On this day in comedy on September 12, 1987 Showtime at the Apollo (formerly It’s Showtime at the Apollo) premiered in syndication.
Produced at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, the variety series featured live musical performances and comedy as well as its legendary Amateur Night. The latter portion had been an Apollo mainstay for over 70 years along with “Sandman” who’d literally sweep off contestants who the audience booed. The original “Sandman” was Howard Sims and when he died he was replaced by C. P. Lacey. Contestants would rub the Apollo log made from the “Tree of Hope” for good luck.
The show had a number of hosts: Bill Cosby, Rick Aviles, Sinbad, Mark Curry, Steve Harvey, Monique, Whoopi Goldberg and Rudy Rush. Anthony Anderson and Kiki Shepherd served as co-hosts. It was an ideal place to toughen up any act. If you were appreciated by the blunt New York crowd you were met with a wave of applause and cheering. If you boomed with them it was boos and a hasty exit for you. Either way, they made up their minds about an act quickly.
Produced by Bob Banner with Percy Sutton and directed by Don Weiner, “Showtime at the Apollo” aired its last original broadcast on May 24, 2008 having aired 1,093 episodes. It was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Variety Series / Special” 4 times and won in 1991.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton