Hank Bradford Courtesy of Bradford Family Hank Bradford, the clever stand-up comic who performed a half-dozen times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson before serving a five-year stint as head writer on the program, has died. He was 88. Bradford died Jan. 18 in Los Angeles, his family announced. Bradford did uncredited dialogue rewrites on the Burt Reynolds -starring Smokey and the Bandit (1977) — when he got the script, “it wasn’t a comedy,” he revealed to host Marc Malkoff on a 2017 episode of The Carson Podcast — and wrote for such TV shows as M*A*S*H , Private Benjamin and Three’s Company . Related Stories The Brooklyn native made his first appearance on the Tonight Show in September 1966 when it was based in New York. He got a spot inside the writers room in 1969, succeeded Marshall Brickman as head writer in 1970 and moved with the show to Burbank in 1972. Bradford’s role on the fabled NBC late-night program was “to be both catalyst and synthesizer,” Craig Tennis noted in his 1980 book, Johnny Tonight! “Hank’s head and his humor were totally in tune with Johnny’s, and everybody knew it. Consequently, all writers meetings were something of a performance situation. “The writers tempered their humor and wrote their lines to appeal to Hank, and if things bounced well off him, they knew they were on the right wavelength. After this ‘jam session,’ Hank would sit at the typewriter and try to weave out of the craziness something cohesive to present to Johnny. That little task alone caused him to smoke four packs of cigarettes a day.” Bradford and nearly all of his writers were fired in 1975, but he returned to the ultra-competitive talk show arena in 1986 when Joan Rivers , a frequent guest host on The Tonight Show , hired him as her head writer for Fox’s The Late Show , launched as a competitor to the venerable Carson program. “It was as if she hired me to say ‘fuck you’ to Johnny. And I was aware of that,” he told Malkoff. The […]

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