David Bruce: Puns Anecdotes

• In the play Clair de Lune is a hot romantic scene between a duchess and a hideous crippled person. Because the duchess seemed to be by far the most interesting role for a woman in the play, dramatic critic Alexander Woollcott wondered why Ethel Barrymore did not choose that role for herself. However, the reason why is evident when one considers that the hideous crippled person was played by her brother, John Barrymore. In fact, one actress remarked, “Ethel could hardly have played the duchess. It would have been adding incest to injury.”

• Dame Edith Evans consistently made the same mistake during rehearsals for Hay Fever, saying, “On a very clear day you can see Marlow.” Mr. Coward told her, “Dear Edith, you spoil the rhythm by putting in a ‘very.’ The line is ‘On a clear morning you can see Marlow.’ On a veryclear morning you can also see both Beaumont and Fletcher.”

• Morris K. Udall helped clean up the loose ends in the Pacific after the Allies won World War II. While helping to close the base on Iwo Jima, Mr. Udall served as emcee of a variety show. At the end of the show, Mr. Udall said, “Gentlemen, I guarantee you this next act will bring down the house,” and a bulldozer demolished the wooden stage.

• Lord Kames was not known for prodigality in offering good wine to his guests, although he did serve a port of low quality. One day, his guest was the Hon. Henry Erskine. When the conversation turned to the fleet of Sir Charles Hardy, which the French were blockading, Erskine said, “They are, like us, confined to port.”

• During poker games on rainy nights, Heywood Broun used to serve bad port, then say, “Any port in a storm.” Once, Alexander Woollcott forgot to bring a special liquor called kümmel to a poker game, so Mr. Broun said that he would go to Mr. Woollcott’s house to pick it up, because he would “walk a mile for a kümmel.”

• June Cerza Kolf tells this story: At her family reunion held in California, an earthquake struck as the family members attended church. Afterwards, one of the family members, who was new to California, told the pastor, “I’ve been to a lot of church services in my life, but I can honestly say this was the most moving one I’ve ever attended.”

• George Washington once stood with his back to the fire, but as the fire was very hot, he moved away from it. A friend observed that a general ought to be able to stand fire, but Mr. Washington replied, “It does not look well for a general to receive fire behind.”

• Edward Heath once said about Tom Fraser, who was Minister of Transport, “He has done absolutely nothing to alleviate our traffic problems, but he is the only Minister who produces jam today as well as promising jam tomorrow.”

• The last time Leslie Caron saw Fred Astaire was at a benefit for Gene Kelly. A waiter accidentally brushed against her and knocked her off-balance. Mr. Astaire, then 85 years old, immediately grabbed her wrist and steadied her. Ms. Caron told him, “Fred, you haven’t lost your grip.”

• Rev. Glenn Zorb, pastor of a Lutheran church in Philadelphia, doesn’t expect the lower-income members of the congregation to give as much money in the collection plates as other, wealthier members. Why? He understands “not everyone is fit to be tithed.”

• President Abraham Lincoln, a very tall man, and his wife, Mary Todd, a short woman, once appeared before a crowd. President Lincoln addressed the crowd, saying, “Here I am, and here is Mrs. Lincoln. That’s the long and the short of it.”

• George S. Kaufman frequently attended the poker games of Young Men’s Upper West Side Thanatopsis and Inside Straight Club, where he had the habit of saying, whenever he was dealt a three when he had a two in the hole, “I’m being trey-deuced.”

• Daniel Purcell had the reputation of being a punster. Once he was challenged to make a pun on the spot. “Upon what subject?” he asked. On hearing the reply, “The King,” Mr. Purcell replied, “The King is not a subject.”

• When California Governor Earl Warren was campaigning for re-election, he told his audience, “I’m pleased to see such a dense crowd here tonight.” A man from the audience called out, “Don’t be too pleased, Governor. We ain’t all dense.”

• Pierre Salinger was the Presidential Press Secretary during the Kennedy administration. Once he was criticized for sticking to a prepared press release and declining to answer questions. Mr. Salinger explained, “I am not a textual deviate.”

• On a very cold day, Brendan Behan looked across the street and saw a woman who wrote about nature. Taking advantage of the situation, he yelled at her, “Hey, missus, how’s the blue tits?”

• After being called a “two-faced man” by his political opponent Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln said, “I leave it to my audience, — if I had another face to wear, do you think I would wear this one?”

• At a wedding, Lord Morris, who had a very heavy Irish accent, looked for a shoe to throw after the happy couple. Oscar Wilde suggested, “Why not throw your own brogue?”

• At a Cannes Film Festival, Peter Ustinov noticed sitting on the beach a critic who idolized French Jean-Luc Godard. Mr. Ustinov asked the critic, “Waiting for Godard?”

• Ludwig van Beethoven enjoyed making puns. After hearing an overture by Carl Maria von Weber, he said, “S’ist eben gewebt” or, in English, “It is nicely woven.” (“Weber” means “weaver.”)

• Sydney Smith was once forced to turn down a social invitation: “Dear Longman, I can’t accept your invitation, for my house is full of country cousins. I wish they were once removed.”

• In 1949, William Faulkner won the Nobel Prize in Literature. John Steinbeck sent him the telegram: “Joyeux Nobel.”

• Professor J. P. Mahaffy, a male, was once asked what was the difference between a man and a woman. He replied, “I cannot conceive.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce

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William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:  A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce

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Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist: A Retelling, by David Bruce

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3 thoughts on “David Bruce: Puns Anecdotes”

  1. Lincoln wrote quite a few brilliant jokes. I recall, “If I were two-faced do you think this is the one I would go around in?” Or, something like that. RE-posted on twitter @trefology

    Like

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