Five Decades With Uncle Floyd

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Usually when describing someone in show business, you can call him “actor”, or “musician”, or “comedian”, but in the case of Uncle Floyd Vivino, all categories apply. I first found “The Uncle Floyd Show” on a cable access channel, sometime in the late 1970s. Adult humor in the guise of a children’s show, it featured comedic characters, musical acts, and Oogie the puppet. Floyd’s interaction with off-screen staff and the occasional mishap like the collapsing of the set’s backdrop lent a casual atmosphere to the show that was uniquely funny. In the early 1980s, we followed his show to WNBC late night in the metro New York area as part of a national syndication effort that, for the first time, introduced Floyd to a national audience.

In a movie theater watching “Good Morning, Vietnam” starring Robin Williams, we were pleasantly surprised to see “our” Uncle Floyd playing the part of one of the soldiers. Our local treasure got a role in a major motion picture! A few years later, Floyd appeared on the big screen again in “Crazy People”. While overall the movie wasn’t well-received, Floyd’s performance of the “Hello Song” was a memorable moment of cinema magic.

Through the 1990s we saw Floyd perform locally at comedy clubs and concert venues. His part stand-up, part music act was as entertaining for the college crowd as it was for my elderly in-laws. A funny story about a late night at White Castle. A self-deprecating description of his movie career. A conversation with Oogie the puppet. But it’s Floyd’s musicianship that really sets him apart. We’ve seen plenty of other comedy acts that include a bit of guitar strumming or banging out some keyboard chords, but none come close to Floyd’s virtuosic chops at the piano. Local lore has described him as a child prodigy, and I don’t doubt it for a minute.

We saw a more serious side of Floyd in the 2000s when he played dinner music in an Italian restaurant. He breezed through Louis Prima classics and an eclectic selection of standards injecting a stride piano style that sounded like a man with four hands. Floyd is also an avid record collector and hosted a radio show called “The Italian-American Serenade”, playing music from his personal collection.

In the 2010s we can still find Uncle Floyd playing a week night in a club, a weekend show at one of the local concert halls, or on his “Uncle Floyd Radio Show”. From TV comedian, to stand-up comic, to movie actor, to radio host, and musician, this Jersey-born icon is one entertainer who really has done it all.

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