NEW YORK -- Jack Lescoulie, 75, a founding personality on NBC's "Today" show and its resident jester for nearly 15 years, died of cancer July 22 at St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, NBC announced here.

Mr. Lescoulie was second banana to Dave Garroway on the original "Today" show, and spoke the first words on the first program on Jan. 14, 1952.

During his tenure on "Today," the tall, blond performer had an apple shot off his head by an archer, scrimmaged with the New York Giants football team, played water polo with the U.S. Olympic team, interviewed a penguin, ate six breakfasts at one sitting and wrestled a walrus named Herbert at the Bronx Zoo.

He was known to his colleagues as "the saver" because of his knack for breaking into a sagging interview with a bit of foolishness.

He made his last regular appearances on "Today" in 1967, NBC said.

Born in Sacramento, Calif., Mr. Lescoulie broke into broadcasting after high school as a staff announcer for KGFJ in Los Angeles. He served in the Army Air Forces in Italy in World War II.

He was an announcer for Jackie Gleason from 1952 to 1959 and did commercials on Milton Berle's show in 1954 and 1955. He was host of NBC's "Tonight: America After Dark," a short-lived replacement of the "Tonight" show that ran half a year in 1957 after Steve Allen had left and before Jack Paar took over the late-night slot.

The next year, he was co-host of the quiz show "Brains and Brawn" on NBC, in which a celebrity teamed with an athlete in contests of knowledge and athletic ability.

Mr. Lescoulie also teamed with 10-year-old Richard Thomas -- later to star as "John Boy" on "The Waltons" -- as co-host of NBC's "1,2,3-Go!", an educational series for children that lasted one season in 1961-62.

He is survived by his wife Virginia, and two children.