TelePrompTer - A rolling version of a cue card (a.k.a.
"Idiot Card") mounted near the front of a television camera and
used by newscasters, reporters, actors and the like to read
their lines from a screen off-camera.
Developed by Irving Kahn,
and Hubert J. Schlafly (from an idea from actor Fred Barton),
the TelePrompTer was first used in 1952 at a political
convention and has been used widely throughout the industry ever
In the days before the TelePrompTer, cue cards (large
signs held off-screen containing words written in very large
letters for easy reading) were used to instruct TV performers of
their lines on a show.
On the classic quiz show YOU BET YOUR
LIFE/NBC/SYN/1950-61, host Groucho Marx was often seen glancing
skyward during a pause in the conversation or in between jokes.
Actually he was looking at cue cards that were projected onto a
small television screen located just above Groucho's head (the
show was fully scripted despite the seemingly free form
Both late night talk show hosts Johnny Carson
from THE TONIGHT SHOW/NBC/1962-92 and David Letterman from LATE
NIGHT/NBC/1982-93 and later on the LATE SHOW/CBS/1993+ made a
habit of drawing attention to their cue card jokes.
The first performer on TV to use cue cards was
comedian Ed Wynn on THE ED WYNN SHOW/CBS/1949-50. He learned to
use cue cards while in Vaudeville when he placed them in the
orchestra pit to help him recall the words to his monologues.
The first person in the entertainment industry
credited with using cue cards was stage actor John Barrymore who
used them during his performances in the 1930s.
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