Stephen Valentine Patrick William Allen (December 26, 1921 – October 30, 2000) was a musician, comedian and writer, who was instrumental in innovating the concept of the television talk show. Allen is called the Father of TV Talk Shows.
After years in radio, Allen conceived a local New York talk-variety program in 1953 for what is now WNBC-TV. The following year, on September 27, 1954, the show went on the full NBC network as The Tonight Show, with fellow radio personality Gene Rayburn as the original announcer/sidekick. The show ran from 11:30 to 1 a.m. on the East Coast.
"This is Tonight, and I can't think of too much to tell you about it except I want to give you the bad news first -- this program is going to go on FOREVER," Allen told his nationwide audience that first evening . "Boy, you think you're tired now. Wait until you see one o'clock roll around."
Allen also joked that they selected the Hudson Theatre on 44th Street in Manhattan for the program because "I think it sleeps around 800 people."
It was as host of The Tonight Show that Allen pioneered the "man on the street" and audience-participation comedy bits that have become commonplace in late-night TV.
In 1956, while still hosting Tonight, Allen added a Sunday-evening variety show. The Allen programs helped nurture the careers of singers Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme and Sammy Davis Jr.. Allen also provided a nationwide audience for his famous "men on the street" -- comics such as Ernie Kovacs, Pat Harrington, Jr., Don Knotts, Louis Nye, Bill Dana, Dayton Allen and Tom Poston.
Allen remained host of Tonight until 1957, when he left. (After an ill-fated nightlife-oriented replacement, Tonight! America After Dark, the old Tonight format returned later in the year with Jack Paar at the helm.)
Allen went on to host a slew of television programs up until the 1980s, including the game show I've Got a Secret and The New Steve Allen Show in 1961. He was a regular on the extremely popular panel game show What's My Line? from 1953 to 1954 and returning as a guest panelist until the series' end in 1967.
Allen was also a composer who supposedly wrote over 7000 songs. In one famous stunt, Allen wrote 400 simple tunes in a single day. Allen's best known songs are This Could Be The Start of Something Big and The Gravy Waltz, which won a Grammy Award in 1963 for best jazz composition. Allen was also an actor, appearing in such films as The Benny Goodman Story (1955).
Allen was also the producer of the award-winning PBS series Meeting of Minds, a "talk show" with notable historical figures, with Steve Allen serving as host. This series pitted Socrates, Marie Antoinette, Thomas Paine, Sir Thomas More, Attila the Hun, Karl Marx, Emily Dickinson, Charles Darwin, Galileo Galilei, and other historical figures in dialogue and argument. A proposed revival of this show was rejected as "too cerebral".
He was also an accomplished comedy writer, and author of over 50 books, including Dumbth, a commentary on the American educational system, and Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality.
Allen was a secular humanist and Humanist Laureate for the Academy of Humanism, a member of CSICOP and the Council for Secular Humanism. He was a student and supporter of general semantics, recommending it in Dumbth, and giving the Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture in 1992. Allen was a supporter of world government and served on the World Federalist Association Board of Advisers . In spite of his liberal position on free speech, his later concerns about the smuttiness he observed on television caused him to make proposals restricting the content of programs.
Allen's second wife was actress Jayne Meadows, by whom he had one son. They were married from 1954 until his death in 2000. He died of a cardiac disease triggered by a previous minor traffic accident the same day (October 30, 2000) at the age of 78, and is inurned in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
Steve Allen has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: a TV star at 1720 Vine St. and a radio star at 1537 Vine St.
- Songs for Sale (1950- 1952)
- The Steve Allen Show (1950)
- The Tonight Show (1954 - 1956, NBC)
- The Steve Allen Show
- Talent Patrol (1953 - 1955)
- What's My Line? (regular panelist from 1953 - 1954)
- I've Got a Secret (1964 -1967)
- Meeting of Minds (1977 - 1981, PBS)
- Steve Allen Comedy Hour (1980 - 1981)
- The Start of Something Big (1985 - 1986)
- "This Could Be the Start of Something Big"
- "The Gravy Waltz"
- Bop Fables (1955)
- Fourteen for Tonight (1955)
- Short story collection
- The Funny Men (1956)
- Wry on the Rocks (1956)
- The Girls on the Tenth Floor and Other Stories (1958)
- 1970 printing: ISBN 0836936086
- The Question Man... (1959)
- Mark It and Strike It: An Autobiography (1960)
- Not All of Your Laughter, Not All of Your Tears (1962)
- Dialogues in Americanism (1964)
- Letter to a Conservative (1965)
- The Ground is Our Table (1966)
- Bigger Than A Breadbox (1967)
- The Flash of Swallows (1969)
- The Wake (1972)
- ISBN 0385076088
- Princess Snip-Snip and the Puppy-Kittens (1973)
- Curses! or...How Never to Be Foiled Again (1973)
- ISBN 0874770084
- What To Say When It Rains (1974)
- ISBN 0843103574
- Schmock-Schmock! (1975)
- ISBN 038509664X
- Meeting of Minds (1978)
- ISBN 0517533839
- 1989 printing: ISBN 0879755504
- Chopped-Up Chinese (1978)
- Ripoff: A Look at Corruption in America (1979)
- Meeting of Minds, Second Series (1979)
- ISBN 0517538946
- 1989 printing: ISBN 0879755652
- Explaining China (1980)
- ISBN 0517540622
- Funny People (1981)
- ISBN 0812827643
- Beloved Son: A Story of the Jesus Cults (1982)
- ISBN 0672526786
- More Funny People (1982)
- ISBN 0812828844
- How to Make a Speech (1986)
- ISBN 0070011648
- How to Be Funny: Discovering the Comic You (1987)
- With Jane Wollman
- ISBN 0070011990
- 1992 printing: ISBN 0879757922
- 1998 revised edition: ISBN 1573922064
- The Passionate Nonsmoker's Bill of Rights: The First Guide to Enacting Nonsmoking Legislation (1989)
- With Bill Adler, Jr.
- ISBN 0688062954
- "Dumbth": And 81 Ways to Make Americans Smarter (1989)
- ISBN 0879755393
- 1998 revised edition: ISBN 1573922374
- Meeting of Minds, Vol. III (1989)
- ISBN 0879755660
- Meeting of Minds, Vol. IV (1989)
- ISBN 0879755679
- The Public Hating: A Collection of Short Stories (1990)
- ISBN 0942637224
- Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion & Morality (1990)
- ISBN 0879756381
- Hi-Ho, Steverino: The Story of My Adventures in the Wonderful Wacky World of Television (1992)
- ISBN 0942637550
- large-print edition: ISBN 1560545216
- More Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion & Morality (1993)
- ISBN 0879757361
- Make 'em Laugh (1993)
- ISBN 0879758376
- Reflections (1994)
- ISBN 0879759046
- The Man Who Turned Back the Clock, and Other Short Stories (1995)
- ISBN 1573920029
- The Bug and the Slug in the Rug (1995)
- ISBN 1880851172
- But Seriously...: Steve Allen Speaks His Mind (1996)
- ISBN 1573920908
- Steve Allen's Songs: 100 Lyrics with Commentary (1999)
- ISBN 0786407360
- Steve Allen's Private Joke File (2000)
- ISBN 0609806726
- Vulgarians at the Gate: Trash TV and Raunch Radio--Raising the Standards of Popular Culture (2001)
- ISBN 1573928747
- Murder in Manhattan (1990)
- ISBN 0821730339
- Murder in Vegas (1991)
- ISBN 0821734628
- The Murder Game (1993)
- ISBN 0821741152
- Murder on the Atlantic (1995)
- ISBN 0821746472
- Murder on the Glitter Box (1989)
- ISBN 0821727524
- The Talk Show Murders (1982)
- ISBN 0440084717
- Wake Up to Murder (1996)
- ISBN 1575660903
- Die Laughing (1998)
- ISBN 1575662418
- Murder in Hawaii (1999)
- ISBN 1575663759
"How many humanists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Ten: one to screw in the lightbulb and nine to fight for the right to do so!"
- The Official Website of Steve Allen
- Steve Allen tribute (Skeptical Inquirer January 2001)
- Record for Steve Allen at Findagrave.com