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PASSINGS / George McKelvey

Comedian, folk singer

March 10, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

George McKelvey, 72, a comedian who provided a bit of a boost to Steve Martin's early stand-up career and later became a club owner known as the "godfather" of the Denver comedy scene, died of a stroke Friday in Hemet.

McKelvey, who began his career singing folk songs in the late '50s and switched to comedy in the early '60s, wrote and recorded the 1964 satirical song "My Radiation Baby (My Teenage Fallout Queen)," which also appeared on the LP "A Crowd of George McKelvey."

As a comedian, McKelvey appeared on the Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson shows and performed with the San Francisco improvisational comedy group the Committee before moving to Denver, where he helped found Comedy Works, George McKelvey's Comedy Club in suburban Aurora and Wit's End.

McKelvey's assist to Martin's budding comedy career came in 1967: After breaking his leg skiing in Aspen, McKelvey asked the 21-year-old Martin to fill in for him at a small folk club there.

"He generously offered me all his salary -- I think it was $300 for the two weeks -- which would be more than I had ever earned, anywhere, any time," Martin wrote in his memoir "Born Standing Up."

McKelvey was born in Chicago on July 22, 1936, and launched his career in his hometown after a stint in the Navy.

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