David Bruce: The Funniest People in Comedy — Problem-Solving, Rehearsals, Revenge


• Gracie Allen could make a stand when a stand was necessary. A dry cleaner ruined a dress that she had taken to him, but he refused to pay for the dress. That evening, in the middle of the vaudeville act she performed with her husband, George Burns, she told the audience about the dry-cleaning incident and recommended that they not patronize that particular establishment, then she went on with the act. The next day, the dry cleaner paid her the money for the dress he had ruined.

• Impressionist/comedian George Kirby wanted a job with Count Basie. Therefore, Mr. Kirby went to a concert by Count Basie and his orchestra. Count Basie used to sit at a piano, plink a note and have his drummer enter, plink another note and have another band member enter, and so on until the entire band was on stage. Mr. Kirby, without authorization, walked on stage, and impersonated Count Basie to the audience’s delight. Count Basie also enjoyed the joke, and he hired Mr. Kirby.

• Jackie Gleason was known for drinking heavily. A friend locked up his liquor cabinet to keep Mr. Gleason from getting loaded, but when he came home, he discovered that Mr. Gleason was drunk. Remarkably, even though the liquor cabinet was still locked, the booze containers were empty. (Mr. Gleason had used a screwdriver to remove the back of the liquor cabinet. After drinking the liquor, he screwed the back of the cabinet on again.)

• Rags Ragland played big, dumb guys in forties movies. While he was working in burlesque, a young comic kept trying too hard to get laughs and steal the scene from him, so Mr. Ragland warned the comic to stop stepping on his lines or he would nail him to the floor. The young comic ignored him, so Mr. Ragland got a hammer and nails and nailed the soles of the comic’s shoes to the floor, then left him on stage as the other acts performed.

• British comedian Benny Hill suffered from stage fright, so when he had to appear live, he often carried a heavy book to keep his hands from shaking.


• Jimmy Durante and Carol Channing rehearsed and rehearsed a comedy scene for his show. Finally, a bystander interrupted them and said, “What are you still rehearsing for? Both of you know the scene. I think maybe you’re just a little nervous.” Mr. Durante simply smiled at Ms. Channing and said, “Ah, the confidence of the amateur.”

• Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle spent decades making people laugh. After Mr. Berle had guested on Mr. Gleason’s TV show, Mr. Gleason said, “We did good, Milton,” and Mr. Berle replied, “We did good, Jackie.” Then Mr. Gleason said, “How could we be bad? I’ve been rehearsing for 35 years—and you 50.”


• Once an older comic asked comedian Henny Youngman to give him some jokes, saying he would pay him for the jokes later that evening. Mr. Youngman agreed, gave him the jokes, and showed up for their rendezvous later that day. The older comic drove up in his fancy car, but ignored Mr. Youngman, leaving him unpaid on the pavement while the older comic went inside a fancy restaurant to dine with his friends. However, Mr. Youngman was able to get revenge. He saw some sign painters working nearby, so he told them that he was almost broke and had decided to sell his car. He then hired them to paint “For Sale—$25” on the older comic’s fancy car.

• Some sexist comedians make jokes about forcing their girlfriends to sleep on the “wet spot” following sex. Canadian comedian Meg Soper responds by saying that if her boyfriend ever tries to make her sleep on the wet spot, she is going to give him no further opportunities to make wet spots.

• It wasn’t smart to mess with silent film comedian Mabel Normand. She once got into a major argument with movie executive Abraham Lehr, so she backed him into a corner, sprayed him with her perfume, then told his wife that she had seen him leaving a high-class, very expensive cathouse.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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