Amsterdam, who died last week of a heart attack at 87, was an irrepressible teller of jokes—many of them gloriously lousy—and a gifted gagwriter for everyone from Will Rogers and Fanny Brice to Presidents Roosevelt and Reagan. His 72-year career took him from vaudeville, where he told jokes and played the cello—his father had been a violinist—to radio, movies and TV From 1948 to 1950, he had his own network variety show, and in the '70s he appeared on Hollywood Squares. He never stopped working in cabarets and last season made an appearance—with Rose Marie, his Dick Van Dyke sidekick—on NBC's Caroline in the City.
It was on the Dick Van Dyke Show, though, that he became known as the gagwriter with the heart of gold and the wife named Pickles. (In fact he was married for 54 years to his real wife, Kay, who survives him.) "Dad was a bit like Buddy, in the sense that he was quick with the lines," says Amsterdam's daughter Cathy, 45, a family counselor in L.A. "But he never did jokes at someone else's expense."
Van Dyke recalls his friend as the most contented person he ever met. "I never saw him in a sour mood," he said. "When Morey died, a hundred thousand jokes went with him."