Composer(s) Barry Fasman
Original language(s) English
Location(s) New York City
Presented by (See hosts)
Country of origin United States
First episode date 12 September 1987
Opening theme "It's Showtime at the Apollo"
Networks Channel 4, Broadcast syndication
Cast Steve Harvey, Mo'Nique, Whoopi Goldberg, Rudy Rush, Jo Koy
Showtime at the Apollo (formerly It's Showtime at the Apollo, now Apollo Live) is a syndicated music television show, first broadcast on September 12, 1987 to May 24, 2008 with 1093 episodes, and is produced by the Apollo Theater. The show features live performances from both professional and up-and-coming artists, and also features the Amateur Night competition made popular at the famous Apollo Theater in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City, where the show is recorded. The series was rebooted as Apollo Live and hosted by comedian Tony Rock. In many cities such as New York (where it aired on WNBC), it often aired after Saturday Night Live on early Sunday mornings, and was often paired with the similarly-syndicated Soul Train.
- Amateur Night competition
- Change of production
- BET revival
- Fox specials
- Awards and nominations
- Broadcasting on television stations
While there is also a live version of the show every Wednesday (which is the original Apollo Amateur Night competition that has been running for over 70 years), the taped version of the show for television usually airs on weekends.
Many famous R&B, soul, and hip hop performers have appeared on the show, which has had a number of hosts, including Whoopi Goldberg, Rick Aviles, Martin Lawrence, Sinbad, Mark Curry, Steve Harvey, Mo'Nique, Christopher "Kid" Reid, and Anthony Anderson. Kiki Shepard served as co-host from 1987 until 2002.
From 1989 to 1991, Sinbad served as the permanent host. After Sinbad left, the show reverted to a series of special guest hosts. In 1993, Steve Harvey began a seven-year stint as the permanent host. At the start of the 1998–99 season, Harvey and Kiki Sheppard hosted a series of "Best of..." episodes until late October because production was delayed due to a labor dispute. After Harvey left in 2000, he was replaced by Rudy Rush. Rush was joined by new comedic dancer C.P. Lacey, who replaced Howard "Sandman" Sims, who had died.
Amateur Night competition
The highlight of the show was the Amateur Night competition, a singing contest. Upon entering the stage, contestants would rub a log made from the "Tree of Hope" which formerly stood outside the Lafayette Theatre, placed on a pedestal for good luck. Contestants' singing (or occasionally comic) ability was immediately judged by the audience. Talented singers or comedians were rewarded by vigorous applause, but those perceived as lacking were harshly booed. If it was clear that the audience disapproved, a siren was sounded and the stage lights dimmed. This prompted a hobo known as "Sandman" to remove the contestant from the stage with a cane.
Change of production
The original show was created by veteran television producer Bob Banner in conjunction with Percy Sutton and was produced and directed by BBA senior producer Don Weiner. After a dispute with the Apollo Theater Foundation in 2002, the original producers minus Bob Banner, who was no longer with the show after 1996 left to start a rival show called Showtime in Harlem later known simply as Showtime. Showtime in Harlem was produced at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The show was later moved to California and renamed Live in Hollywood, lasting one season in 2003 with Shepard as host. It's Showtime at the Apollo was subsequently produced by de Passe Entertainment. It was for a time, hosted once again by Sinbad, who briefly returned to the show in 2006 while Mo'nique was on maternity leave. Whoopi Goldberg became the new host for the 2006–2007 season. At times, comedian and actor Anthony Anderson hosted during the 2006–2007 season.
It was announced on September 30, 2011 that the BET cable network would produce a similar show titled Apollo Live starting in 2012 with Tony Rock as the host. The judges are the legendary Gladys Knight; famed beatboxer Doug E Fresh, and Michael Bivins of the 1980s group New Edition and early '90s group Bell Biv DeVoe.
Showtime at the Apollo was revived by Fox Broadcasting Company in 2016-2017 with a pair of specials hosted by Steve Harvey. The first, a two-hour showcase, aired on December 5, 2016, while the second aired on February 1, 2017.
Awards and nominations
Showtime at the Apollo has won a NAACP Image Award for "Outstanding Variety Series/Special" in 1991. The show was nominated in 1996, 1998, and 1999 for the same category. In 2000, the show was nominated by the NAACP Image Awards for "Outstanding Youth or Children's Series/Special" for the "Apollo Kids Finals" special episode. However, that same year, former host Steve Harvey has won an Image Award for "Outstanding Performance in a Variety Series/Special".