David Bruce: Comedians Anecdotes

Lenny_Bruce_arrest

LENNY BRUCE ARREST

By Examiner Press photo (RR Auctions) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“I’m sorry I haven’t been funny. But I’m not a comedian—I’m Lenny Bruce.”—Lenny Bruce

Comedian Lenny Bruce took comedy into controversial areas it had never ventured into before. He was concerned about language, and he once asked a nightclub audience, “Are there any niggers here tonight?” Of course, the crowd was shocked, but Mr. Bruce argued that such words as “nigger” were shocking and insulting because they had been suppressed. According to Mr. Bruce, “If President Kennedy said, ‘I’m considering appointing two or three of the top niggers in the country to the cabinet,’” the n-word would soon lose both its shock value and its ability to insult. (In the audience was a shocked African-American comedian named Dick Gregory, who later titled his own autobiography Nigger. He also told Mr. Bruce’s publicist, “This guy is the eighth wonder of the world. You have to go back to Mark Twain to find anything remotely like him. And if they don’t kill him or throw him in jail, he’s liable to shake up the country.”)

The world’s strangest comedian could very well be Andy Kaufman. One of his alter egos was Tony Clifton, an obnoxious jerk. While co-starring on Cheers, Mr. Kaufman wanted Tony Clifton to appear, but he insisted that he and Tony have separate contracts, separate dressing rooms, and separate parking spaces (although Mr. Kaufman, of course, was Tony Clifton). The good people at Cheers liked Mr. Kaufman, so they granted his wishes, but they soon discovered that Tony Clifton was not the right character to have on the show, so they decided not to use him. Mr. Kaufman, in the character of Tony Clifton, was outraged, and he yelled, “If you’re going to fire me, you better bring security guards, and I want to be fired on stage.” The good people at Cheers liked Mr. Kaufman, so they granted his wishes, and they fired Tony Clifton on stage. Mr. Kaufman, in the character of Tony Clifton, put on a great act, yelling at the Cheers head honchos, “You’ll never work in this town again.” Of course, security guards escorted Tony Clifton out of the building (just as Mr. Kaufman, in the character of Tony Clifton, had wanted), and soon afterward, Mr. Kaufman, in the character of Mr. Kaufman, walked in the building, acted like nothing had happened, and did not mention Tony Clifton.

Who wrote the world’s funniest joke? English comedian Spike Mulligan did. No, that’s not personal opinion. A professor has studied this subject. Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, posted several jokes online, then asked people to vote which was the funniest joke. Over 300,000 people from all over the world did just that. Later, after the results were tallied, Professor Wiseman saw some 1951 footage of the Goons in their very first television appearance. The footage showed the Goons doing a version of the joke voted funniest in the world. And the jokes in that footage had been written by Spike Mulligan. So what is the funniest joke in the world? Updated for modern times, it is this: Two people go hunting, and a terrible accident occurs, severely injuring and perhaps killing one of the hunters. The uninjured hunter gets on his cell phone and calls 911, then sobs as he says, “There’s been a terrible accident, and the friend I was hunting with is dead!” The 911 operator replies, “Please be calm, sir. The first thing we need to do is to make sure that your friend is dead.” The 911 operator hears silence on the telephone for a moment, then he hears the sound of a shot, and the hunter says, “OK. Now what?”

Comedian George Burns once told movie critic Roger Ebert about a fellow comedian named Joe Jackson who used to wear huge shoes in his stand-up act. After the curtain came down, he would stand so that the audience could see his shoes poking out from under the curtain. However, he would slip out of his shoes and go to the side of the stage. The audience would clap their approval of his act, and at exactly the right time Mr. Jackson would walk out from the side of the stage without his shoes, surprising the audience in the early days although the audience soon grew to know, appreciate, and expect the joke. One day, Mr. Jackson did his act as usual and slipped out of his shoes as usual, but then had a heart attack and died at the side of the stage. The audience, of course, knew the joke, and they applauded and applauded, giving Mr. Jackson the biggest ovation of his life, but he was no longer alive to hear it. When Mr. Burns told this story, some people actually cried. When that happened, Mr. Burns told Mr. Ebert, “I hate to break the news to them that I made it up.”

Wikipedia is completely written by its users—volunteers all. Of course, as you may expect, some users try to post incorrect information. Often, this is funny misinformation. For example, in late October 2006, this information appeared in the entry for Essex High School: “At EHS students are free to do whatever they wish in their time after school. This policy has led to the creation of the Zombie Killing Squad, the Pro-Zombie Acceptance Committee, the Zombie Hate Club and the Debate Team.” Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), this misinformation was noticed quickly and deleted quickly.

Comedians Jimmy Durante and Don Knotts once co-hosted a Kraft Music Hall special on TV. During rehearsal, the director said that when they were introduced, he wanted both of them to walk onstage doing the famous Jimmy Durante strut. In other words, Mr. Durante was supposed to be himself and Mr. Knotts was supposed to imitate Mr. Durante. However, Mr. Durante was forced to ask Mr. Knotts to show him the famous Jimmy Durante strut. He requested, “Hey, Don, do me! I don’t know what I do!”

Someone at Google Maps has a sense of humor. An editor of the website Nevada Thunder asked it for directions from Chicago, Illinois to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Step 20 said, “Swim across the Atlantic Ocean: 3,462 mi.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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