Danny (St. Louis Park High class of 1963) was this area’s first teenage stand up comic and came mighty close to breaking it nationally. He was a “walk on” on all the local TV stations, dated Nancy Nelson before Bill Carlson did, won numerous state high school talent contests, was a regular on the “Cannon Mess” on ‘CCO, etc
Here’s an article about Danny that appeared in the May 2, 1962 edition of the Echo, written by Bev Richman:
The jocular, bizarre world of comedy, the art of provoking people to laughter, practiced by the traditional stage comedian, has caught the fancy and aspirations of junior Danny Klayman.
Being master of ceremonies for Jesterday’s faculty frolics was Danny’s most recent engagement. Throughout the year he has appeared at the Homecoming Varsity Show, the Junior Class production of “Ah Wilderness” and the Community Theatre’s comedy, “Beggar on Horseback.” Danny also entertains for the Minneapolis Junior Chamber of Commerce at its banquets.
“A comedian,” Danny explained, “produces laughter through acting, which the comic produces laughter by telling jokes.”
Wishing to be a professional comic, Danny is fascinated by what makes people laugh.
A joke which is truly funny, yet properly wholesome and offered with a great delivery, is what Danny considers to be an art.
“There is no recipe for humor – you can’t dissect it. What appeals to the comic actor may not appeal to his audience,” stated Danny.
Henny Youngman, a professional comedian, has befriended Danny and periodically sends him material. Planning to spend two weeks at Youngman’s New York home this summer, Danny feels Youngman is the man who has really encouraged him in the acting profession.
“To be successful, a person must enjoy what he is doing,” said Danny. “Even though the entertainment profession has become extremely competitive, with only a few succeeding and gaining recognition, I want to try.”
Danny’s brother Wayne Elliot Klayman says that:
Danny was a regular at various supper clubs and downtown lounges that served liquor… and he was 17!
Henny Youngman was a close friend of our family until he passed some years ago…At age 13, I didn’t know who he was but he’d come to town and stop in and visit periodically and always made me laugh.
Milton Berle was also a regular guest in our home. In my senior year of high school my mom was stricken with terminal cancer. She lay in a hospital bed in our living room in bad shape. Milton came to town and came right over. He looked at her and said: “Mildred, now that’s enough of this! I can’t afford to lose my biggest fan – or ANY fan! Now you get better and get out of that sick bed! Understand??”….and that night, darned if she DIDN’T! She actually got better! For awhile…it was amazing!
He was somewhat “infamous” at Park High. When I was a student there, teachers would say on opening day: “are you Danny’s brother ?” I never knew if I should say yes or no! Danny’s circle included: Jerry Kiernan (deceased), Kent Morton, and Roland Smith, were the inner ring…also ran with Jim and Bob Copeland, Ricky Keith, etc…
In 1963 Minneapolis Tribune columnist Will Jones would include some of Danny’s jokes, both in the “Day Brightener” and “Day Spoiler” categories.
Barbara Flannigan did a feature cover story on him and his family in the Sunday StarTribune in 1965. Danny said he had wanted to be a comic since he told his first joke in Kindergarten class at the age of 5. It was at age 10 that he discovered his idol, Henny Youngman. At 12 he had discovered Variety and was teaching his classmates show business slang like “kudos,” “socko,” and “boffo.” At 14, with the help of his mother, he met Youngman, who later referred to Klayman as his “young protege in Minneapolis” during an appearance on the Tonight Show. Danny’s first professional appearance was at a teen coffeehouse on Lake Street called LeZoo. His trademark outfit was a black suit “of the Ivy League cut” and a “dapper checked-tweed hat a la Rex Harrison.” Local celebrity Mel Jass would invite him to be on his show.
Flannigan contacted Youngman for her story, and he told her that his plans for his young friend were to bring him to the borscht belt in the Catskills. Meanwhile, here in Minneapolis Danny appeared regularly with Henry Wolf, who broadcast nightly from the Sheraton-Ritz Hotel. Besides Youngman, Danny also had the opportunity to meet with comics Shelley Berman and Danny Thomas. And although the latter bluntly told him that he should not go into show business, he was not swayed.
Danny did stand up in comedy clubs around the area, including “The Losers,” described as a “well-known downtown daytime spot” in 1965. In September and October 1965 he wrote columns in the Twin City a-Go-Go teen magazine; in one he gave a plug for “The Losers,” which turned out to be an eclectic store that was probably a head shop, and one for the recently opened Magoo’s Pizza.
The death of Danny’s mother in 1969 put a damper on his career for awhile, but he bounced back, more determined than ever to make it big. There was a front page article about Danny in the St. Louis Park Sun on March 25, 1971. The photo below is from that article.
An interesting note is Danny’s idea to host a talk show where the only guests would be sitting U.S. Senators. He made a pilot featuring Sen. Jennings Randolph (D-WV) and it appears in the TV Guide listings at 2 pm on Sunday, May 30, 1971.
In 1974 he had a long-term gig at a club in Milwaukee. He was also part of the entertainment for the all-night party for the Park High Class of 1974.
Brother Wayne says that “Things never quite went the way we had hoped they would for Danny. And while ‘that’s show-biz’ (and life too), I hated to see him left out of the SLP history books. His legacy may be small comparatively speaking, but at the time it wasn’t.”