Rip Taylor, the animated comedian who always left behind a trail of confetti, died Sunday, The New York Times reports. He was 84.
Taylor’s publicist, Harlan Böll, confirmed Taylor’s death, saying the comedian suffered a seizure before he died at a Los Angeles hospital. An exact cause of death, however, was not given.
Taylor built a long, eclectic career with a mixture of over-the-top and self-deprecating humor. He was a frequent TV guest — Böll estimated he made more than 2,000 appearances during his 50-year career — as well as a hard-working stand-up comedian and entertainer. He earned his nickname, “The King of Confetti,” for the way he left his audiences covered in scraps of tiny, colorful paper.
On Twitter, an array of comedians and performers paid tribute to Taylor. Billy Eichner wrote, “RIP, Rip. I can’t imagine how much bullshit you had to deal with in an industry that decided it was finally cool to be a gay man in comedy, like, a year ago. Nevertheless you ignored all that and delighted people for decades.”
And David Alan Grier said, “Rest n Peace Mr. Taylor. Loved you, grew up watching you. Thank you for all the laughter you brought me.”
Born January 13th, 1935 in Washington, D.C., Taylor — real name Charles Elmer Taylor — had a difficult childhood; Böll explains, “Abused and bullied, he said he discovered early that they weren’t hitting you if they were laughing.”
Taylor effectively got his start as an entertainer while serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, where he reportedly entertained his fellow soldiers during combat. He returned home with an act that, he admitted, mostly consisted of jokes stolen from USO shows. But he began gigging around the East Coast and the Catskills, which is when he came up with his first hit bit: Crying profusely as he begged the audience to laugh at his jokes.
Taylor soon landed a spot on The Ed Sullivan Show; Sullivan would reportedly ask to book “the crying comedian.” Along with his late-night appearances, Taylor spent the Sixties doing voiceover work, notably playing Elroy in The Jetsons and Uncle Fester in a TV adaptation of The Addams Family.
During the Seventies, Taylor refined his act with flamboyant costumes, plenty of props, colorful wigs and, of course, lots of confetti. He performed regularly in Las Vegas and was also a go-to celebrity guest on countless TV game shows, including Hollywood Squares, Password and The Gong Show. Between 1978 and 1980, he hosted the game show/beauty pageant spoof, $1.98 Beauty Show.
Taylor worked steadily over the next few decades, appearing on stage, screen and everything in between. He was a frequent late-night guest, appeared on sitcoms like Will and Grace and made cameos in films like Wayne’s World 2 and the three Jackass movies. He also worked as a theater actor, making his Broadway debut in Sugar Babies in 1979, and appearing in touring productions of Oliver, Peter Pan and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. In 2010, Taylor premiered his one-man show, It Ain’t All Confetti.
Taylor is survived by his longtime partner, Robert Fortney. He was previously married to the Las Vegas showgirl, Rusty Rowe.