Betty White’s Talk Show Experience Helped Make Her an Incredible Improviser

Betty White attends The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association's (GLAZA) 45th Annual Beastly Ball at the Los Angeles Zoo on June 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California
Betty White | Amanda Edwards/WireImage

Betty White died in late December 2021, shocking fans all around the world. The legendary actor had a career that spanned more than eight decades, appearing in television shows and high-profile movies alike. Becoming a pop-culture icon in her golden years, White embraced her status as a fan-favorite and continued working right up until her death at the age of 99. In the days since White’s passing, fans and media outlets alike are looking even further into her impressive career, discovering all the ways that White paved the way for women in talk shows. 

Betty White broke barriers for women in television with her own talk show

Betty White | Amanda Edwards/WireImage

White entered the world of television right after high school when the medium was still in development. Although she took a break from her pursuit of a career in TV in order to serve in the American Women’s Voluntary Services after the advent of World War II, White was soon back at it, establishing herself as a reliable, talented actor and host in both radio and television.

In 1952, White produced and hosted her own talk show, The Betty White Show. White had creative control over the production and used the opportunity to showcase talented people who didn’t get the attention that they deserved elsewhere. According to Forbes, White even hired Black dancer Arthur Duncan to perform on her show, at a time when the television industry was still heavily discriminatory toward African-Americans. 

‘Hollywood on Television’ was a high-profile hosting gig for Betty White

#TBT my mom and Betty White always had a great rapport with one another. Hopefully they are drinking wine and laughing together in a better place.

— Melissa Rivers (@MelRivers) January 7, 2022

By the time she landed The Betty White Show, White was already an expert at the art of improvisation. One of White’s earliest hosting gigs was Hollywood on Television, a show that ran from 1949 until 1953. A five-and-a-half-hour, six-day-a-week live television show, Hollywood on Television featured a variety of skits and comedy sketches, as well as segments where White would talk directly into the camera. 

According to Smithsonian Magazine, White’s work on Hollywood on Television earned her the distinction as the first female television host and helped to develop her skills as an improvisational comedian—skills that she would later utilize on her own talk show, as well as when she would guest star on other TV shows, including Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show. 

Betty White was an expert at improvisational comedy

Thank you for being a friend.

Stream “Betty White: First Lady of Television” now on the PBS Video app:

— PBS (@PBS) January 8, 2022

Throughout the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, White continued to develop her persona as a bright, funny comedian and actor, with high-profile roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show …read more

Source:: Showbiz Cheat Sheet


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