Comic actor Charles Nelson Reilly (b. 1931)

Charles Nelson Reilly (January 13, 1931 - May 25 2007) is an American actor, director and drama teacher known for his comedic roles in movies, children's television, and animated cartoons, but undoubtedly he is best known for his regular appearances as a panelist on the 70's game show Match Game. He has achieved somewhat of a cult status for the good-natured zaniness of his characters.


Reilly was born in the Bronx, New York in 1931 of Irish and Scandinavian extraction. In 1944, at the age of 13, Reilly survived the disastrous Hartford Circus Fire in Hartford, Connecticut.

Reilly made his first movie appearance in 1957, playing an uncredited role in the Elia Kazan film A Face in the Crowd. However, most of his work during this period was on the stage, as he appeared in many off-Broadway shows. His big Broadway break came in 1960, with a minor part in the hit Bye Bye Birdie. Reilly would go on to win a coveted Tony Award for his performance in 1962's How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, and he was nominated for another Tony two years later, for his work as Cornelius Hackl in the Broadway production of Hello, Dolly!.

While he kept active in Broadway shows, Reilly would soon become better known for his TV work. In 1965, he made regular appearances as himself on The Steve Lawrence Show, which aired for a single season. From 1968 to 1970, he appeared as uptight, Waspy "Claymore Gregg" on the television series The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which also starred the late Hope Lange and the late Edward Mulhare, in which he was reunited with Hello, Dolly Broadway co-star, Eileen Brennan on one episode.

In 1971, he appeared as the evil magician "Hoodoo" in Lidsville, a psychedelically flavored live-action children's program produced by Sid and Marty Krofft that aired on Saturday mornings on ABC. The show was about a boy who falls into a magician's hat and enters a magical world of hat people. It is through these roles, as well as his playing the titular role in Uncle Croc's Block, that Reilly's voice and mannerisms were embedded in a generation of young fans.

During the 1970s Reilly also appeared as a regular on The Dean Martin Show, and had multiple guest appearances on television series including McMillan and Wife, Here's Lucy, Laugh In, The Love Boat and Love American Style and was also a frequent guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. During this time Reilly was perhaps best known as a fixture of game shows, primarily due to his witchy appearances as a regular panelist on the television game show Match Game. Reilly was the longest running guest, and often engaged in petty arguments with fellow regular Brett Somers. Reilly typically offered sardonic commentary and peppered his answers with gay-themed double entendres that pushed the boundaries of 1970s television standards.

Since 1980, Reilly has been primarily active teaching acting and directing for television and theater. He directed episodes of the Evening Shade television series in 1990 and earned a 1997 Tony Award nomination as Best Director (Play) for working with longtime pal Julie Harris in the revival of "The Gin Game".

Reilly was a longtime teacher of acting at HB Studio, the acting studio created by Herbert Berghof and his wife, Uta Hagen. His acting students have included Lily Tomlin & Bette Midler.

In the 1990s Reilly made guest appearances on The Drew Carey Show, The Larry Sanders Show, and most notably, as eccentric writer Jose Chung in the television series The X-Files ("Jose Chung's From Outer Space") and Millennium ("Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense"). Reilly was nominated for Emmy Awards in 1998 and 1999 for his performances in The Drew Carey Show and Millennium, respectively.

Since the late 1990s, Reilly has been directing theater and opera, touring the country performing a critically acclaimed one man stage show chronicling his life called "Save It For the Stage: The Life of Reilly" and occasionally performing as the voice of "The Dirty Bubble" on the animated series SpongeBob SquarePants. In 2006 his stage show was made into a feature film called The Life of Reilly. [1]


Television rolesEdit

  • The Steve Lawrence Show (1965)
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir - Claymore Gregg (1968–1970)
  • Arnie (1971–1972)
  • Lidsville (1971–1973) - Hoodoo
  • Match Game (1973–1982)
  • Uncle Croc's Block (1975–76) - Uncle Croc
  • The Flintstone Comedy Show (1980–82) - Frank Frankenstone
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series (1996–1998) - Killer
  • SpongeBob SquarePants (1999–present) - Dirty Bubble


  • According to the Rotten Library, "When he was eleven, he and a friend went to the circus in Hartford, Connecticut and a fire started under the circus tent. Reilly and his friend escaped, but 168 people, including many children, died in the stampede to evacuate. For this reason, Charles hasn't sat in an audience for anything -- including a movie -- since July 6, 1944."[2]
  • Reilly's life story and stage show "The Life of Reilly" has been made into a feature film directed by Frank Anderson and Barry Polterman. The "The Life of Reilly" made its premiere at SXSW Film Festival in March 2006. [3]
  • Reilly is referenced in the song "I Like Hubcaps," featured on The Brak Album by Brak. Additionally, he is mentioned in the song "Serrated Edge" by the Dead Milkmen. A sample of him playing Hoodoo on Lidsville is used by Marilyn Manson in the song "Dope Hat".
  • Reilly was parodied by Alec Baldwin in a sketch on Saturday Night Live in which Nelson Reilly is interviewed on Inside the Actors Studio.
  • Reilly is referred to in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 segment featuring the short Once Upon a Honey Moon.
  • On "Gameshow Marathon" he was replaced by Bruce Vilanch.

External linksEdit

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