Stanley Handelman, 77; popular comedian on TV and stage in ‘60s and ‘70s

Times Staff Writer

Stanley Myron Handelman, the Brooklyn-born comedian known for his cerebral humor, soft-spoken delivery and trademark flat cap and oversized glasses, has died. He was 77.

Handelman died of a heart attack Aug. 5 in Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City, said Jonathan Taylor, Handelman’s son-in-law.

In a comedy career that began in the 1950s, Handelman appeared in clubs such as the Bitter End and the hungry i and had his heyday on television in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s when he made frequent guest appearances on “The Tonight Show,” “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Merv Griffin Show” and “The Flip Wilson Show.”


Handelman first came to national prominence as a regular on “Dean Martin Presents the Golddiggers,” the 1968 and 1969 summer replacements for “The Dean Martin Show.”

“He was one of the funniest people I ever met,” producer-writer Alan Sacks, Handelman’s longtime friend and occasional collaborator, told The Times on Tuesday. “He always said that his delivery was straightforward, and he always saw the humor in the absurdity of reality.”

The son of a furrier, Handelman was born in Brooklyn on Nov. 21, 1929. He was voted class comedian when he graduated from high school and served as a resort entertainment director in the Catskills before becoming a performer. He began developing his comedy act around New York in the late ‘50s.

“He had the type of comedy whose style was inimitable,” Handelman’s sister, Harriette Kaledin, told The Times on Tuesday. “He’s not like the rest. He wasn’t a sock-it-to-you type of comedian. He was subtle, bright -- and you had to listen when he was giving his presentation on stage.”

Her brother, she said, “was just naturally funny and everything he said, he’d make me laugh -- and I’m not an easy customer to satisfy in the world of comedy.”

In the late ‘60s, Handelman was a frequent opening act for Frank Sinatra. He also headlined at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 1970 and a year later released the comedy album “Spiro T. Agnew Is a Riot.”

Handelman also formed a close friendship with comedian Rodney Dangerfield, for whom he wrote material for many years.

Handelman also taught comedy classes in Los Angeles for many years. He coached and produced shows featuring his students, who were billed as “The Flying Handelmans.”

Handelman was married and divorced four times. In addition to his sister, he is survived by his sons, Paul, Michael, Robert and Daniel; his daughter, Stefanie; and a granddaughter.

A memorial service is pending.