Max Liebman (August 2, 1902 - July 21, 1981) was a Broadway theater and TV producer-director sometimes called the "Ziegfeld of TV", who helped establish early television's comedy vocabulary with Your Show of Shows. He additionally helped bring improvisational comedy into the mainstream with his 1961 Broadway revue From the Second City.
Max Liebman was born in Vienna, Austria, and immigrated to the United States during childhood. He attended Boys High School in Brooklyn, New York City. where his extracurricular activities included the debating society and school theater, including shows with classmate Arthur Schwartz, the future Broadway composer. In 1920, Liebman entered vaudeville as a comedy sketch-writer, and in 1924 or 1925 became social director at Camp Log Cabin or the Log Tavern in Pennsylvania. In 1932 or 1933 he was named theater director at Tamiment, a Pocono Mountains resort, where he would remain for 15 years.
Concurrently, he made his Broadway debut as a sketch writer, alongside others including The Little King comic-strip cartoonist Otto Soglow, of the musical revue The Illustrators' Show. It ran five performances, from January 22-25, 1936, at the 48th Street Theatre. Undaunted by the short run, he went on to co-write, with Allen Boretz, the comedy play Off to Buffalo, featuring Hume Cronyn. This ran seven performances beginning February 21, 1939, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
Back at the Tamiment Playhouse, Liebman recalled, "I was doing all the writing myself" until 1938, when he began working with Sylvia Fine. Fine introduced Liebman to her future husband, comedian Danny Kaye, whose talent Liebman immediately realized. He placed Kaye and comedian Imogene Coca in a Tamiment musical, The Straw Hat Revue, which moved to Broadway's Ambassador Theatre on September 29, 1939, where it ran 75 performances through December 2. Liebman wrote the musical's book and is credited directorially under "staging". The cast included Coca, Kaye and Jerome Robbins. Liebman also introduced to Broadway such Poconos performers as Betty Garrett and Jules Munshin, and the choreographer Lee Sherman.
- "Max Liebman, TV Producer, Is Dead". The New York Times. July 24, 1981. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- Jowit, Deborah (2004). Jerome Robbins: His Life, His Theater, His Dance. Simon & Schuster. p. 27. ISBN 978-0684869858.
- "The Illustrators' Show". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- "Off to Buffalo". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- Grimes, Williams (October 29, 1991). "Sylvia Fine Kaye, 78, Songwriter; A Proponent of Musical Theater". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
In 1940 ... she married Mr. Kaye
- "The Straw Hat Revue". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- Max Liebman papers, 1903-1981, held by the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts