David Bruce: Puns Anecdotes

• Perry Como really was an easy-going celebrity. Once, in the first Paar show of the fall season, comedy writer Goodman Ace came up with this joke for him: “I was trapped in my house all summer with my kids playing the jukebox, records, and all that. It was the summer of my discotheque!” However, Mr. Como wasn’t sure that the joke was all that funny, so it was given to the show’s announcer, Frank Gallop. During rehearsal, the joke got a big laugh, and Mr. Como said, “If I had known it would get that big of a laugh, I wouldn’t have given it to Frank.” When Mr. Goodman suggested that he take the line back, since he was the star of the show, Mr. Como was shocked: “Oh no. You can’t do that.”

• While having dinner with President Abraham Lincoln, a man complained about how hard it would be to beat the Confederate soldiers in the Civil War: “You can’t do anything with them Southern fellows. If they get whipped, they’ll retreat to them Southern swamps and bayous along with the fishes and crocodiles. You haven’t got the fish-nets made that’ll catch them.” President Abraham Lincoln listened to the man, then said, “We’ve got just the nets for traitors, in the bayous or anywhere.” “What kind of nets?” asked the man. President Lincoln replied, “Bayou-nets,” and speared a fishball with his fork.

• In 1952, Milton Schulman criticized a new revue by writing, “The new revue arrived on that stage of the Globe Theatre last night with all the chic of an elegant Parisian bandbox tied up with ribbon. As the bow was untied and the lid removed, however, out fluttered a collection of aged moths.” Noel Coward had a song in the revue, so he sent the cast members this telegram: “Dear aged moths, congratulations, but watch out or I shall be after you with some balls. Love, Noel.”

• Paul Candler Porter was the youngest child of a strict preacher; he also had a strange sense of humor. One Sunday, his father stood in the pulpit and said, “Let us sing hymn number 135. Please stand on the last verse.” When it was time to stand on the last verse, young Paul put his hymnbook — opened to hymn number 135 — down in the middle of the church aisle, then literally stood on the last verse.

• Paul Beard used to lead the orchestra for Sir Thomas Beecham. Later, he led a different orchestra — the BBC Symphony Orchestra — upon which he stamped his personality and at which Sir Thomas was asked to be a guest conductor. At the end of a rehearsal, Sir Thomas stood in front of the orchestra, stroked his goatee, and said, “May I suggest to you, gentlemen, that when we reassemble, you pay a little more attention to thisbeard?”

• During a rehearsal for H.M.S. Pinafore, Sir William Schwenck Gilbert told heavily built Rutland Barrington to sit on a skylight “pensively.” Unfortunately, Mr. Barrington was too heavy for the skylight and it broke. “For goodness’ sake, Barrington,” Sir William complained. “I said ‘pensively,’ not ‘expensively.’”

• G.K. Chesterton once gave a speech on “The New Enslavement of Women.” In it, he made the thesis that women had gone to the enslavement of work after leaving the freedom of home. In his speech, he said, “Twenty million young women rose to their feet with the cry, ‘WE WILL NOT BE DICTATED TO!’ And immediately proceeded to become stenographers!”

• After reading a book titled The Son of the Great Eunuch, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote a Broadway musical based on it. In the musical, the son has no interest in becoming a eunuch. At one point, he is being carried away so the operation can be performed, and Mr. Rodgers’ music includes a few bars of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite.”

• Actor Arthur Wood’s performance as Bottom in Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dreamwas denounced by the critics, so Mr. Wood wrote an angry letter to a newspaper. The editor printed the letter, but added this note: “Mr. Wood seems rather thin-skinned about his Bottom.”

• Edward Gibbon wrote a massive history of the decline and fall of Rome. Once, Richard Brinsley Sheridan called Mr. Gibbon “luminous.” When a friend later asked why he had chosen that particular word, Mr. Sheridan joked that he had made a mistake: “I meant voluminous.”

• Sydney Smith once saw two women arguing while standing in the windows of two buildings located opposite each other on a narrow street. Mr. Smith said, “They will never agree, for they argue from different premises.”

• In the General Election of 1935, Lord John Gretton ran against a Mrs. G. Paling. Mrs. Paling once shouted, “John Gretton is a dirty dog!” One of Lord Gretton’s followers shouted back, “That’s as may be; but we all know what dirty dogs do to palings.”

• At a testimonial dinner, the toastmaster called composer Richard Strauss “the Buddha of modern music.” Mr. Strauss whispered to a friend, “If I am the Buddha of modern music, then our toastmaster is the Pest.”

• Edwin Booth’s nose was broken, causing many people to stare at it. A fan complimented Mr. Booth on his acting ability, but added that she just couldn’t get over his nose. “Small wonder,” Mr. Booth replied. “The bridge is gone.”

• Nunnally Johnson (1897-1977) was known as a Hollywood script doctor. If a producer had a screenplay that wasn’t very good, the cry went out: “Get thee to a Nunnally.”

• While he was rehearsing in Peer Gynt, Peter Ustinov was told that he had a telephone call. He said, “I’d better take it. It may be a troll call.”

• Gioacchino Rossini’s mother wondered how one of his operas had been received. He sent her a drawing of an Italian straw-covered bottle — the kind called “fiasco.”

• James Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, was asked if all his plays were successful. “No,” he replied. “Some Peter out and others Pan out.”

• Danny Kaye’s wife was Sylvia Fine. Mr. Kaye used to joke, “I have a Fine head on my shoulders.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



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


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


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



David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.

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