Arthur Rankin, Jr. Release dateApril 7, 1970 (1970-04-07) WriterRomeo Muller (special material) NetworkAmerican Broadcasting Company DirectorsJules Bass, Arthur Rankin, Jr. Executive producerArthur Rankin, Jr., Jules Bass Similar moviesWilly McBean and his Magic Machine (1965)
The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians (1970) is an animated one-hour ABC television special produced by Rankin/Bass. The show aired on April 7, 1970 before the airing of that year's Oscars. It was a tribute to early vaudeville, and featured animated reworkings of various famous comedians' acts.
Most of the comedians provided their own voices for their animated counterparts, except for Chico and W. C. Fields, both deceased, Zeppo who had left show business in 1933, and Harpo also deceased, but no voice was needed for him since his stage persona did not speak. Groucho was still playing himself. Voice actor Paul Frees narrated the show and filled in for those actors who were not able to do their own voices.
The show included such segments as a Marx Brothers skit, which was a reworking of a scene from their Broadway play I'll Say She Is (1924). The skit included their famous Napoleon parody, with Napoleon played by Groucho. The sketch featured animated representations. Romeo Muller is credited as having written special material for the show in addition to the original scripts that came from the various comedians' sketches.
Although not really remembered now by the general public, at the time it gave Rankin/Bass their highest TV ratings, notably even higher than the high-rated Rudolph. More recently, Behr Entertainment was in talks to produce a similar show that would feature cartoon renditions of Jack Benny, George Burns, Abbott and Costello, and Bob Hope. 13 half-hour episodes were proposed.
Jack Benny - Himself
George Burns - Himself
Phyllis Diller - Herself
George Jessel - Himself
Jack E. Leonard - Himself
Groucho Marx - Napoleon/Himself
The Smothers Brothers - Themselves
Flip Wilson - Himself
Henny Youngman - Himself
Paul Frees - Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx, W. C. Fields, Traffic Cop, additional voices
Joan Gardner - Josephine Bonaparte, additional voices
Producers/Directors – Arthur Rankin, Jr., Jules Bass