Bob Hope was a consummate entertainer — a pioneering comedian who navigated an ever-changing media landscape, endured for decades and still found time to entertain thousands of troops in far-flung locales. Eleven years after his death, Hope still stands as a spiritual ancestor to generations of comics, actors, talk-show hosts and other performers. Here are a few examples:
As early as the 1930s, Hope was deploying what would become the modern formula for stand-up comedy and late-night monologues. He (and his writers) took topical issues and observations and turned them into snappy witticisms. Among the many comics to follow in his footsteps were late-night hosts Johnny Carson, Jay Leno and David Letterman.
A buddy's buddy
Hope and Bing Crosby didn't invent the buddy comedy, but they did take it to another level with their seven "Road to …" movies between 1940 and 1962, along with costar Dorothy Lamour. Light on plot, heavy on wisecracking and male bonding, their influence could be felt in such fare as the Jerry Lewis-Dean Martin comedies to the buddy-action comedies with stars such as Will Smith and Martin Lawrence to the bro-franchises like "21 Jump Street" and slacker stars like Seth Rogen and James Franco.
A man of any media
Howard Stern may fancy himself the King of All Media, but he's got nothing on Hope, who flourished in every major mass-entertainment medium of his time, including vaudeville, radio, television, movies and books. He had a syndicated newspaper column, a namesake golf tournament and even his own comic book ("The Adventures of Bob Hope"). If Hope's combination of versatility and ubiquity will likely never be matched, it's at least been aspired to by multi-hyphenate entertainers such as Mel Brooks, Steve Martin and Neil Patrick Harris.
A soldier in greasepaint
Also unlikely to be matched is Hope's commitment to entertaining American troops stationed overseas via the USO, which he did during times of war and peace for nearly six decades, earning him the nicknames "America's No. 1 Soldier in Greasepaint" and "G.I. Bob." These were perhaps his finest hours. Performers like the late Robin Williams, Stephen Colbert and Louis C.K. kept up the USO tradition.
Follow me on Twitter: @ogettell