, and thinking that Soupy Sales, despite the many-times-warmed-over gags, was a very classy guy.
I still think so.