Joey Adams (born Joseph Abramowitz; January 6, 1911 – December 2, 1999) was an American comedian, vaudevillian, radio host, nightclub performer and author, who was inducted into the New York Friars' Club in 1977 and wrote the book Borscht Belt in 1973.[2][3]

Joey Adams
Joseph Abramowitz.jpg
Joey Adams
Joseph Abramowitz

(1911-01-06)January 6, 1911
DiedDecember 2, 1999(1999-12-02) (aged 88)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
  • comedian
  • vaudevillian
  • radio host
  • nightclub performer
  • author
  • labor union president
news columnist[1]
Spouse(s)Cindy Adams (1952-1999; his death)

Early lifeEdit

Adams "grew up in Brownsville, a predominantly Jewish section of the borough at the time of his birth."[3] After graduating from the local public school, junior high school, and high school, Adams continued to City College, but left before graduating. His siblings included a sister and three brothers.

His father Nathan Abramowitz was a tailor who later moved to the Bronx.[4]

Career and married lifeEdit

He changed his name to Joey Adams in 1930, and married his second wife, Cindy Adams, in 1952.[2] For many years Joey (whose "first wife was the sister of Walter Winchell’s wife"[5]) wrote the Strictly for Laughs column in the New York Post, the same paper where 1930-born Cindy established her reputation as a society/gossip columnist.[3]

Adams' career spanned more than 70 years and included appearances in nightclubs and vaudeville shows. He also hosted for a while his own radio show and wrote 23 books, including From Gags to Riches, Joey Adams Joke Book, Laugh Your Calories Away, On the Road with Uncle Sam[6] and Encyclopedia of Humor. The Yale Book of Quotations cites him as being the first to say, "With friends like that, who needs enemies?".[7] He also hosted an unsold game show pilot called Rate Your Mate[8][9] based on a 1950s radio show of the same name (also hosted by Adams) in 1951.

Adams as the host of the radio show Spend a Million, in 1954.

He made numerous television appearances over the years, including on The Ed Sullivan Show, Howard Stern's 1990s TV shows, and What's My Line?, and was in the films Singing in the Dark (1956, of which he was also executive producer), Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title (1966), and Silent Prey (1997). For many years, he hosted a radio talk show on WEVD in New York.[2]


In 1963 Adams, then serving as AGVA president, helped to finance and organize an August 5 variety show in Birmingham, Alabama, to raise funds for the August 28 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.[10] Adams shared the stage with numerous speakers and performers, including Martin Luther King Jr., Ray Charles, Dick Gregory, Nina Simone, Joe Louis, Johnny Mathis, James Baldwin and The Shirelles.[11]

For his civic work, Adams was honored by presidents and statesmen, and he held honorary doctorates in comedy from his alma mater City College, and from Columbia University, Long Island University, and New York University.[3]

He was active in the New York Friars Club and was president of the American Guild of Variety Artists AGVA. He was appointed as Commissioner of Youth for the City of New York by Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr. emulating Fiorello LaGuardia's civic-mindness in recognition for his efforts in battling juvenile delinquency on behalf of the AGVA Youth Fund. Governor Nelson Rockefeller also encouraged him to spread his program throughout the entire state, and eventually it moved westward to California.[citation needed]


Adams died December 2, 1999, at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan, aged 88, from heart failure. Eulogies were delivered by Adams' widow and Mayor Rudy Giuliani.[1] Services were held at Riverside Memorial Chapel.[12] His widow had his remains cremated.[13]


  1. ^ a b Owen Moritz (December 3, 1999). "Comic legend Joey Adams, the fastest joke teller in the East". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 25, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b c Katherine E. Finkelstein (December 3, 1999). "Joey Adams, 88, Veteran Borscht-Belt Comic". The New York Times.
  3. ^ a b c d John Alexander (January 5, 2017). "Born in Brooklyn: Late comedian Joey Adams would be 106: Renowned Comedian and Columnist Was Born Jan. 6, 1911". Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
  4. ^ "Joey Adams's Father Dies". The New York Times. January 8, 1964.
  5. ^ Katherine Rosman (December 21, 2016). "Want the Scoop on Team Trump? Pay Attention to Cindy Adams". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Adams, Joey. On the Road with Uncle Sam. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  7. ^ Shapiro, Fred R. (ed.) (2006). The Yale Book of Quotations. Yale University Press. p. 478.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Rate Your Mate with Joey Adams Part 1
  9. ^ Rate Your Mate with Joey Adams Part 2
  10. ^ Ronk, Liz (August 27, 2013). "March on Washington: Rare Photos From a Star-Studded Fundraiser, 1963". Life. Archived from the original on July 5, 2015. Retrieved November 12, 2020. Joey Adams (left), president of the American Guild of Variety Artists, on stage with the Shirelles.
  11. ^ Shull, Leo (August 10, 1963). "Neither Heat, Bombs, Nor Birmingham Cops Shall Stop the Show—It Must Go On". Show Business. 23 (32). pp. 1, 10.
  12. ^ Graves, Neil (December 7, 1999). "More Laughs Than Tears at His Funeral". New York Daily News.
  13. ^ Boxer, Tim. "Joey Adams as Reverso Marrano: Jewish Celebrity & Secret Christian". 15 Minutes.

Further readingEdit

  • Smith, Ronald L. (1992). Who's Who in Comedy. New York: Facts on File. pp. 5, 6.

External linksEdit