• Comedian Joey Bishop was quick with an ad-lib and with a joke. One evening he was performing in a nightclub when glamorous actress Marilyn Monroe came in wearing very expensive furs. Mr. Bishop said to her, “Marilyn, I told you to sit in the truck.” And after he got a small part in the movie The Naked and the Dead, he told an audience, “I played both parts.” Mr. Bishop didn’t mind making fun of his good friend Frank Sinatra, who did mind when people other than Mr. Bishop made fun of him. Mr. Bishop once said about his good friend, “Frank regularly calls Dial-A-Prayer to pick up his messages.”
• One of stand-up comedian Greg Dean’s students made the mistake of rehearsing her act silently instead of out loud, with the result that, as Mr. Dean had predicted, she forgot her act when she got up in front of a nightclub audience. Fortunately, she maintained a playful attitude and got a few laughs ad-libbing a few jokes about forgetting her act. When Mr. Dean yelled out a few words to remind her of the topic of one of her funniest bits, she got a laugh by saying to him, “Thanks, Greg, now I have to stay up here and actually do my show.”
• On Jack Benny’s radio show, Virgil Reimer, the show’s sound-effects man, ran into a problem. A telephone was supposed to ring on the show, and he had just discovered that the machine that was supposed to make the sound of a telephone had weak batteries and wasn’t working. Therefore, Mr. Reimer said into a microphone, “Ding-a-ling-ling.” The audience in the radio studio laughed, and Mr. Benny ad-libbed, “I’ll get it — it sounds like a person-to-person call.”
• British comedian Danny La Rue performed in drag, and he was very funny. One night, a woman in the audience was annoyed that her boyfriend was paying attention to Mr. La Rue’s performance instead of paying attention to her, so she bared her breasts and told her boyfriend, “Look — these are real.” From the stage, Mr. La Rue said, “Yes, darling, they are — but I can hang mine up when it’s hot!”
• The profit motive makes many retailers feel kindly toward men who like to dress like women. Joan Rivers was selling some of her bejeweled products on the Home Shopping Network when a person named “Margaret” telephoned to rave about a certain bejeweled product she had previously purchased. Based on the sound of Margaret’s voice, Miss Veronica Vera, founder of Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to be Girls, wondered whether Margaret’s real name might be Pete rather than Peggy. Ms. Rivers didn’t care either way — she kept on plugging her bejeweled products.
• A hotel owner once telephoned comedian George Jessel to find out how much he would charge for a performance. When Mr. Jessel said his price was $1,000, the hotel owner offered, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you, Georgie, my boy. I’ll give you $500 and put your picture in the Sunday Timesin my ad.” Mr. Jessel replied, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you, Julius, my boy. You give me $1,000 and you can put your picture in the Sunday Timesin your ad.”
• When children’s mystery writer Joan Lowery Nixon was young, her parents moved the family to a new house, very close to the house owned by W.C. Fields. Being both observant and curious, Ms. Nixon noticed that a closet in her new home was unusual in that it could be locked from the inside. She investigated, using a measuring tape, and discovered that the closet was in front of another, hidden space. Her mother would not let her investigate further, but after Mr. Fields died, Ms. Nixon toured his house in the presence of a real-estate agent, who showed her a hidden room that had been used to hide liquor during Prohibition. Both houses — that of Mr. Fields and that of Ms. Nixon’s family — had been built during Prohibition.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
THE COOLEST PEOPLE IN COMEDY
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