• When Danny Thomas was an unknown entertainer with a wife and a daughter (Marlo), he felt pressured to take a job as a grocery clerk. So he went into a church and prayed to St. Jude (the patron saint of lost causes) for a sign about what he should do. Within a week, he was a hit comedy sensation in Chicago. To show his gratitude, he raised money to found the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to help children with catastrophic illnesses such as leukemia.
• Myron Cohen used to be a silk salesman who made his customers laugh, but he quit his job to become a stand-up comedian. His former boss, A.E. Wullschleger, attended one of his early appearances, and he seemed to enjoy it and laughed a lot. Afterward, Mr. Cohen asked what he thought of his act. Mr. Wullschleger looked serious for a moment, then joked, “Remember, Myron, there’s always a place in my organization for a good silk salesman.”
• During World War II, country comedian Archie Campbell served as an enlisted man in the United States Navy under Lieutenant Sam Bailey. Both men were avid golfers, and occasionally Lieutenant Bailey would come into the enlisted men’s barracks and say, “All right, men. I’m looking for a volunteer for special duty. You over there, Campbell, step out here.” The “special duty” was playing a round of golf.
• Tim Conway is a talented comedian who is very popular in movie roles and re-runs of McHale’s Navy and The Carol Burnett Show; unfortunately, many of his own TV series have flopped. Rango and The Tim Conway Comedy Hour each lasted only 13 weeks and other shows starring Mr. Conway lasted for only half of one season. After this series of flops, Mr. Conway got new license plates for his car: “13 WKS.”
• Before becoming an entertainer, Whoopi Goldberg worked in a mortuary, where she dressed the hair of corpses. To do this particular job, she pretended that the corpses were just very large dolls. Later, she joked that dressing the hair of the corpses was better than dressing the hair of the living because the corpses never complained about how Ms. Goldberg made them look.
• African-American entertainer George Kirby broke into show business by way of bartending. At DeLisa’s in Chicago, he used to entertain customers with jokes and impressions. Mike DeLisa noticed that the customers always sat at the end of the bar where Mr. Kirby was working, so he told Mr. Kirby to put together seven minutes of material for the stage. Mr. Kirby was so successful that he appeared on stage at DeLisa’s for the next five years.
• Lou Costello preferred playing cards to making movies. Often, he would sit in his dressing room playing cards instead of coming out to perform his scenes. Sometimes, assistant director Howard Christie, who had played football at the University of California, would pick up Mr. Costello and carry him from the card game to the movie set.
• While working in a law office, performance artist Lisa Kron wore socks instead of pantyhose, a dress code violation which made the other employees feel uneasy. However, Ms. Kron was able to disregard the dress code by telling her boss, “If I have to wear pantyhose to work every day, my yeast infection will be on your head.”
• Eddie Cantor was a frenetic comedian in the Ziegfeld Follies for several years, and he was known for his large “banjo” eyes, generosity to charities, and energy on stage. One of his jokes was to run onto stage, bounce around, and tell the audience, “I’ve just bought a secondhand watch, and this is the only way I can keep it running.”
• Groucho Marx was in a fancy department store when he saw a snobbish rich woman mistreating a saleslady and carrying a dog, so Groucho walked up to the rich woman and asked, “How much for the dog, miss?” She haughtily informed him that the dog was not for sale. “I’m sorry,” Groucho replied, “I thought you were a salesgirl.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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