Shecky Greene Dies: Las Vegas Stand-up Comedy Legend Was 97

Shecky Greene in 'The Love Machine,' 1971
Everett Collection

Shecky Greene, legendary stand-up comedian and Las Vegas headliner who worked with stars such as Johnny Carson, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley, has died at the age of 97.

Greene died in the early hours of the morning on Sunday, December 31 of natural causes in his Las Vegas home, as confirmed by his wife of 41 years, Marie Musso Greene, to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Greene said there will be no celebratory event of the comedian’s life, per the family’s wishes, but said that being married to him for 41 years was always “fun.” “He always made humor out of whatever he could. He made you laugh and feel good. It was a happy time.”

Greene was a prominent Las Vegas headliner for six decades. He got his start in the city opening for singer Dorothy Shay at the New Frontier in 1954. He went on to open for Elvis and Sinatra, the latter of whom he opened for at the original Fontainebleau in Miami Beach.

The comedian also became known for his presence on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, appearing in 63 episodes of the late-night talk show from 1963 to 1979. Carson was a longtime fan of Greene and had him guest-host the talk show on several occasions. Greene also made many appearances on and guest-hosted The Merv Griffin Show and appeared in more talk shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show on many occasions.

He also appeared in many scripted series such as The Love BoatFantasy Island, Love, American Style, Mad About You, Northern Exposure, Roseanne, The Law & Harry McGraw, and more, as well as appearing as himself in shows like The Carol Burnett ShowMatch Game, The Hollywood Squares, and more. Film credits include Splash, Tony RomeHistory of the World, Part I, and more. In 1962, he had a recurring arc in the ABC World War II drama Combat!.

Greene was born Fred Sheldon Greenfield on the North Side of Chicago in April 1926. He got his comedy start in New Orleans, Louisiana. He then worked in comedy clubs in Miami, Chicago, and Reno/Lake Tahoe before ending up in Las Vegas for his first 1954 show. He debuted as a headliner at The Tropicana Hotel in 1957 and subsequently kept a residency there for five years.

He remained a Vegas headliner for the rest of his career, his final performance taking place at the South Point Showroom in 2011. His last on-screen credit was in 2021’s Live at Mister Kelly‘s, a documentary about the legendary nightclub at which many famous comedians got their start.

Greene is preceded in death by his first wife, Jeri Drurey, and his brothers, Marvin Greenfield and Paul Greenfield. He was also married to famous Polynesian dancer Nalani Kele from 1972 to 1982. Greene is survived by his third wife, Greene, and his five adult children.