• As a little girl, Sandra Bernhard used to enjoy putting a layer of Elmer’s glue on the palm of her hand, letting it dry, then peeling it off—for one thing, the glue had a very nice smell. One day, her father saw her with the glue, and he asked, “Are you sniffing that glue? Well, I sure hope you never sniff airplane glue.” Young Sandra responded, “No, I never would—it can give you brain damage!” This conversation made young Sandra start thinking, and that night, she tried to remember the lyrics of songs from Broadway musicals that she often sang around the house. After a few hours of self-torture, she went to her parents’ bedroom and told them that she had brain damage. (She didn’t, of course.)
• Eddie Cantor was a very popular comedian in early 20th-century America. Being in show business often requires frequent and prolonged absences from home, and after Mr. Cantor had been on an extended tour, he came home late one night and the next morning relaxed in his living room, reading the morning newspaper while waiting for breakfast. His four-year-old daughter came into the living room, saw him, then shouted for her mother, “Mama, mama, come here quick—that man is here again.”
• As a child, comedian Cathy Ladman listened over and over to the comedy album Nichols and May Examine Doctors, memorizing it, even though she didn’t understand all of the album. In fact, after she said her prayers, she would recite part of the album to her mother, who responded by saying, “That’s nice, dear”—but who, Ms. Ladman says, must have searched her Doctor Spock book to find out if this kind of behavior in a child was deviant.
• Comedian Jerry Lewis got his first laugh the first time he stepped on stage. When he was a kid, his father, a singer in vaudeville, allowed Jerry to sing, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” At the end of the song, the audience began to applaud. As Jerry was making a bow, his foot slipped and hit a footlight, which exploded, causing the audience to laugh. Jerry decided that he liked the laughter, and so he became a comedian.
• Because of his white hair and large moustache, Mark Twain resembled Melville Fuller, the Chief Justice of the United States. While Mr. Twain was visiting Washington D.C., a little girl saw him, mistook him for Mr. Fuller, and asked, “Mr. Chief Justice Fuller, won’t you write something for me in my autograph book?” Mr. Twain agreed, wrote, “It’s glorious to be full but it’s heavenly to be Fuller,” then signed his own name.
• When she was growing up, comedian Margaret Cho worked in her parents’ bookstore, which was located in an area heavily populated by gay men. At first, she was scared of them because they dressed in leather and looked tough, even though the worst thing that happened was one of them smiled at her and told her, “I like your purse.” As soon as she was old enough to realize that they were gay, she felt safe.
• Groucho Marx’s son, Arthur, wanted a BB gun when he was 10 years old. However, Groucho didn’t want to get him one, because of the danger, so he said, “As long as I’m the head of the house, you’re not going to get a gun!” Arthur replied, “Dad, if I get a gun, you won’t be the head of the house!”
• When he was a child, Eddie Cantor served as a waiter to the camp directors of Surprise Lake Camp. He was a very efficient waiter—he never waited for the directors to finish their desserts but would snatch them away half-eaten so he could finish eating them in the kitchen.
• When comedian Sandra Bernhard was a little girl, she decided to see if she could sleep an entire night with a wad of chewing gum in her mouth. Of course, when young Sandra woke up, her mother had to use scissors to cut the gum out of her hair.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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