Saturday, December 8, 2012

Jackpot Bowling starring Milton Berle

Uncle Miltie & pins
"I hope people now refer to the game as "Berle-ing"

-Milton Berle

In 1950, Milton Berle, aka "Uncle Miltie", was the host of the most-watched show on television, Texaco Star Theatre and was by far the most popular star on television, in fact he was known as "Mr. Television". Ten years later Milton Berle was hosting Jackpot Bowling.

Milton Berle summed up the show: "Twenty-one minutes of bowling and nine minutes of Milton Berle. Nine minutes? I usually bow that long!"

Jackpot Bowling had been on NBC TV for three years before the producers had the brilliant idea of hiring Uncle Miltie as MC for comedy relief, delivering an opening, rapid-fire bowling-joke oriented monolog before turning things over to announcer Chick Hearn who called the matches between the professional bowlers. Berle would return and kibbitz with special guest stars, including Buddy Hackett, Debbie Reynolds, Bobby Darin, Jack Dempsey, Diana Dors, The Ritz Brothers...
                                 Milton Berle welcomes The Ritz Brothers

... all bowling for their favorite charities, then later close the show with more bowling related jokes. The show, filmed at the Hollywood Legion Lanes in Hollywood actually garnered good ratings but after six months Milton Berle bowed out, perhaps due to a better offer... or due to sheer embarrassment.

 "Only Milton Berle would have the nerve to
stand in a bowling alley and tell jokes" -George Burns

Berle Bowls
TV Guide's 1961 preview of new Monday night shows (including The Andy Griffith Show)

a "review" of the new show

opening credits

Berle's opening monolog

"Im doing this for "pin" money"- Milton Berle

"People wonder what I'm doing on this show, I'll tell you.
The sponsor called me up-- and I said "I'll take it!"- Milton Berle
A fan letter to the show:
" How dare those bowlers take up so much time!"

Premiere episode with guest Diana Dors

Berle with the show's co-sponsors

Milton Berle on Jackpot Bowling generated several magazine covers.
at least the covers of several newspaper TV magazines...

art by George Wachsteter

a "Bowling Berle"

 Milton Berle welcomes celebrity bowler Bobby Darin

Another reason for the show's popularity with men, regular
 "Cigar Salesgirl" and Milton Berle foil Laura Brady

The Brunswick corporation, manufacturers of the bowling equipment used on the show and co-sponsors of the show along with Philles cigars,
ran this newspaper ad welcoming Uncle Miltie as the shows new host.

Milton Berle welcomes guest former boxer/bowler Jack Dempsey

magazine ad for the show

press photo: Berle with a happy jackpot winner

Phillies cigars featured the star of the show on their 1960/61 cigar boxes...

 thanks to "The Worst TV Shows Ever" by Bart Andrews & Brad Dunning (Dutton)
and to Kliph Nesteroff


  1. Great post, Drew!

    NBC had signed Milton Berle to an unprecedented 30-year contract in 1957, vastly overestimating Uncle Miltie's staying power. Having Berle host Jackpot Bowling was probably a last-ditch attempt to capitalize on that investment.

  2. I wonder if Uncle Miltie showed Diana Dors his legendary tenpin? It would've been right up her alley.