Marty Allen, wild-eyed comedy star; at 95

Mr. Allen (left) joined Steve Rossi in comedic routines on stage and television.
Mr. Allen (left) joined Steve Rossi in comedic routines on stage and television.

NEW YORK — Marty Allen, the frizzy-haired, bug-eyed clown who joined forces with crooner Steve Rossi to form one of the most successful comedy teams of the 1960s, died Monday in Las Vegas. He was 95.

Allen and Rossi’s humor was not sophisticated — Mr. Allen’s signature phrase was the succinct exclamation “Hello dere!” — but it was effective. Most of their routines took the form of interviews, with Rossi asking the questions and Mr. Allen typically playing a befuddled and incompetent (but strangely lovable) astronaut, football player, doctor, or other character.

In one of their best-known routines, Mr. Allen was a punch-drunk boxer. “Would you say you’re the best fighter in the country?” Rossi asked him.


“Yeah,” he replied fuzzily, “but in the city they murder me.”

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If Rossi’s unflappable suavity was standard operating procedure for a comedy team’s straight man, Mr. Allen’s childlike mix of innocence and insanity was something new. Audiences responded, especially after the team began doing topical jokes.

During the 1964 presidential campaign, Mr. Allen, a Pittsburgh native, portrayed the ultraconservative Republican candidate Barry Goldwater — although he made no attempt to sound like him and began the interview with “Hello dere!” — and said he was confident of winning “all 13 states.”

Within a few years after teaming up in the late 1950s, Allen and Rossi had become a familiar presence in the nation’s top nightclubs and on television variety shows.

In two of their many appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Allen and Rossi had the unenviable task of following the Beatles. They won over an audience dominated by screaming teenage girls both times.


On the first occasion, in February 1964, Mr. Allen performed a frenetic dance wearing a Beatle wig; on the second, in September 1965, he ran up and down the aisles while Rossi sang “She Loves You” (its lyrics amended to “We love you, yeah, yeah, yeah” and addressed to the audience).

Rossi died in 2014.