David Bruce: The Coolest People in Comedy

Music

• Comedian John Cleese lacks musical talent and is completely unable to sing. Nevertheless, because of his comedic talents, he earned a role in the Broadway musical Half a Sixpence— with the understanding that he would mime as someone else did the necessary singing. However, after 50 performances, he felt comfortable with the role, so he began to join in the chorus — softly. After singing the chorus — softly — Mr. Cleese saw the musical’s director, Stanley Lebowski, who scowled at him and asked, “John, are you singing?” Mr. Cleese admitted that he was, and Mr. Lebowski told him, “Well, don’t.”

• The ivory keys of pianos can get very yellow when they get very old — at least, that’s the usual explanation for the color. However, Victor Borge used to explain the yellow ivory keys on his piano by saying that the elephant had smoked too much.

• Famed violinist Jascha Heifetz once tried to play Charlie Chaplin’s violin, but it made a horrible noise. Mr. Chaplin then played it with his left hand doing the bowing, and it sounded beautiful. He had put all of the strings on backward.

Names

• Comedian Albert Brooks and singer Linda Ronstadt used to date. Ms. Ronstadt has high praise for her former boyfriend: “He turned me into a real human being.” Mr. Brooks agrees: “When I first met her, she was a Volvo.” By the way, his father was radio comedian Harry Einstein, who named him Albert knowing that neighborhood kids would tease him by comparing him to the famed physicist Albert Einstein. Chances are, the teasing helped him become a comedian.

• Groucho and Harpo Marx once managed a fighter who lost many more fights than he won. The Marxes promptly nicknamed him “Canvasback,” but continued to manage his career. In one fight, Canvasback was knocked down five times in the first round. When the round was over, he tried to sit in the fighter’s stool in his corner, but Harpo shoved him aside and sat down in his place, then Groucho fanned Harpo.

• Mark Linn-Baker and Lewis Black used to perform comedy together at Yale University. More or less, they were performing so that they could get enough money to do their laundry. Therefore, they called their act The Laundry Hour.

• Don Adams played Maxwell Smart in the 1960s TV series Get Smart. His real name was Donald James Yarmy, but actors were called in alphabetical order at auditions. He got tired of being called last, so he changed his name.

Originals

• Whoopi Goldberg is a true original. While she was still in the process of being born, she put her thumb in her mouth, surprising the doctors and nurses. When she was a little girl, she asked her mother if she could be a princess. Her mother replied that an actress can be anything, and so Whoopi started acting. Her two cats were named Lou and Bud, after the comedians Lou Costello and Bud Abbot. And when she had her own talk show on TV, she invited white supremacist Thomas Metzger on. When he advocated the separation of the races, she asked him, “Where are you people going, ’cause I sure […] ain’t leaving.”

• Latino comedian George Lopez lives in a very fine house; after all, he is a multi-millionaire. In fact, he lives in such a fine house that many people, including many Latinos, are surprised that a Latino lives there — and owns it. He once needed a new roof, and so 15 Mexicans started working on it. In the afternoon, Mr. Lopez returned to his house and noticed that no one was working on the roof. He went looking for the Mexicans, and he found them having a party in and around his pool. One of the Mexicans saw him and said, “Hey, vato [dude], jump in. The man’s not home.”

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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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