David Bruce: The Coolest People in Comedy — Politics, Practical Jokes

Politics

• Satirist Al Franken regularly made fun of disgraced President Richard Nixon, but when he produced a Saturday Night Live “Presidential Bash” in 1992, he sent a letter to Mr. Nixon, hoping that he would make a personal appearance on the show. Unfortunately, as a reply, he received a letter saying no. No problem. Mr. Franklin happily framed the letter and now proudly displays it in a room that he has devoted to his collection of Nixon memorabilia: a bathroom.

• Satirist Al Franken ran seriously for the United States Senate in 2007 in his native state of Minnesota. How seriously? Seriously enough to win. Even when he was in the 7th and the 8th grades, he was interested in politics, In the 8th grade, he gave weekly reports in his social-studies class about what was going on in politics, and in the 7th grade, he ran for Class President with the slogan, “Never spit in the face of a man unless his mustache is on fire.”

• Lewis Black and Ron, his brother, occasionally had arguments about politics. For example, Lewis was shocked when Ron told him that he was going to vote for H. Ross Perot for President. They started shouting at each other, and the argument ended with Lewis shouting, “Okay, you do that. You vote for H. F**king Ross Perot. And you know what I’m going to do? I’M GOING TO TELL MOM!”

• Even back when he was a stand-up comic, Minnesota Senator Al Franken was interested in politics. Henry Kissinger once personally telephoned the offices of Saturday Night Liveto request tickets to the show. Mr. Franken answered the phone and told him, “No.” When Mr. Kissinger asked why he couldn’t get the tickets, Mr. Franken told him, “Because of the bombing of Cambodia.”

• At an airport, lesbian comedian Kate Clinton was wearing a “John Kerry: A Stronger America” button during the 2004 Presidential election when a fundamental Christian couple came up to her and said, “A vote for John Kerry will hasten the Second Coming.” Ms. Clinton replied, “Does that mean you will be leaving soon?”

• While in high school, satirist Stan Freberg ran for student office and was elected on the strength of two campaign promises: 1) he would improve the principal’s office by turning it into an automatic car wash, and 2) he would improve the girls’ locker room by installing an 80-foot picture window.

Practical Jokes

• Soon after he started working for MADmagazine, writer Dick DeBartolo needed an answer to a financial question, and only MADpublisher William M. Gaines, whom he had never met, could answer that question. His boss, Nick Meglin, called up Mr. Gaines — while Mr. DeBartolo was still on the telephone line — to arrange an appointment. Unfortunately, Mr. DeBartolo could hear every word Mr. Gaines said on the telephone: “DeBartolo’s on the phone? Who the h*ll wants to speak to him? Did you tell him I’m in? Oh, Christ, what the h*ll does he want? He’s a pain in the *ss!” Fortunately, when Mr. DeBartolo began speaking on the line, Mr. Gaines said, “Dick, I’m pulling your leg. Relax. I do that to all the new guys. I like to scare them. Welcome to MAD.”

• Ben Hecht once started a music group called the Ben Hecht Symphonietta. Its members consisted of several of his friends: Charles MacArthur, George Antheil, Charlie Lederer, and Harpo Marx. Groucho Marx was not invited to be a member, and it rankled him. As they were practicing in an upstairs room, Groucho yelled up at them, “Quiet, you lousy amateurs!” A few minutes later, no one could have heard the ensemble due to the vast sounds of music swelling up from the lower floor. Mr. Hecht and the other astonished musicians went downstairs to find the Los Angeles Philharmonic playing — Groucho had hired the entire orchestra to come and disrupt the rehearsal of the Ben Hecht Symphonietta.

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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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