David Bruce: The Funniest People in Comedy — Practical Jokes

Practical Jokes

• Tim Conway used to hang out with some friends in a projection room at a television station in Cleveland, Ohio. At night, the telephone switchboard was closed, so the calls were routed into the projection room. Mr. Conway sometimes pretended to be an answering machine. He would answer the phone and say, “When you hear the tone, leave your name, number, and message.” But then he would beep before the caller had finished talking and say, “No, you didn’t say it fast enough. You have to get your message in between the tones. Now try it again.” Again, he would beep before the caller had finished talking. Callers would try to talk faster and faster until they finally realized that they were the victims of a practical joke.

• Mark Twain was at the races outside London, where he met a friend who had lost all his pocket money gambling and who asked if Mr. Twain would buy him a ticket back to London. “I’m nearly broke myself, but I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” Mr. Twain replied. “You can ride under my seat, and I’ll hide you with my legs.” The friend agreed, but unknown to the friend, Mr. Twain bought two train tickets. When the train inspector came by to collect the tickets, Mr. Twain handed him the two tickets, then said, “My friend is a little eccentric and likes to ride under the seat.”

• As a teenager growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Letterman worked in a grocery store. One day, he was ordered to stack up cans in a display. He did stack the cans—all the way to the ceiling, using an arrangement in which if a customer removed one can, the entire stack of cans would fall down. On another occasion, he got on the intercom and announced a fire drill. The customers left the store, and not all the customers laughed when they discovered that the fire drill was a hoax.

• When Sheldon Leonard co-starred with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, a dialogue coach made his life miserable, insisting that he was performing the dialogue incorrectly no matter how he said it. After some time, when Mr. Leonard was ready to kill the dialogue coach, Mr. Costello revealed that it was a practical joke—the dialogue coach was just an actor he and his partner had hired to plague him.

• Humorist Robert Benchley invited Frank Case, the manager of the Algonquin Hotel, to dinner, and when Mr. Case arrived, he discovered that almost everything in Mr. Benchley’s home had come from the Algonquin Hotel—the towels, the soap, the tableware, the napkins, everything bore the insignia of the Algonquin Hotel. (Mr. Benchley had secretly arranged with Mr. Case’s staff to borrow a bunch of Algonquin stuff for the dinner.)

• When famous movie stars Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford were walking together in Hollywood, they would occasionally be recognized and crowds of fans would follow them. Because the movies back then were silent, none of these fans had ever heard them speak. To amuse themselves and astonish the fans, Mr. Chaplin and Ms. Pickford sometimes spoke to each other using high, squeaky voices.

• Practical joker Hugh Troy used to give dinner parties at which he served oysters on the half shell. Frequently, one of the guests found a pearl and Mr. Troy congratulated the guest. Unfortunately, when the guest visited the jewelry store the next day to get the pearl appraised, the guest would discover that the “pearl” had been purchased at a five- and ten-cent store.

• David Brenner is funny in real life. Once, he was riding on a crowded subway. The only available seat was stained, so he put his newspaper on the seat, then sat down. A man asked, “Are you reading that newspaper?” Mr. Brenner replied, “Yes,” then stood up, turned the page, and sat down on the newspaper again.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: Pony Death Ride — “Cuddle Party!”


Music: “Cuddle Party!”


Artist: Pony Death Ride

Artist Location: Formerly San Diego, California; now Vermont


“Pony Death Ride is a comedy / cabaret / punk rock duo from San Diego, Ca. Songs range from piano and ukulele ditties you may find at a burlesque or variety show to punk-rockish stuff all wrapped in a neat comedic bow.”

“If you’re here to f*** then you’re outta luck! This accordion heavy song by musical comedy duo Pony Death Ride explores the dark world of cuddle parties. So many rules!”

Price: $1 (USD) for track; $7 (USD) for 14-track album

Genre: Comedy. Rock.




Pony Death Ride


Pony Death Ride Official Site