Comic genius Steve Allen dead at 78

Oct 31, 2000 by Ian Evans

Comic genius Steve Allen, the first host of NBC’s Tonight Show, has died of a heart attack at the age of 78. He’s survived by his wife of 46 years, actress Jayne Meadows, four sons and 11 grandchildren.

Allen was also a pianist and composer. He earned a place in the Guiness Book of World Records for his prolific output of over 8,500 songs. Besides TV he also appeared in films. He played Benny Goodman in 1956’s The Benny Goodman Story and also appeared in The Comic and most recently 1995’s Casino.

Former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson said, “Steve Allen’s death saddens me greatly. All of us who have hosted the Tonight Show format owe a debt of gratitude to Steve Allen. He was a most creative innovator and brilliant entertainer.” Current Tonight Show host Jay Leno was expected to make a staement after Tuesday’s show.