Ernie Kovacs (January 23, 1919 – January 13, 1962) was an American comedian whose uninhibited, often ad-libbed, and visually experimental comedic style came to influence numerous television comedy programs for years after his death in an automobile accident. Such iconic and diverse shows as Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, Monty Python's Flying Circus, The Uncle Floyd Show, Saturday Night Live Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and TV hosts such as David Letterman and Craig Ferguson have been influenced by Kovacs. Chevy Chase acknowledged Kovacs' influence on his work in Saturday Night Live, thanking him during his acceptance speech for his Emmy award for SNL. Chase appeared in the 1982 documentary called Ernie Kovacs: Television's Original Genius, speaking again of the impact Kovacs had on his work.
On or off screen, Kovacs could be counted on for the unexpected - from having marmosets as pets, to wrestling a jaguar on his live Philadelphia television show. When working at WABC (AM) as a morning drive radio personality and doing a mid-morning television show for NBC, Kovacs disliked eating breakfast alone while his wife was sleeping in after her Broadway performances. His solution was to hire a taxi driver to come into their apartment with his own key and whose job was to make breakfast for them both, then take him to the WABC studios.
While Ernie and his wife Edie Adams received Emmy nominations for best performances in a comedy series in 1957, Kovacs' talent was not formally recognized until after his death. The 1962 Emmy for outstanding electronic camera work and the Directors' Guild award came a short time after his fatal accident. A quarter century later, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. Kovacs also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in television. In 1986, the Museum of Television & Radio (now the Paley Center for Media) presented an exhibit of Kovacs' work, called The Vision of Ernie Kovacs. The Pulitzer Prize winning television critic, William Henry III wrote for the museum's booklet: