Ernest Edward "Ernie" Kovacs (January 23, 1919 – January 13, 1962) was an American comedian, actor, and writer.
Kovacs' visually experimental and often spontaneous comedic style influenced numerous television comedy programs for years after his death by automobile accident. Many shows, such as Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, Saturday Night Live, Monty Python, The Uncle Floyd Show, Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street and The Electric Company are credited with having been influenced by Kovacs. Chevy Chase acknowledged Kovacs' influence and thanked him during his acceptance speech for his Emmy award for Saturday Night Live.
Some of Kovacs' unusual behaviors include having pet marmosets and wrestling a jaguar on his live Philadelphia television show.
When working at WABC (AM) as a morning-drive radio announcer and doing a mid-morning television series for NBC, Kovacs claimed to dislike eating breakfast alone while his wife, Edie Adams, was sleeping after her Broadway performances. His solution was to hire a taxi driver to come into their apartment with his own key and make breakfast for them both, then take Ernie to the WABC studios.
While Kovacs and Adams received Emmy nominations for best performances in a comedy series during 1957, his talent was not recognized formally until after his death. The 1962 Emmy for outstanding electronic camera work and the Directors' Guild award came a short time after his fatal accident. A quarter century later, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. Kovacs also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in television. In 1986, the Museum of Television & Radio (now the Paley Center for Media) presented an exhibit of Kovacs' work, called The Vision of Ernie Kovacs. The Pulitzer Prize–winning television critic, William Henry III, wrote for the museum's booklet: "Kovacs was more than another wide-eyed, self-ingratiating clown. He was television's first significant video artist."