David Bruce: The Coolest People in Comedy — Movies, Music


• Occasionally, a comic movie star will be so popular and work so hard that he or she seems to be ubiquitous–appearing in every comic movie. For comic movie star Ben Stiller, that happened in the mid-2000s. In 2006, Mr. Stiller starred in Night at the Museum, which was written by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant. When he was asked if Mr. Stiller was the actor they had in mind when he and Mr. Garant wrote the movie, Mr. Lennon replied, “We write every script with Ben Stiller in mind. If you work in Hollywood these days, you might as well.”

• Early in Lucille Ball’s career, she had a small role in a movie titled The Kid from Spainthat starred comedian Eddie Cantor. In the film, Mr. Cantor ducked and one of the glamour girls behind him got hit with a pie that had been meant to hit him. Lucy is the glamour girl who volunteered to get hit with the pie — none of the other glamour girls wanted to do the job. Later, Mr. Cantor told celebrity interviewer Joe Franklin that he knew on that day in 1932 that Lucy would go far in the business. Why? He explained that Lucy “wasn’t afraid to be outrageous.”

• Opera singer Helen Traubel provided popular entertainment in addition to her better-known high-brow entertainment. She enjoyed both. For example, while making the film Deep in My Heart, she had the pleasure of working with the very funny Jim Backus, who was the voice of Mr. Magoo and a storyteller of renown. During a break, she laughed so hard that tears streamed down her face — a scene she filmed immediately afterwards had to be reshot because her mascara had also streamed down her face.

• While filming the movie Silver Streak, Richard Pryor held on to Gene Wilder’s belt while Mr. Wilder hung out of a moving train. During rehearsal, the train went 10 miles per hour, but during the actual filming, the train went 50 miles per hour. The stunt was dangerous, and Mr. Pryor made a promise to Mr. Wilder: If Mr. Wilder fell and was killed, Mr. Pryor would jump off the train.


• Comedian Steve Martin played banjo and performed magic during his stand-up days as a way to give his act a little extra. Later, he decided to get more serious about his music. In 2009, he spoke about solving a problem, “About 10 years ago I did something: I put a banjo in every room. So wherever I was, it was there. I didn’t have to be in the mood to play the banjo and say, ‘Oh, who wants to go back to the bedroom to pick it up?’ It really helped me. You know, I started playing a lot more that way.” Soon, opportunities came his way: banjo player Earl Scruggs requested that Mr. Martin play on one of Mr. Scruggs’ albums, and The New Yorkerasked him to host a banjo evening. In 2009, Mr. Martin went on tour with the North Carolina bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers, who are family friends. The tour is 85 percent music and 15 percent talking, but if some humor occurs to Mr. Martin, he throws it in.

• Some people are brilliant, among them DustoMcNeato, aka Dustin McLean, who is a filmmaker in Pasadena. He says, “Ever wish songs just sang what was happening in the music video? Well now they do ….” DustoMcNeato had the idea of taking music videos and rerecording the lyrics so that what is sung simply states what is happening in the music video. Many people have borrowed this idea, and on <youtube.com> are a number of videos that give the “Literal Video Version” of famous songs. For example, DustoMcNeato’s Literal Video Version of “Head Over Heels” by Tears for Fears contains these lyrics: “I’ve got a stack of books to return / I wish they were better / Now I’m singing in the library / And trying to flirt.” Search <youtube.com> for “Literal Video Version” to see this and other videos of this kind.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



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4 thoughts on “David Bruce: The Coolest People in Comedy — Movies, Music”

  1. Eddie Cantor and Lucille Ball were together (though never at the same time) in one of my all time favorite comedies, Roman Scandals. A film that will likely be forgotten to time (because of the Keep Young and Beautiful number). It was 1933 and there is no excuse for that scene.


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