According to his publicist, Glenn Schwartz, Berman died early Friday morning at his home in Bell Canyon, Calif. He was 92 and had Alzheimer’s disease.
Along with Bob Newhart and Lenny Bruce, Shelley Berman helped change the tone and tenor of American humor.
In one of his most famous routines, Berman calls Nichols Department Store to let them know a woman is about to jump off the store’s ledge.
Berman successfully auditioned for his own show at Mister Kelly’s.
His 1959 album Inside Shelley Berman was awarded a gold record and became the first comedy album to win a Grammy.
Berman made numerous appearances on TV shows including The Twilight Zone, Bewitched, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and, more recently, Curb Your Enthusiasm as Larry David’s father.
In the introduction to his 2013 book of poetry, To Laughter With Questions, Berman writes, “I have always written. As a kid growing up in Chicago, I wrote stories for my own amusement. Along the way, I read and appreciated poetry, but never really tried my hand at writing it until late in my ‘other’ career, teaching writing in USC’s Master of Professional Writing program.” Berman taught at USC for more than 20 years.
Among the many tributes on social media, Steve Martin wrote, “Thank you, Shelley Berman. You changed modern stand-up.”
Berman is survived by his wife of 70 years, Sarah; his daughter, Rachel Berman; and two grandsons.