The Martha Raye Show

The Martha Raye Show
Genre Comedy/Variety
Written by Billy Friedberg
Directed by Nat Hiken
Billy Friedberg
Starring Martha Raye
Rocky Graziano
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 29
Producer(s) Norman Lear
Ed Simmons
Karl Hoffberg
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 48 mins.
Original network NBC
Picture format Black-and-white
Audio format Monaural
Original release January 23, 1954 (1954-01-23) – May 29, 1956 (1956-05-29)

The Martha Raye Show is an hour-long comedy/variety show which aired live on NBC from January 23, 1954, to May 29, 1956. The series was hosted by Martha Raye, a Montana native, who often called herself "The Big Mouth."[1] Her boyfriend on the program and a foil for her humor was portrayed by retired middleweight boxer Rocky Graziano.[2] Nat Hiken, her writer and director, went on to create the military comedy The Phil Silvers Show and the police sitcom Car 54, Where Are You?.[3] One of the producers, Norman Lear, went on to produce All in the Family and The Jeffersons.

Funniest femme

TV Guide, which placed Raye on its cover for its January 15, 1954, edition, described Raye's comic antics as "boisterous, rowdy affairs, full of slapstick, wild plot lines and fantastic mugging - with appropriate crossed eyes, crooked arm and other contortionist business. But she's one of only a handful of clowns who can pull it off."[4] Variety called Raye "the funniest femme in television," at a time when her competitors included Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Gracie Allen, and Joan Davis.[4] Raye would be less remembered over the years than the other comedians because their work was shown in repeated rebroadcasts of their television series.[4]

Most Martha Raye Show episodes opened with a song-and-dance number performed by the Danny Daniels Dancers and later the Herb Ross Dancers. Known thereafter as Herbert Ross, the choreographer would later be involved in such pictures as The Sunshine Boys and Steel Magnolias. Hiken and writer Billy Friedberg left at the end of the 1953-1954 transitional season, and were replaced by Norman Lear and Ed Simmons, formerly of the Colgate Comedy Hour. Lear, who also held the title of producer, went on to create CBS's All in the Family and its successful spin-offs. Lear and Simmons largely followed the route that Hiken had blazed, and The Martha Raye Show lasted for two additional seasons.[4]

In the episode which aired on September 20, 1955, guest star Tallulah Bankhead and Raye welcomed Gloria Lockerman, a 12-year-old African American girl who had been a winner on CBS's The $64,000 Question. Bankhead and Raye hugged and kissed the girl. Many protest letters came, and TV Guide claimed The Martha Raye Show lost popularity because of the incident.[4]

Guest stars

Other Raye regulars were Carl Hoff and his Orchestra.[3]

Among the many guest stars who appeared, some more than once, were: Harold Arlen, Gertrude Berg, Art Carney, Jack Carson, Robert Clary, Jackie Coogan, Wally Cox, Margaret Truman Daniel, Denise Darcel, Buddy Ebsen, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Eddie Fisher, Errol Flynn, Dick Foran, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Paulette Goddard, Benny Goodman, Hedda Hopper, Stubby Kaye, Buster Keaton, Broadway dancer Wayne Lamb, Peter Lawford, Paul Lynde, Gordon MacRae, Harpo Marx, Dennis O'Keefe, Ezio Pinza, Robert Preston, Vincent Price, Edward G. Robinson, Cesar Romero, Charles Ruggles, and Rise Stevens.[3]


The Martha Raye Show actually began in 1951 on NBC under the umbrella title All-Star Revue. Raye began as a monthly replacement series for Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows. The name All-Star Revue was retained until January 1954, with Raye as a frequent host.[5][6] The revised Martha Raye Show continued to air on Saturday until the fall of 1954, when it was moved to 9 p.m. Tuesdays in alternation with The Milton Berle Show and The Bob Hope Show. In the 1955-1956 second full season, Raye's program alternated with Berle and The Chevy Show. Her television competitors the first year included The Red Skelton Show, on CBS. For the second full season, the competition was Navy Log and Hiken's Phil Silvers Show, both on CBS, and Hugh O'Brian's The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp on ABC.[7]

Raye's sponsors were RCA and Sunbeam Products.[3]


  1. Raye, Martha (April 25, 1954). "Me and My Big Mouth". The American Weekly. p. 7. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  2. Adams, Val (November 29, 1953). "Rocky Graziano: TV Actor and Ex-Fighter". The New York Times. p. X11. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "The Martha Raye Show". The Classic TV Archive. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Davidson, Jim (August 12, 2007). "The Martha Raye Show". Classic TV Info. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
  5. Alex McNeil, Total Television, p. 522
  6. Wolters, Larry (January 20, 1954). "Where to Dial Today". Chicago Tribune. p. A6. Retrieved February 8, 2011. The All Star Revue which is presented once a month when Show of Shows takes a night off on Saturdays is to be renamed the Martha Raye show starting this week.
  7. Alex McNeil, Total Television, appendix, network television schedules
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