Morey Amsterdam was an American television actor and comedian, best known for the role of Buddy Sorrell on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the early 1960s.
Amsterdam was born Moritz Amsterdam in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of the three sons of Max and Jennie Amsterdam, Jewish immigrants from Austria-Hungary. He began working in vaudeville in 1922 as the straight man for his older brother’s jokes. He was also a cellist, a skill he used throughout his career. By 1924, he was working in a speakeasy operated by Al Capone. After being caught in the middle of a gunfight, Amsterdam moved to California and worked writing jokes. His enormous repertoire and ability to come up with a joke on any subject earned him the nickname The Human Joke Machine. He sometimes performed with a mock machine on his chest, hanging by a strap. He turned a hand crank and paper rolled out; he would then read the machine’s joke, although actually the paper was blank. Amsterdam’s reputation for humor preceded him. Hal Block tells of Amsterdam walking up Sixth Avenue in New York and meeting an old friend. “Where have you been?” the friend asked. “Sick,” Amsterdam replied, “I’ve been in bed with a cold.” His friend looked at him and asked, “What’s so funny about that?”
During the 1930s, Amsterdam was a regular on The Al Pearce Show radio program, and by 1937 was the master of ceremonies on The Night Club of the Air. He also wrote songs, including “Why Oh Why Did I Ever Leave Wyoming.” He stole the popular “Rum and Coca-Cola”, although the song was written by a Trinidadian calypso singer named Lord Invader. Amsterdam lost a copyright suit over the song. In the early 1940s he was a screenwriter, contributing dialogue for two East Side Kids films. By 1947, he was performing on three daily radio shows. Beginning in 1948, he appeared on the radio show Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One. The Morey Amsterdam Show aired on CBS radio from July 10, 1948 to February 15, 1949. For three months, it was on both radio and TV, using different scripts with the same premise and cast.