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Allen, Byron 1961–

Byron Allen 1961

Comedian, talk show host

At a Glance

Made Network Television Debut

From Real People to the Comedy Circuit

Talk Show Premiere a Success

Sources

Few entertainers reach their goals in life, but even fewer make it to the big time before the age of 20. Byron Allen knew what he wanted out of life at an early age and stopped at nothing to get it. From the moment he first saw the Tonight Show, Allen had set his lifes goal. I decided then . . . thats what I wanted to be, a comedian and a talk show host, he told Jim McFarlin of the Detroit News.

Allen was born Byron Folks on April 22, 1961, in Detroit, Michigan. As a small child, he would wander down to the family basement to play alone with his thoughts and dreams. Thats where I developed the creativity, the imagination, Allen told Louie Robinson in Ebony. But Allen learned to use his upbringing in Detroit to a greater advantage. Much of the comedy material that sends audiences into uproarious laughter draws directly upon his black, middle class family background. Allen uses the black motif for strong material, Variety wrote about one of his appearances in Las Vegas. In fact, Allen uses his life as the butt of many of his jokes. Variety offered one example: Confiding that he was born in Detroits Ford Hospital, he fretted, Im afraid Ill be recalled.

At the age of eight, when his parents separated, Byron moved to Los Angeles, California, with his mother, Carolyn Folks. It was during this time that he got his first real taste of show business. In order to support the two of them, Carolyn took a job as a National Broadcasting Company (NBC-TV) page and would often take her son with her while she worked. While mom was busy with her job, young Byron would wander over to the vacant Tonight Show set and host his own talk show. On one occasion when a janitor caught him, People reported, quick-thinking Byron brought the man onstage as the author of the wonderful book, Cleaning Up After the Stars. A grinning Irv Johnson went through an interview for the empty house. Ironically, Johnson was in the audience when Allen made his Tonight Show debut several years later.

But before Allen could perform his magic for Johnny Carson, he had to prove that he had the comedic talent that was necessary for a spot on the Tonight Show. While visiting the sets of Chico and the Man and Sanford and Son, Allen got to meet some of the biggest television comedians of the timeRedd Foxx, Freddie Prinz, Flip Wilson, and Gabe Kaplan. In fact, Kaplan was so impressed with Allens humor that he suggested he try out his

At a Glance

Born Byron Folks, April 22, 1961, in Detroit, Ml; son of Carolyn Folks (a TV publicist). Education: Graduated from Fairfax High School, Los Angeles, CA, 1979; attended the University of Southern California.

Comedian, actor, writer, and talk show host. Performed as comedian in numerous nightclubs, beginning 1975; worked as a comedy writer for various comedians and television shows, including Good Times and Chico and the Man, 1975-79; cohost of Real People, 1979-84; host and executive coproducer of The Byron Allen Show, 1989. Selected television appearances include the Tonight Show, Dinah, Hollywood Squares, and the Merv Griffin Show; cowriter, coproducer, and costar of television movie Case Closed, 1988.

Addresses: OfficeThe Byron Allen Show, NBC Studios, 3000 West Alameda Ave., Suite 2977, Burbank, CA 91523.

routine at Los Angeless well-known Comedy Store. I thought it was a place where you bought jokes, Allen later told People, but he followed Kaplans advice and began his stand-up comedy career.

At that point, the 14-year-old Allen devoted his whole life to school and to working on comedy routines, making sure to practice at every opportunity. One night while he was standing around the halls of NBC waiting for his mother, Allen started telling his jokes to anyone who would listen, including one of comedy star J.J. Walkers writers. The listener was so impressed with the jokes that Allen was telling that he called his boss and told him about this young comic he had found. Walker called Allen a few nights later and offered him a job on his staff of comedy writers, which at the time included David Letterman.

For the next few years Allen continued to refine his stand-up routine at various clubs around Los Angeles and to write jokes for comedians like Prinz. But Allen never let his career get in the way of his educationby the time he was 16 years old, he was working two or three shows a night while maintaining a B average at Fairfax High School. In fact he was so adamant about getting a good education that when he got a call from the talent coordinator at the Tonight Show during his senior year, Allen turned them down. I was right in the middle of high school mid-term exams, he told Robinson, and I knew that those would be the grades that the University of Southern California was going to look at, so I turned them down.

Made Network Television Debut

Once Allen got his mid-term As and was accepted at USC, he called the Tonight Show to say that he was ready to be on the program. On May 17, 1979, Allen made his debut on network television to the delights of Johnny, his sidekick Ed McMahon, and the studio audience. After that, the offers to write for television and to appear at clubs across the country came flooding in. But once again, Allen opted to put his education first.

There was one offer, however, that he just could not refuse. Producer George Schlatter was putting together a new show and wanted Allen to be a part of it. At first Allen thought he was going to be featured as a guest on the new prime-time informational show, Real People. But a few hours after meeting with Schlatter, Allens agent called and told him that he had been offered a spot as one of the regular show hosts. Allen summed up the event for Ebony. When I graduated, I had my diploma in one hand and my plane ticket in the other and I left the next day to do my first Real People story in Cincinnati. It was at a roller-coaster convention.

The show was a hit with the American public. In its first year it was rated as one of the top twenty shows on prime time and nominated for an Emmy Award as outstanding information series. For the next few years Allen traveled the country doing interviews with everyday people, including the owners of racing ducks, a walrus keeper at Sea World, a knife thrower, and Captain Sticky. But Allen was able to fulfill his commitment to education and his role as a host on the show, because most of the stories were filmed during the summer months. Real People was canceled in 1984, but Allens career continued onward and upward.

From Real People to the Comedy Circuit

During his stint on network television, Allen was making appearances on Dinah, Hollywood Squares, and the Merv Griffin Show. His career as a stand-up comedian was also reaching new ground. In late 1984 Allen opened for Kenny Rogers at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas to rave reviews. According to Variety, The entire audience was mesmerized by his gurgly giggle welling up after some of his lines. . . . Allens supermarket routine inspired instant response, even from the upscale crowd, but a treatise on banks was surefire. How come the door to the vault is always wide open, but they got the ink pens chained down?, he questioned. It was clear that Allen had gained acceptance by both the critics and the public as a comedian. His dream of making it as a talk show host, however, would have to wait for several more years.

In the meantime Allen devoted more time to his comedy routine by making appearances on various television programs and at various night clubs. In 1988 he made his acting debut in a made-for-television movie called Case Closed, starring opposite Erica Gimpel and Charles Duming. As cowriter and coproducer of the film, Allen considered it a labor of love: it was the first time he was able to showcase his creativity in his own way. I really worked hard on this project, he told Jet, and I think viewers will have a lot of laughs. Its full of action, adventure, double-entendre, tongue-in-cheek and a lot of funny stuff.

Even with all the excitement that the movie gave Allen, he still hadnt fulfilled his number one career goalto be a talk show host. Eight years, he told McFarlin. Eight years Ive been trying to sell the same exact show: a once-a-week, one-hour talk show with comedy and music. I went around to every syndicator in the country, and they just werent interested. But he finally found someone who was willing to take a risk.

Talk Show Premiere a Success

Working as coexecutive producer and host, Allen made a pilot episode to show to potential investors and distributors. Once the show was sold to the top three television markets in the countryNew York, Los Angeles, and Chicagoothers soon jumped on the bandwagon. On September 9, 1989, The Byron Allen Show premiered on 155 television stations, covering 96 percent of the country.

Once Allen had achieved his goal of having his own talk show, he took matters one step further by forming his own production company, BYCA Productions, and his own distribution company, BYCA Distribution. These new companies made it easier for Allen to promote other projects he was interested in, including Jammin 91, a two-hour music special that counted down that years hottest music videos and Superstars with David Sheehan, a weekly half-hour series devoted to interviews with major stars from the entertainment industry.

Even though Allen has taken on other projects, comedy remains his first love. But Allen is quick to point out that he is confident that the future will bring him whatever he wants. There really isnt anything you cant do, he told Robinson. Its just a matter of saying, Hey, I can do it, I can do it. Obviously, Byron Allen lives by his words.

Sources

Broadcasting, June 17, 1991.

Detroit News, October 4, 1989.

Ebony, April 1980, June 1982.

Jet, April 25, 1988.

People, September 10, 1979, July 28, 1980.

Variety, December 19, 1984, December 21, 1988, July 12, 1989.

Joe Kuskowski

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"Allen, Byron 1961–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Allen, Byron 1961–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved September 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/allen-byron-1961

Allen, Byron 1961–

Byron Allen 1961

Comedian, talk show host, company executive

At a Glance

Made Network Television Debut

From Real People to the Comedy Circuit

Talk Show Premiere a Success

Sources

Few entertainers reach their goals in life, but even fewer make it to the big time before the age of 20. Byron Allen knew what he wanted out of life at an early age and stopped at nothing to get it. From the moment he first saw the Tonight Show, Allen had set his lifes goal. I decided then thats what I wanted to be, a comedian and a talk show host, he told Jim McFarlin of the Detroit News.

Allen was born Byron Folks on April 22, 1961, in Detroit, Michigan. As a small child, he would wander down to the family basement to play alone with his thoughts and dreams. Thats where I developed the creativity, the imagination, Allen told Louie Robinson in Ebony. But Allen learned to use his upbringing in Detroit to a greater advantage. Much of the comedy material that sends audiences into uproarious laughter draws directly upon his black, middle class family background. Allen uses the black motif for strong material, Variety wrote about one of his appearances in Las Vegas. In fact, Allen uses his life as the butt of many of his jokes. Variety offered on example: Confiding that he was born in Detroits Ford Hospital, he fretted, Im afraid Ill be recalled.

At the age of eight, when his parents separated, Byron moved to Los Angeles, California, with his mother, Carolyn Folks. It was during this time that he got his first real taste of show business. In order to support the two of them, Carolyn took a job as an National Broadcasting Company (NBC-TV) page and would often take her son with her while she worked. While mom was busy with her job, young Byron would wander over to the vacant Tonight Show set and host his own talk show. On one occasion when a janitor caught him, People reported, quick-thinking Byron brought the man onstage as the author of the wonderful book, Cleaning Up After the Stars. A grinning Irv Johnson went through an interview for the empty house. Ironically, Johnson was in the audience when Allen made his Tonight Show debut several years later.

But before Allen could perform his magic for Johnny Carson, he had to prove that he had the comedic talent that was necessary for a spot on the Tonight Show. While visiting the sets of Chico and the Man and Sanford and Son, Allen got to meet some of the biggest television comedians of the time-Redd Foxx, Freddie Prinz, Flip Wilson, and Gabe Kaplan. In fact, Kaplan was so impressed with Allens humor that he suggested he try

At a Glance

Born Byron Folks, April 22,1961, in Detroit, Ml;son of Carolyn Folks (a TV publicist). Education: Attended the University of Southern California.

Career: Comedian, actor, writer, and talk show host. Performed as comedian in numerous nightclubs, beginning 1975; worked as a comedy writer for various comedians and television shows, including Good Times and Chico and the Man, 1975-79; cohost of Real People, 197984; host and executive coproducer of The Byron Allen Show, 1989-92. CF Entertainment Ine, (production company), owner, currently. CF Entertainment has the Syndicated shows, Entertainment, The American Athlete, and next seasons (fall 2000) new weekly, Kickin It with Byron Allen. Selected television appearances include the Tonight Show, Dinah, Hollywood Squares, and the Merv Griffin Show; cowriter, coproducer, and costar of television movie Case Closed, 1988.

Addresses: Office CF Entertainment, 9903 Santa Monica Blvd., Ste 418, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.

out his routine at Los Angeless well-known Comedy Store. I thought it was a place where you bought jokes, Allen later told People, but he followed Kaplans advice and began his stand-up comedy career.

At that point, the 14-year-old Allen devoted his whole life to school and to working on comedy routines, making sure to practice at every opportunity. One night while he was standing around the halls of NBC waiting for his mother, Allen started telling his jokes to anyone who would listen, including one of comedy star J.J. Walkers writers. The listener was so impressed with the jokes that Allen was telling that he called his boss and told him about this young comic he had found. Walker called Allen a few nights later and offered him a job on his staff of comedy writers, which at the time included David Letterman.

For the next few years Allen continued to refine his stand-up routine at various clubs around Los Angeles and to write jokes for comedians like Prinz. But Allen never let his career get in the way of his educationby the time he was 16 years old, he was working two or three shows a night while maintaining a B average at Fairfax High School. In fact he was so adamant about getting a good education that when he got a call from the talent coordinator at the Tonight Show during his senior year, Allen turned them down. I was right in the middle of high school mid-term exams, he told Robinson, and I knew that those would be the grades that the University of Southern California was going to look at, so I turned them down.

Made Network Television Debut

Once Allen got his mid-term As and was accepted at USC, he called the Tonight Show to say that he was ready to be on the program. On May 17, 1979, Allen made his debut on network television to the delights of Johnny, his sidekick Ed McMahon, and the studio audience. After that, the offers to write for television and to appear at clubs across the country came flooding in. But once again, Allen opted to put his education first.

There was one offer, however, that he just could not refuse. Producer George Schlatter was putting together a new show and wanted Allen to be a part of it. At first Allen thought he was going to be featured as a guest on the new prime-time informational show, Real People. But a few hours after meeting with Schlatter, Allens agent called and told him that he had been offered a spot as one of the regular show hosts. Allen summed up the event for Ebony. When I graduated, I had my diploma in one hand and my plane ticket in the other and I left the next day to do my first Real People story in Cincinnati. It was at a roller-coaster convention.

The show was a hit with the American public. In its first year it was rated as one of the top twenty shows on prime time and nominated for an Emmy Award as outstanding information series. For the next few years Allen traveled the country doing interviews with everyday people, including the owners of racing ducks, a walrus keeper at Sea World, a knife thrower, and Captain Sticky. But Allen was able to fulfill his commitment to education and his role as a host on the show, because most of the stories were filmed during the summer months. Real People was canceled in 1984, but Allens career continued onward and upward.

From Real People to the Comedy Circuit

During his stint on network television, Allen was making appearances on Dinah, Hollywood Squares, and the Merv Griffin Show. His career as a stand-up comedian was also reaching new ground. In late 1984 Allen opened for Kenny Rogers at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas to rave reviews. According to Variety, The entire audience was mesmerized by his gurgly giggle welling up after some of his lines. Allens supermarket routine inspired instant response, even from the upscale crowd, but a treatise on banks was surefire. How come the door to the vault is always wide open, but they got the ink pens chained down?, he questioned. It was clear that Allen had gained acceptance by both the critics and the public as a comedian. His dream of making it as a talk show host, however, would have to wait for several more years.

In the meantime Allen devoted more time to his comedy routine by making appearances on various television programs and at various night clubs. In 1988 he made his acting debut in a made-for-television movie called Case Closed, starring opposite Erica Gimpel and Charles Durning. As cowriter and coproducer of the film, Allen considered it a labor of love: it was the first time he was able to showcase his creativity in his own way. I really worked hard on this project, he told Jet, and I think viewers will have a lot of laughs. Its full of action, adventure, double-entendre, tongue-in-cheek and a lot of funny stuff.

Even with all the excitement that the movie gave Allen, he still hadnt fulfilled his number one career goalto be a talk show host. Eight years, he told McFarlin. Eight years Ive been trying to sell the same exact show: a once-a-week, one-hour talk show with comedy and music. I went around to every syndicator in the country, and they just werent interested. But he finally found someone who was willing to take a risk.

Talk Show Premiere a Success

Working as coexecutive producer and host, Allen made a pilot episode to show to potential investors and distributors. Once the show was sold to the top three television markets in the countryNew York, Los Angeles, and Chicagoothers soon jumped on the bandwagon. On September 9, 1989, The Byron Allen Show premiered on 155 television stations, covering 96 percent of the country.

Once Allen had achieved his goal of having his own talk show, he took matters one step further by forming his own production company, BYCA Productions, and his own distribution company, BYCA Distribution. These new companies made it easier for Allen to promote other projects he was interested in, including Jammin 91, a two-hour music special that counted down that years hottest music videos and Superstars with David Sheehan, a weekly half-hour series devoted to interviews with major stars from the entertainment industry.

The Byron Allen show was cancelled in 1992. However, Allen launched his own production company, CF Entertainment in 1993. CF Entertainment was named after his mother Carolyn Folks. Since its inception, CF Entertainment has launched several projects. Allen, is currently running his syndicated talk show Entertainers, which is now in its fifth season. Entertainers is seen in more than 100 markets nationally and 70 countries worldwide.

From Entertainers came another weekly show, The American Athlete, which has had guests such as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Next fall Allen hopes to launch another show, Kickin It with Byron Allen, which will spotlight comedians, musicians, and fashion stars in a weekly hour program. As of date, The American Athlete is his most popular program.

Even though Allen has taken on other projects, comedy remains his first love. But Allen is quick to point out that he is confident that the future will bring him whatever he wants. There really isnt anything you cant do, he told Robinson. Its just a matter of saying, Hey, I can do it, I can do it. Obviously, Byron Allen lives by his words.

Sources

Books

Hawkins, Walter L., African American Biographies, first edition supplement, McFarland & Co., 1994.

Periodicals

Broadcasting, June 17, 1991.

Broadcasting & Cable, June 1, 1998, p. 21.

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 11, Gale Group, p. 12, 1994.

Detroit News, October 4, 1989.

Ebony, April 1980, June 1982.

Jet, April 25, 1988.

People, September 10, 1979, July 28, 1980.

Variety, December 19, 1984, December 21, 1988, July 12, 1989.

Joe Kuskowski and Shirelle Phelps

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Allen, Byron 1961–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Allen, Byron 1961–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/allen-byron-1961-0

"Allen, Byron 1961–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved September 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/allen-byron-1961-0