David Bruce: The Coolest People in Comedy — Fame, Fans, Fathers

Fame

• Stan Laurel was funny in his old age. At a stationery store, a man kind of recognized him, saying, “Aren’t you…,” but the man was unable to come up with a name, so Mr. Laurel suggested a name: “Oliver Hardy.” The man replied, “Right. Whatever happened to Laurel?” Mr. Laurel sadly replied, “Oh, he went balmy.”

Fans

• Comedians are often writers; for example, Bill Cosby does much writing — both of comic routines and of books. His old comic routines still hold up. One day, some parents brought their nine-year-old son to see Mr. Cosby. The son was a fan, and he started doing Mr. Cosby’s 1966 routine “The Playground.” In the routine Bill and his friends play safely in a vacant lot despite the presence of broken glass — but they are no longer safe after someone installs monkey bars. The nine-year-old boy recited the routine, using Mr. Cosby’s inflections, and Mr. Cosby says that he started “listening to, and admiring, my writing. The kid’s performing, and I’m saying to myself, ‘This is really wonderful writing.’”

• Comedian Fred Allen was generous with his time. Whenever a fan wrote him, the fan received a personal reply from the great comedian himself. In addition, Mr. Allen did not repeat himself. If 10 requests for autographs came in the mail, Mr. Allen sent back 10 different replies and not one reply copied 10 times. One of his writers, Arnold M. Auerbach, once asked him why he spent so much time answering fan mail. Mr. Allen replied, “Anyone who takes the time to write to me deserves a personal answer.”

• At the premiere of stand-up comedian Sarah Silverman’s movie titled Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic, which includes music in addition to comedy, an enthusiastic fan told her that she was “the true heir to Lenny Bruce.” She smiled and replied, “Wow! Thank you! That is the ultimate compliment! I’m actually not that familiar with Lenny Bruce’s work, but from what I understand, he was a really great singer.”

• Jack Riley played the character of the insulting, misanthropic Mr. Elliott Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show. Frequently, fans of the show ask him if he is anything like the character he portrayed. Because he is a professional comedian, Mr. Riley’s standard response to this question is in the character of Mr. Carlin: “Bite me, you wiener.”

• Comedian Fred Allen once met a fan who told him that she had traveled to New York all the way from San Francisco to see him broadcast his radio program. Mr. Allen replied, “Madame, if I had only known you were coming all that way just to catch my little old show, the least I could have done was meet you halfway — say, about Omaha.”

• A boy named Bobby once wrote a fan letter to comedian Tim Conway and told him to drop by if he was ever in St. Louis, Missouri. The following week, Mr. Conway showed up at Bobby’s front door with his suitcase and said, “Hi, Bobby. You told me to drop in anytime, so I thought I’d stay for a week or two.”

• When comedian Eddie Cantor performed at Carnegie Hall, a very old man told him, “Mr. Cantor, I’ve been a fan of yours since I was a little kid.” Skeptical, the 60-year-old Mr. Cantor asked the very old man, “And how old are you?” The very old man said, “Ninety.”

• Sometimes people go up to celebrities and say, “Your face looks familiar. Haven’t I seen it somewhere?” Comedian George Gobel used to reply, “No, it’s always been right where it is now.”

Fathers

• When Adam Sandler was a little boy, he had a Diver Dan doll. Unfortunately, he lost it. Fortunately, he had a father who cared about him and didn’t want him to be unhappy. His father dressed up as Diver Dan’s father, then told young Adam that Diver Dan was not lost but instead was with him, and he thanked young Adam for taking care of Diver Dan. Today, Mr. Sandler says, “Dad would do anything to make me feel better.”

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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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