Gabe Kaplan is an American comedian, actor, poker commentator, and professional poker player.
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Gabe Kaplan is an American comedian, actor, poker commentator, and professional poker player.[
Kaplan was born in Brooklyn, New York. He is best known for his role as Gabe Kotter in the 1970s sitcom, Welcome Back, Kotter. He later became known as a poker player, and as co-host and joint commentator for the series High Stakes Poker on GSN.
As a kid, Kaplan had aspirations of being a Major League Baseball player. However, he was unable to make the roster of a minor league team and decided to pursue other interests. He began working as a bellman at a hotel in Lakewood, New Jersey. Touring comedians would sometimes perform at the hotel, and Kaplan began to work toward his own career as a stand-up comedian. Gabe honed his standup routine in 1964 in places such as the Cafe Tel Aviv at 250 West 72nd Street, New York City.
Kaplan's comedy was successful, and he toured the country with his act based on his childhood experiences in Brooklyn. He appeared five times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from May 1973 to December 1974. During that time, he also recorded the comedy album Holes and Mello-Rolls, which included long routines about his high school days, among other topics. The sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, whose central characters he helped Eric Cohen and Alan Sacks create and whose core format he helped them to develop, was in part based on his comedy act. In the sitcom, Kaplan played Gabe Kotter, who returns as a teacher to the dysfunctional high school where he had been a student. The series ran from 1975–79, and Kaplan bought a home in Palm Springs, California with his earnings."Up your nose with a rubber hose!", sanitized from the original album line "Up your hole with a Mello-Roll!", became an unlikely catchphrase from the show. It became so popular that a comedy record by Kaplan, Up Your Nose, was released by Elektra Records. The record, co-written and -produced by Kaplan, dented the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1977, peaking at #93.
From 1976–78 and again in 1981, Kaplan participated in the ABC celebrity athletic competition Battle of the Network Stars. For the first five competitions, Kaplan was the captain of the ABC network team. In the very first competition, Kaplan defeated Robert Conrad, who was participating in the event representing the NBC team as its captain, in a race much to Conrad's chagrin. Kaplan, who was 31 at the time, passed Conrad, then 40, with a strong sprint to the finish line, giving ABC television network the win with 175 points. In 1981, Kaplan returned to the competition as the team captain for the NBC side, as he was appearing in the NBC TV show Lewis & Clark.
After Welcome Back, Kotter, Kaplan continued with his stand-up act and was in several movies, including a starring role in Fast Break in 1979; and portrayed comic Groucho Marx in a one-man show.