Shelley Berman

Best Comic Comeback, May 2004
His name may conjure borscht belt shtick, but Shelley Berman could not be hipper. Half a century after introducing his brand of neurotic and observational humor to viewers of The Ed Sullivan Show, Berman has earned himself a gig as Larry David’s father on TV’s edgiest comedy, Curb Your Enthusiasm. At 78, he remains jittery and sly, profane and sentimental, still one of this town’s most influential—and underappreciated—improvisationists. Students at USC have been availing themselves of his comic writing class for the past 19 years. For the rest of us, there’s an occasional show at the Improv Olympic West, which recently honored Berman with a lifetime achievement award. “You probably don’t even know me, for God’s sake,” he told the considerably younger crowd.