David Bruce: The Coolest People in Comedy — Easter, Education

Easter

• Bob Ferguson owned a shoe-repair shop in Akron, Ohio, and his shop was notable for its window displays. When a friend suggested that he put a bunny in the window for Easter, Mr. Ferguson displayed a mannequin dressed (undressed?) as a Playboy Bunny.

Education

• Comedian Buster Keaton spent exactly one day in school. At age six, he was already a veteran comedian in vaudeville, thanks to his vaudevillian parents, and he treated school simply as another stage on which to make other people laugh. After disrupting the taking of attendance, the teaching of geography, and the teaching of grammar, he was sent to the principal, who sent Buster back home to his parents with a note pleading with them to keep Buster at home. His parents thought the note was funny, and his mother started teaching Buster at home (and on the road, since they continued their vaudeville act).

• Comedians Jimmy Durante and Don Knotts once co-hosted a Kraft Music Hallspecial 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!”

• One way that comedian Bill Cosby helps predominantly black schools is through non-intrusive kinds of advertising. On The Cosby Show, his character, Cliff Huxtable, frequently wore a sweatshirt that bore the name of a predominantly black college. By the way, when Mr. Cosby hosted You Bet Your Life, the duck that dropped down when a contestant said the secret word wore a sweatshirt bearing the name of the university that Mr. Cosby had attended: Temple.

• Comedian Richard Pryor had an understanding teacher named Miss Marguerite Yingst when he was in the 6th grade. He often came to school late, and she made a deal with him. If he came to school on time each day for a week, she would let him get in front of the class and perform for 10 minutes Friday afternoon. She remembers, “It was great for Richard. The other pupils loved him. And Richard kept his promise — got to school on time.”

• Garry Moore and Jimmy Durante worked together in radio. They were both comedians, and Mr. Moore was Mr. Durante’s chief writer. For one show, Mr. Moore wrote a malapropism for Mr. Durante: “It’s a catastastrope!” He also told Mr. Durante, “You know, Jimmy, if you don’t mispronounce this, we won’t get a laugh.” Mr. Durante thought for a moment, then replied, “Yeah. Educate me, and we’ll both be out of a job.”

• A young Dick Van Dyke and the other students in his class sometimes took advantage of one of their teachers who was hard of hearing. Sometimes, she asked, “When did Columbus discover America?” They would reply with a deliberately wrong date such as “1776” because she would think that they had given the correct date and nod her head approvingly.

• Comedian Chris Rock has made it big in the risky and difficult business of show business, but that doesn’t mean that he wants his relatives to try to accomplish what he has accomplished. Whenever a family member wants help in getting established in show business, he offers to pay their college tuition instead.

• The first book Sam Levenson ever checked out of the library shocked the librarians — it was called What Every Girl Should Know. (Sam’s cousin Sophie was too embarrassed to check it out, so she asked Sam to check it out for her to read.)

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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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