David Bruce: The Coolest People in Comedy‚ Prejudice, Problem-Solving

Prejudice

• Brett Butler, star of TV’s Grace Under Fire, once heard a bigot engaging in gay-bashing in a public place. She followed him outside and told him, “You’ve got to be really careful where you gay-bash.” Of course, he asked, “Why?” She replied, “Because I know a lot of faggots who can kick your *ss — if the dykes don’t get you first.”

• Stand-up comedian Laura Kightlinger has had nights when she has been on stage and men in the audience have called out to her such things as “Sit on my face” and “Show us your tits.” Ms. Kightlinger says, “In other words, I’m no different from any woman walking down the street.”

Problem-Solving

• Comedian Bill Hicks started performing before he could drive. He heard about amateur night at a club called the Comedy Workshop, so he called, asked for, and got permission to perform from the manager. Unfortunately, his parents told him that he couldn’t perform. Not an insoluble problem. Bill sneaked out of the house through his second-story window and met a friend who was old enough to drive him to the club. Bill was popular with the comedians at the Comedy Workshop and with his classmates, but a principal heard his act, then told him, “You have the sense of humor of a 3rd-grader.” Bill replied, “Well, then, you must have the comprehension of a 2nd-grader.”

• In 1965, the Friars Club, whose members are comedians, roasted Soupy Sales with comic insults. Mr. Sales and everybody else enjoyed themselves, but Friars Club member Brian Dougherty ran into a problem: He had to go to the bathroom, but he didn’t want to miss any of the jokes. Fortunately, Mr. Dougherty is a problem-solver. He whispered to Marty Allen, who was sitting next to him at a table with an overhanging tablecloth, “Hand me that pitcher.” With a relieved bladder, Mr. Dougherty was able to laugh even harder.

• Early in his career, comedian Tim Conway worked with his friend Ernie Anderson in television in Cleveland, Ohio. Mr. Anderson had a locally produced, low-budget show called Ernie’s Place; unfortunately, people did not want to appear on the show as guests. No problem. Mr. Conway simply appeared as the guest for each episode. His occupation changed from episode to episode, but his name remained the same — Dag Herford.

• When country comedian Jerry Clower started to make it big in show business, he decided to get a fancy Rolex watch, but he discovered that all of them had Roman numerals on the watch face, and he didn’t like Roman numerals. Fortunately, he was able to easily solve that problem. He hired a watchmaker to take a watch face from an inexpensive Sears and Roebuck watch and put it on the expensive Rolex watch.

• Bob Woodruff, who once headed Coca-Cola, and ventriloquist Edgar Bergen went hunting. Both shot at a wild turkey, which fell dead, but both claimed to have made the shot that killed the turkey. Mr. Bergen said, “There’s only one way to settle this.” He picked up the dead turkey and asked, “Who shot you, turkey?” The turkey replied, “You did, Bergen.”

• When African-American comedian Chris Rock joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, he noticed that when he wore such clothing as jeans and a T-shirt or sweats, the security guards would often ask him to show his ID. To solve that problem, Mr. Rock started dressing up in suits whenever he was around the set of Saturday Night Live.

• Carl Reiner, creator, writer, and producer of The Dick Van Dyke Show, sometimes wanted an extra 15 seconds to save a good joke when an episode was a little too long. He once saved a good joke by going through an episode and cutting a single frame from each scene.

• The Domestic Resurrection Circus ends each year with an exorcism of one of the forces of evil. One year, a Mother Earth puppet set the military-industrial complex on fire. Another year, the Specter of Hunger succumbed to a fiery death.

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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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