David Bruce: The Coolest People in Comedy — Work

Work

• Bob and Ray, aka Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding, worked together for decades as comedians, and apparently the entire time they were trying to make each other laugh, and as a side effect they made their audiences laugh. According to Andy Rooney, who wrote a foreword to one of the collections of Bob and Ray’s scripts, the two men “have three distinct personalities. There’s Bob’s, there’s Ray’s, and then there’s Bob & Ray’s.” According to Mr. Rooney, when you met the two men separately, “two duller people you never talked to.” And Chris Elliott, Bob’s son, who is also a comedian, says that for years he thought his father was some kind of a businessman. Only at age 11 did Chris realize that his father worked as a comedian for a living. Of course, Bob and Ray were very close. Late in their career together, Ray joked, “I’ve been married to my wife for thirty-seven years, and to Bob for thirty-five.”

• Moe Howard of Three Stooges fame knew at an early age that he wanted to be in show business. When he was 17 years old, he ran across an advertisement in Billboardfor an actor on a showboat. As part of the application process, he had to mail a photograph of himself. To improve his chances of getting a job, Moe did not use his own photo, but instead he sent the photo of a taller, more handsome friend. The plan worked — he got the job! Of course, the company manager who had advertised for the actor was surprised when Moe showed up — he did not at all look like the man in the photo he had mailed. But the company manager let Moe run errands for the actors, and when he did let Moe act in a few small roles, Moe was excellent.

• Stand-up comedians need to have a lot of confidence that they can “get” an audience — that is, make an audience laugh. When Judy Carter worked as the opening act for Loggins and Messina, sometimes the music-loving audience did NOT want to hear her. Once, the opening of the show was delayed for an hour, so the audience was even more impatient than usual to hear the band. Things got so bad that a druggie member of the audience came up on stage, threw a tablecloth over Ms. Carter’s head — then SET IT ON FIRE. As Ms. Carter was being carried off the stage to safety, she kept saying, “Put me down. I know I can get them.”

• Comedian Jimmy Durante started out in show business as a piano player. Singer and comedian Eddie Cantor was the first person to urge Jimmy to get up on stage and away from the piano: “Piano playing is going to get you nothing. You’ll be a piano player till you’re a hundred years old. You gotta look further than that. People like you a whole lot. So why don’t you get up on the floor and say something to the people?” Eventually, of course, Mr. Durante took Mr. Cantor’s advice. However, his immediate reaction was, “Gee, Eddie, I wouldn’t do that. I’d be afraid that people would laugh at me.”

• Lesbian comedian Judy Gold once worked on the New Jersey turnpike as a toll collector. The job had its interesting moments. She points out, “It was the ’80s, and people going to concerts at the Garden State Arts Center would give me joints.” However, she also remembers a time when she had 12 trucks backed up in her lane. Why? She explains, “The guys would get on the CB and be like, ‘Chick in lane four.’”

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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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