David Bruce: The Funniest People in Comedy — Money, Mothers,


• Comedian Bill Dana grew up in poverty. Often, he, his siblings, and his parents were forced to hide from bill collectors. While the family sat in a room with drawn curtains and a locked door, the bill collector would bang on the door and shout, “I know you’re in there.” Someone in the family would always softly say, “We know we’re in here, too.”

• Perhaps the wealthiest Monty Python member is hard-working John Cleese. A British newspaper once called several celebrities to see what they would do if they won £1 million in a competition. Among the celebrities they called was Python member Graham Chapman, who said, “I would give it to John Cleese so he could take the afternoon off.”

• Back when magicians Penn Jillette and Teller (this single name is now his legal name) were performing on the streets, Penn very effectively convinced members of the audience to give generously after a show by telling them, “Remember: I’m six-six, I have three very sharp knives, and I have an excellent memory.”

• As a young comedian, Lily Tomlin created a sensation at the Improv by arriving in a chauffeur-driven limousine. Actually, she didn’t have much money. The chauffeur had been parked in the theater district, waiting until a play was over. Lily paid him $5 to take her to the Improv.

• Fanny Brice was a huge star who made thousands of dollars a week. George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart told her that they would write a play for her if she would agree to be paid $1,000 a week. She declined, saying, “If I take $1,000 a week, everybody in America will be writing plays for me.”

• Wilson Mizner came from a good family who supplied many diplomats to America, but he hung around with lowlifes. One day, a friend who was a burglar asked him for a loan of $50. Mr. Mizner gave it to him, but asked, “What’s the matter—doesn’t it get dark anymore?” 

• In the 1960s TV series Get Smart, enemy agents continually tried to assassinate Control agent Maxwell Smart. The constant bombings, shootings, and knife attacks on Max perplexed Max’s landlord—until Max told him that he worked for the Internal Revenue Service.

• Ben Turpin was a silent-film comedian who was amazed at his own success, including financial success; he often walked into public places and introduced himself by saying, “Ben Turpin! Three thousand dollars a week!”

• Some charity benefits don’t make money. Comedian Eddie Cantor once showed a committee how to save $500—by not holding the benefit at all!


• Jewish comedian Sam Levenson grew up in a very poor household. Gas was expensive and definitely not to be wasted. Therefore, before leaving the house en masse for any length of time, the family always turned the gas off. One day, they forgot. After the family returned home from a visit, Mr. Levenson’s Mama noticed that the boiler was steaming. Immediately, she barked two orders: “Somebody shut off the gas!” and “Everybody into the bathtub!”

• In the late 1880s, a young woman had her fortune told by a gypsy, who said to her, “You will marry and have a son known all over the world.” The young woman did marry, and one of her sons was Larry Fine, who became a member of the world-famous comedy team known as the Three Stooges. Whenever Larry’s mother went to see a Three Stooges short comedy film at the cinema, she would shout, “That’s my son!”

• Country comedian Jerry Clower grew up in an impoverished family in rural Mississippi. When he was a youngster, his mother used to fix fried chicken, then tell her children to save the chicken back and neck and feet for her, as they were her favorite parts. When he grew up, of course, Mr. Clower realized that his mother loved her children and she wanted them to eat the best parts of the chicken.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


The Funniest People in Comedy — Buy

The Funniest People in Comedy — Kindle

The Funniest People in Comedy — Apple

The Funniest People in Comedy — Barnes and Noble

The Funniest People in Comedy — Kobo

The Funniest People in Comedy — Smashwords: Many Formats, Include PDF

2 thoughts on “David Bruce: The Funniest People in Comedy — Money, Mothers,”

  1. Funny enough I recall reading a piece on Ben Turpin (and someone better educated in silent film lore can correct me) that said he was continually having to sell of his furniture to starve off the debt collectors. Leading me to believe, based on what I read in your column, that Ben believed his good fortune would go on for-ever.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: