Legendary Stand-Up Comedian Mort Sahl Dead at 94

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  • Mort Sahl
    American comedian (born 1927)
Mort Sahl
Mort Sahl

Marion Curtis/Starpix/Shutterstock

Groundbreaking stand-up comedian Mort Sahl has died. He was 94.

Sahl's friend, Lucy Mercer, confirmed the news, sharing that he died on Tuesday "peacefully" due to "old age" in his Mill Valley, California home, the New York Times and Associated Press reported.

The Canadian-born star — who shaped modern political satire in the '50s — was known for his social commentary, recording what's cited by the Library of Congress as the "earliest example of modern stand-up comedy on record," Mort Sahl at Sunset, in 1955.

Sahl was a comic pioneer and influenced a number of comedians over the decades, including Lenny Bruce, Joan Rivers, Jonathan Winters, Woody Allen, George Carlin, and more.

"I would never have been a cabaret comedian at all, if it hadn't been for him," Allen wrote of Sahl in his 1994 book, Woody Allen on Woody Allen.

Mort Sahl
Mort Sahl

ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

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The late comedian appeared on a variety of television shows, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and The Ed Sullivan Show and also appeared in films such as: Johnny Cool and Don't Make Waves, In Love and War, and more.

Following the news of Sahl's death, several celebrities and admirers of the comedian shared their condolences.

Laraine Newman, original cast member of Saturday Night Live, tweeted, "One of the many times I've bombed onstage was when Mort Sahl was there. Afterwards he said to me 'they (the audience) just didn't want to listen.' Whether he meant it or was just trying to soften the blow I never forgot that and was always so grateful. RIP Mr. Sahl."

Mort Sahl
Mort Sahl

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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The official social media account for late comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory shared a photo of the two together, calling Sahl a "true comedic icon."

"Heartfelt condolences to the family of Mort Sahl. A true comedic icon who was foundational to modern comedy. I sure hope they have newspapers in heaven. RIP and thank you for the laughter," the tweet read.

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Director and screenwriter Robert B Weide — who filmed the 1989 documentary about Sahl titled The Loyal Opposition — shared a number of tweets about the late comedian.

"#MortSahl (1927-2021) was not only the most influential standup comic in the history of the medium, he remained, pound-for-pound, the funniest, most innovative comedian of them all, throughout his entire career. He was also a good friend. RIP, Pal."

Actor Albert Brooks wrote on Twitter, "R.I.P. Mort Sahl. Most young people have no idea who he was but he was one the few comedians who yanked comedy out of vaudeville type humor into the modern age. One of the very first to just talk to the audience. We'll miss you Mort."

Sahl was married and divorced four times and had one child, son Mort Sahl Jr. — who died in 1996 at age 19.