In commemoration of my birthday I am looking back on one of the major influences in my life—Soupy Sales. Every day from first grade to sixth, I would walk home at lunchtime (almost a mile), sit in front of the TV (a screen the size of my laptop) in the living room with my lunch on a TV table, eating something like Campbell’s Mushroom Soup or a chicken pot pie (I would save the crust for dessert). I would sit on the couch which was covered in a thick plastic to keep it clean for company, next to a chaotic pile of old newspapers. The plastic was terribly uncomfortable and made crunchy noises when I moved. The plastic had tears that were secured with a thick cellophane tape. And while I was eating, I would watch Lunch with Soupy.
Soupy Sales aka Milton Supman (1926-2009) was the MC for a whacky improvised kids TV show at noon everyday, broadcast live from Detroit from 1953-1959, and then nationally broadcast from LA till 1961 or 2. Lots of slapstick, pranks, practical and corny jokes, puns– entirely unscripted. Black Tooth and White Fang, two of the characters who joined Soupy, were identified only by their hairy paws at the sides of the screen who would argue and make noises and take part in the mayhem.
At some point in every show, Soupy got a pie in his face, or over his ears or on top of his head. You knew it was coming and it was always done in a different way with a different twist. He claimed to have gotten over 20,000 pies thrown at him over his career. He ate Jello that shook and there were sound effects that accompanied his swallowing of it. “Look, it wiggles kids.” This was early product placement as Jello was one of the sponsors of the show. He literally ate his lunch with us and listed on a blackboard what food he would be having the next day. “Through the teeth and over the gums, look out stomach here it comes,” he would say as he swallowed his milk.
Here’s to Soupy and to his whackiness which definitely impacted my own. Watch the excerpt below. It explains a lot.