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Signals (Verbal & Visual)

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 since.

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 ad-libs).

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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