David Bruce: The Coolest People in Comedy: Clothing, Competition

Clothing

• Early in their careers, British comedians Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders shared a house. Ms. Saunders was known for being disorganized and messy, although she later became much neater after having children. Unfortunately, their house was broken into. They called the police, who investigated and said, “Well, it is quite bad, but the worst is that room at the top.” Actually, the burglars hadn’t entered the room at the top. That room was Ms. Saunders’ room, and it was in its usual messy state. Ms. French says about Ms. Saunders, “She used to be up to her knees in old pants.”

• Groucho Marx once knew a comedian named Doc Rockwell who took an odd approach to saving money. He used to buy several new suits at one time to get a discount, then he would wear a suit for a month, throw it away, and wear one of his other suits for a month, repeating the process until he ran out of suits. He would then buy several new suits at a discount and start the process again. He once explained to Groucho, “This way, I don’t have to pay for any cleaning and pressing and, besides, I’m always wearing a brand-new suit.”

• Caroline Otéro and Liane de Pougy were members of the 19th-century French glitterati. Their rivalry was on display at a great ball they were both invited to attend in Paris. Ms. Otéro arrived wearing a beautiful black dress and every piece of jewelry she owned. Arriving a few minutes later was Ms. de Pougy, who wore the same style of dress — but in white — and no jewelry. Trailing Ms. de Pougy was her maid — who was wearing every piece of jewelry that Ms. de Pougy owned.

• The first time country music star Bill Anderson saw country comedian Jerry Clower, he got mad at him because Mr. Clower was wearing exactly the same kind of coat that he was wearing. Mr. Anderson thought, “How dare him to have a coat exactly like mine!” Fortunately, Mr. Clower’s reaction kept Mr. Anderson from staying mad at him. Mr. Clower said, “You mean I got the good taste to buy a coat exactly like the [coat of the] great Bill Anderson?”

• In 1924, the Prince of Wales visited Fanny Brice’s apartment in New York. She told him, “Sit down, kid, and take off your shoes. While you’re relaxing, I’ll whip up a couple of smoked sturgeon sandwiches on rye with some marvelous pickles a guy on Delancey Street puts up for me.” The Prince of Wales told her, “Miss Brice, I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” then he took off his shoes.

• Comedians George Burns and Harpo Marx were members of the Hillcrest Country Club in Beverly Hills, as so many Jewish comedians were. Unfortunately, the Hillcrest Country Club once briefly considered kicking them out. Why? On an especially hot day, the two comedians had played a round of golf wearing only their underwear.

• Sharon Linkletter, Art’s daughter, made a lot of her own clothing. Once she made a bikini from a pattern, then showed the bottom of the bikini to her mother. Her mother asked, “Where are you going to wear that?” Sharon said, “On the bottom, of course.” Her mother replied, “I mean — are you going to wear that in public?”

Competition

• W.C. Fields was so competitive that watching movies by other good comedians made him ill. He once started to watch a movie by Charlie Chaplin, but he grew so ill that he had to leave the movie theater. When he was asked his opinion of Mr. Chaplin, Mr. Fields snarled, “The son of a bitch is a ballet dancer — and if I get a good chance, I’ll kill him with my bare hands.”

• Comedian Sid Caesar, star of Your Show of Shows, was good — very good. How good was he? While fellow comedian Robin Williams was watching some of the old episodes of Your Show of Shows, a woman who was also in the audience told him, “You’ll never be that good.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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THE COOLEST PEOPLE IN COMEDY

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