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RIP, Soupy Sales

Soupy Sales, the world’s funniest pie-in-the-face man, has passed away at the age of 83.

As the star of “The Soupy Sales Show,” he performed live on television for 13 years in Detroit, Los Angeles and New York before the program went into syndication in the United States and abroad.

Ostensibly for children, the show had broad appeal among adults who found Sales’ puns, gags and pratfalls deliciously corny and camp. His cast consisted of goofy puppets with names like White Fang, Black Tooth and Pookie, and a host of off-camera characters, including the infamous naked girl.

The high point of every show came when a sidekick launched a pie into Sales’ face. Sales once estimated that he was hit by more than 25,000 pies in his lifetime.

The gag became more than hilarious; it evolved into a hip badge of honor. Frank Sinatra was first in a long line of celebrities who clamored for the privilege to be cream-faced, including Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney, Sammy Davis Jr., Dick Martin and Burt Lancaster.

“I’ve never done a pretentious show; it’s always had a live feeling, the kind of thing that comes across when you don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Sales told author Gary Grossman in the 1981 book “Saturday Morning TV.” “I’ve never done anything simply because I thought I could get away with it. I’ve just wanted to do the funniest show.”

Mark Evanier wrote a wonderfully affectionate remembrance of Soupy a few years back, which I highly recommend, even if you’d never heard of him before today. And if you’ve only heard a little bit, bear in mind that only some of it is actually true. Rest in peace, Soupy Sales.

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