David Bruce: The Funniest People in Comedy — Ad-libs, Alcohol


• Having dined well at the Trocadero, Robert Benchley strode to the door and asked the doorman to call him a taxi. However, the “doorman” said, “I’m very sorry. I happen to be a rear admiral in the United States Navy.” Mr. Benchley replied, “All right, then. Get us a battleship.”

• Comedian Beatrice Lillie was dining at a restaurant when a busboy dropped several dishes onto the floor. He started to pick up the pieces, but Ms. Lillie yelled, “Wait for the laugh!” The busboy—and Ms. Lillie—got a laugh.

• While comedian Jebb Fink was performing live, his microphone suddenly sagged in its holder. Mr. Fink got a laugh by ad-libbing, “Oh, the story of my life. It’s always going limp when I need it most.”

• Wilson Mizner often complained about the apartment where he lived. When his friend, Jim Tully, asked him why he didn’t move, he replied, “I can never find my other shoe.”


• George Burns and Gracie Allen were quite successful at publicity stunts. In 1940, Gracie Allen ran for President on The Surprise Party ticket. She didn’t have a candidate for Vice President because she didn’t want vice in her administration. During her candidacy, Gracie launched a whistle-stop campaign that ran from Los Angeles, California, to Omaha, Nebraska. Many people are familiar with Pat Paulsen’s runs for the Presidency, but Gracie was the first comedian to do this. This was George Burns and Gracie Allen’s most successful publicity stunt.

• To advertise its Razzles candy, Mars Candy decided to use a Cleveland, Ohio, show in which comedian Ron Sweed, aka The Ghoul, hosted several mostly bad horror movies. The Ghoul criticized the candy for weeks, and the more he criticized it, the more its sales went up. In gratitude, Mars Candy delivered a case of Razzles to The Ghoul. The case of candy remained on the set of The Ghoul’s show for years—unopened.

• Mark Twain understood small print and advertising. One of his advertisements for a lecture tour consisted of the huge words “MAGNIFICENT FIREWORKS” followed by the small print “were in contemplation for this occasion, but the idea has been abandoned.” Another of his advertisements read, “The doors open at 7; the trouble begins at 8.”

• Peter Cook and Dudley Moore made the film Bedazzled (1967), in which the voluptuous Raquel Welch played the sexy role of Miss Lillian Lust. At first, Mr. Cook and Mr. Moore wanted to name the film Raquel Welch, so that they could enjoy theater marquees blazing forth this legend: “Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in Raquel Welch.”

• While working for the Ringling Brothers, comedian Bobby Clark carried a lot of luggage, although many circus performers travel light. When management complained about his excess luggage, Mr. Clark said that he was entitled to it because the circus was advertising him as “bigger and better.”

• W.C. Fields wrote the screenplays of many of the movies he appeared in, using such pseudonyms as Mahatma Kane Jeeves or Otis Cribblecoblis. He gave one of his movies the title Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, hoping that movie marquees would advertise it as “W.C. Fields—Sucker.”


• Vaudeville comedian Jim Thornton was an alcoholic. Once, he went on an alcoholic spree with another vaudeville comedian, George C. Davis. Although both men were alcoholics, they were different kinds of alcoholics. Mr. Thornton could stay drunk for weeks, but still keep himself shaved and clean. Mr. Davis, however, let himself go to seed. The two had drunk up all their money, and they needed more money to buy themselves alcohol, so Mr. Thornton asked to borrow $2 from a vaudevillian they met on the street. The vaudevillian refused to lend them anything, so the clean Mr. Thornton turned to the filthy Mr. Davis and said, “George, throw a louse on him.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: The California Honeydrops — “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”


Music: “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”


Artist: The California Honeydrops

Artist Location: Oakland, California

Info: This is an instrumental cover of the Creedence Clearwater revival hit. Heavy on the sax.

Price: $1 (USD) for track; $10 (USD) for eight-track album.

Genre: Instrumental. R&B.


The California Honeydrops