Joe Franklin Day is celebrated on March 9 every year, marking the birthday of one of the world’s most prolific entertainers. Before the advent of the internet and streaming services, television was all we had. And no one knew how to do T.V. better than Franklin. From Marilyn Monroe to Muhammad Ali, Franklin has interviewed them all. Also known as Mr. Nostalgia, he is often credited with having invented the talk show format we’re all so familiar with today. He truly was the ultimate showman. And we’re not throwing that term around lightly. His most popular series, “The Joe Franklin Show,” has over 21,000 episodes. So if you’re a big fan of talk shows, you know who to thank.
History of Joe Franklin Day
Joe Franklin was born Joseph Fortgang on March 9, 1926, in the Bronx, New York to Austrian-Jewish parents, Anna and Martin Fortgang. Franklin began writing skits for “The Kate Smith Hour” at the age of 14 and began his radio career as a record picker on Martin Block’s “Make Believe Ballroom” when he was just 16. After returning from serving in the United States Army during World War II, he made his television debut on a local New York station WJZ-TV in 1951 with “The Joe Franklin Show.” He pioneered the talk-show format where he interviewed thousands of people. His guests included celebrities like Madonna, Salvador Dali, Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, and Elvis Presley — although some of these claims can’t be confirmed as little video evidence has survived since before the 1970s. He also invited lesser-known performers on the show and is credited with having discovered legends like Andy Kaufman, Woody Allen, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, and Bruce Springsteen among others.
He was also called ‘The King of Nostalgia’ and ‘The Wizard of Was’ as his show often focused on old-time show-business personalities. Not only did he amaze viewers with his knowledge of obscure entertainment trivia from the past, but he also encouraged up-and-coming artists by giving them airtime.
He retired from his T.V. show after years of devotion and shifted his attention to an all-night radio show where he played old records and interviewed celebrities on the ‘Bloomberg Radio Network.’ Franklin also mentored several aspiring entertainers at his Times Square office and even opened a comedy club in New York.
Joe Franklin Day timeline
Before the invention of electronic televisions, there were mechanical ones — these early machines involved mechanically scanning images and then transmitting them onto a screen.
Philo Taylor Farnsworth demonstrates the first electronic television on September 7.
The world's first T.V. stations start emerging in the U.S.
H.D.T.V.s are introduced, followed by the release of Sony’s Blu-ray disc format soon after.
Joe Franklin Day FAQs
Why did Franklin pass away?
He passed away from prostate cancer in 2015 at the age of 88 at a Manhattan hospice.
How long was “The Joe Franklin Show” on for?
The show ran from 1951 to 1993 when it was canceled and featured more than 300,000 guests.
Why did he never take his show national?
Franklin said that while he had many offers to take his show national, he didn’t because he wanted to retain the vibe of New York City.
Joe Franklin Day Activities
Binge watch “The Joe Franklin Show”
Gather some friends and crowd around the T.V. to watch the legend himself doing what he did best. There are over 21,000 episodes to choose from so you know there’s something for everybody.
Host a trivia night
Honor Franklin’s legacy by having a trivia night. Quiz your family and friends on their entertainment knowledge.
Watch your favorite talk show
Tune in to watch your favorite talk show if you’re not a fan of the classics. Thanks to Franklin, there are hundreds to choose from today.
5 Facts About Joe Franklin That Will Blow Your Mind
Franklin appeared as himself in movies such as “Ghostbusters,” ”29th Street,” and “Broadway Danny Rose.”
Imitation is flattery
Billy Crystal parodied “The Joe Franklin Show” in “Saturday Night Live” during the 1984 — 1985 season.
Almost all imitation
Franklin sued “National Lampoon” over a cartoon strip the publication made of him called ‘The Incredible Shrinking Joe Franklin’ in the early 90’s.
Good with T.V. and with words
He also authored several books including “Joe Franklin’s Great Entertainment Trivia Game” and “Up Late With Joe Franklin.”
He won the Guinness World Record for uninterrupted talk show hosting, surpassing Johnny Carson's record by over ten years.
Why We Love Joe Franklin Day
He’s an American icon
Franklin was a fixture of both late-night T.V. as well as radio shows. We love a legend!
He changed T.V. forever
There are hundreds of talk shows on air today. However, it all started with Franklin and his vision.
It helped rising stars
Along with well-known celebrities, Franklin also invited more low-key guests and helped discover Woody Allen, Liza Minelli, and Barbra Streisand.
Joe Franklin Day dates