Norm Crosby Dead, Famous 1960s Comedian, Dies At Age 93

Norm Crosby attends the 2011 Starkey Hearing Foundation's 2011 "So The World May Hear Awards Gala."
Adam Bettcher / Getty Images

Comedian Norm Crosby died at the age of 93 from heart failure at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to a statement his wife Joan made to The Hollywood Reporter.

The Boston native was famous in the 1960s for his use of malaprops — similar-sounding words that have very different meanings.

His five-decade career in comedy included stand-up, celebrity roasts, variety programs and talk shows.

Crosby is survived by his wife, sons, Andrew and David, and grandchildren, Jack and Lily.


Crosby’s Career Started In Stand-Up

Headshot of Norm Crosby from 1965.
  William Morris Agency/Maurice Seymour / Wikimedia Commons (GPL)

Crosby began his career in the 1950s doing stand-up in bars and nightclubs on the weekends while working as an advertising manager for a shoe company in Boston, Massachusetts. His initial bits covered the works of Red Buttons and Buddy Hackett, whom he watched on the Ed Sullivan Show. From there, he was hired for a full week in New York City at the Latin Quarter nightclub, which was where his use of malaprops began.

It was a slip of the tongue by a nightclub owner who suggested he ask a woman if she was “staying over or communicating” that gave Crosby the idea to work his schtick around the misuse of words. The idea worked, and malaprops became Crosby’s signature style.

Through his work at the nightclub, Crosby was signed by the William Morris agency. His first job for them was opening for Robert Goulet at the Concord Hotel in the Catskill Mountains. His other regular gigs included a residency at the Sahara Hotel in Los Vegas and opening for singer Tom Jones.


Crosby Was A Regular Guest Of Dean Martin & Johnny Carson

Norm Crosby performs during the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.
  Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

Crosby was a frequent guest on Dean Martin’s NBC variety program as well as a participant in celebrity roasts. He also had over 50 appearances on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, according to The Daily Mail.

The comedian’s other small-screen appearances included late-night programs such as The Ed Sullivan Show, Late Night With Conan O’Brien and The Larry Sanders Show. He participated in primetime television as well, making appearances on Roseanne, L.A. Law and The Love Boat.

On the big screen, he worked with Adam Sandler in Grownups 2 where he appeared as a Kmart employee and in 8 Crazy Nights as the voice of Judge.

He also was a regular performer at Jerry Lewis’ muscular dystrophy telethons.


Crosby Suffered From Hearing Loss Brought On By Deep Sea Depth Charges

Norm Crosby speaks at the 2009 Starkey Hearing Foundation 9th Annual "So the World May Hear" Gala.
  Adam Bettcher / Getty Images

Crosby served in the military during World War II and believed his hearing loss came from his time working on anti-submarine patrol in the North Atlantic. He told Audiology Online in 2003 that his mom noticed he was having trouble hearing her when he returned home from the war.

“I think my hearing problems started during my military service. I was on a sub-chaser in the North Atlantic and the depth charges made a terrific sound, it was very loud and you could feel it through your bones. The hearing loss came about slowly, it was not that one day I was suddenly deaf, it was a gradual thing that came on slowly over time.”

At the age of 20, Crosby’s doctor had him wearing hearing aids. As time progressed, his hearing worsened so much that when he was interviewed, the comedian was deaf without hearing aids.