David Bruce: The Funniest People in Theater: 250 Anecdotes — Actors


• Actress/comedian/writer Ann Randolph got her start in performing when she was hired to work with mental patients at the Athens Mental Health Center while studying theater at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. One of the activities she did was to write several plays for the patients to perform. Some of the things she saw at the Mental Health Center became part of the plays she wrote. According to Ms. Randolph, “I think it shaped me because I was able to see … how devastating mental illness is. I wanted to immediately tell the stories that I was hearing up there. I wanted to tell them on stage. They were amazing stories.” The plays were popular with the patients — one patient even requested, “Don’t discharge me until the play is over.”

• Carol Burnett made her Broadway debut in the hit Once Upon a Mattress, a comic play based upon the children’s story “The Princess and the Pea.” In this play, her character slept on a bed with several mattresses, under which a pea had been placed. If her character felt the pea, she was a legitimate princess; if her character did not feel the pea, she was not worthy to marry the prince. However, at the same time that Ms. Burnett was starring on Broadway each night, she was also starring on television each day, and she was very, very tired — so one night she fell asleep while lying on the mattresses on stage.

• Jacob P. Adler was a much-respected Yiddish actor who died in 1926. Fourteen years after his death, an old man showed up at a theater where Mr. Adler used to perform. He presented the theater manager with a pass that had been signed by Mr. Adler — but the pass was good for free admission to a Dec. 31, 1919, performance. The old man had been unable to use it in 1919, but he wanted to use it in 1940 because he had heard that Mr. Adler’s daughter, Celia, was appearing at the theater. The theater manager had such a high respect for Mr. Adler that he honored the pass.

• Katherine Cornell was a much-loved theatrical actress. Once, she was supposed to appear in Seattle, Washington, but because of bad weather her train did not arrive until almost midnight. Hearing that the audience was still awaiting her arrival, she and her troupe went to the theater and got the stage ready in full view of the audience, allowing them a glimpse of behind-the-curtain activity they had not seen before. Ms. Cornell and her troupe then performed the play, which did not end until 3:45 a.m.

• When Diana Adams first started dancing with the New York City Ballet, like most newcomers she was given the pantomime roles that did not require much if any dancing; unfortunately, she was not much good at pantomime — although as her career proved, she was excellent at dancing. As the Duchess in Giselle, she acted regally, but for lack of a better thing to do, looked at the scenery. This amused André Eglevsky, who commented, “That girl, she looks as if she’d never seen a tree before!”

• Actors John Gielgud and Hugh Griffith once attended a party at which Sir John amused everyone by talking of various productions he had seen of Shakespeare’s Tempest. He especially criticized a particular production, saying it had “quite the worst Caliban I have ever seen.” Noticing how quiet Mr. Griffith was, he said, “You’re very silent, Hugh.” Mr. Griffith replied, “Not as a rule. I was just trying to recall my performance and wondering if you could possibly be right.”

• After retiring from gymnastics following the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Cathy Rigby began her acting career by playing the role of Peter Pan for seven months — traditionally, Peter Pan, a boy, is played by a woman. She is well known for this role, which she has played several times in intervening years. In fact, she says her daughter once told her that “when she grows up, she wants to be a boy just like me.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: Big Burger — “Chomp Romp”


Music: “Chomp Romp”


Artist: Big Burger

Artist Location: Grafton, Australia


Pro Band Tip: When you choose a name for your band, album, and/or song, make it easy to find on social media and especially YouTube.

Big Burger’s other album, PERFECT MENU, is also excellent.

Price: $1 (AUS) for track; $7 (AUS) for 12-track album

Genre: Rock Instrumentals




Big Burger on Bandcamp


Big Burger — Topic on YouTube


Ohio University’s Baker Center Open Mic Night 9-10-2021

Jake (above)

The Mysterious Sophia (above)

Sophia (Not As Mysterious) (above)

Rylee Bapst (above)

Bruce Dalzell (above)

David Bruce (above)

10 August 2021

David Bruce’s Stories (More or Less) (Below)

One of my students was named Rachel. While very young, she attended a day care center that was run by a couple of Jewish women who would say a short Jewish prayer at lunchtime. Rachel learned the prayer, and then she asked her parents at home if she could say a prayer at suppertime. She then recited the Jewish prayer. Her parents were astonished at hearing her speak Hebrew, and she told them, “I figured out our secret. Rachel is a nice Jewish name, and we’re Jewish!” (Actually, they were Catholic.) 

When they were children, Barbara G. and her sister used to create plays and perform them in front of their parents, who of course were wildly enthusiastic. Unfortunately, after Barbara and her sister grew up, their parents told them how much they dreaded watching those plays. 

During a discussion at Ohio University about cheating, OU student Adam C. told a story about a high school student he had known in Indiana. The student had been an exchange student in Japan and knew Japanese well. Adam C. noticed that she had Japanese written on one of her wrists and when he asked her about it, she rolled up her sleeve and showed him that she had Japanese written up to her elbow. Adam C. asked her if she was getting ready to cheat on a test in Japanese, and she replied, “No — biology.” 

Ohio University student Kimberlee Eichhorn’s mother knows sign language. She was once asked to sign the Miranda rights (“You have the right to remain silent …”) at the police station to a person who was deaf and mute. By the way, at a store, Kimberlee once was standing in line behind a little boy and a little girl who plopped 20 pennies and a bunch of candy on the counter. The clerk said, “That’ll be $1.20.” The little boy looked at the little girl and said, “I don’t think we have enough.” (Kimberlee gave them the dollar.) 

One of my philosophy students saw a slaughtered cow when she was a young child, and as a result she stopped eating meat. Her parents wanted their young daughter to eat animal protein for her health, so they had to convince her to eat meat again. They finally figured out how to do that: they told her that meat grows on trees. (As a young, no-longer-so-naive adult, she became a vegetarian.) 

The father of my student Emily Kresiak made a mistake when he proposed to her mother — no, Emily wasn’t born yet. He proposed on April Fool’s Day. He didn’t know it was April Fool’s Day, and he was surprised when she laughed at his proposal. Eventually, he learned that it was April Fool’s Day, and she learned that he was serious, and Emily is very glad that she said yes. 

Nathaniel S. grew up in a household in which the alarm clock was turned up very loud and was set to a radio station. One day, the station was playing a drama show about a fire, and when the alarm went off, the house was filled with the shouts of firemen and the sound of crackling flames. His mother ran screaming through the house, grabbing her children and making sure that they got outside to safety. Only after everyone was outside did they discover what had happened. 

Lindsey DeStefano and her sister had separate bedrooms when they were growing up, but they always ended up sleeping in just one of the bedrooms. They used to do such things as scare each other. One sister would go out in the hallway while the other would hide. The sister in the hallway would then enter the room and walk around looking for the other sister, who would jump out from her hiding spot and scare her. They went to bed at an early hour, and part of their bedtime ritual was their father reading them a bedtime story and their mother telling them something each day that they had learned or that they could be proud of. They were scared of monsters, but their father invented “monster spray,” which was ordinary water in a spray bottle. He would spray the room and sure enough, no monsters! Once, Lindsey called him back into the room to spray some more because she thought that he had missed a spot. 

Rachel Harrison grew up with loving, but mischievous siblings. Her sister was beautiful and popular (so is Rachel), and boys often called her at home. This was before cell phones, and she and the boy would talk on a landline phone that was connected to another phone in the house. Their brother took the other phone, put it on mute, and then went into the bathroom. He then took the phone off mute and flushed the toilet. The boy talking to Rachel’s sister asked, “WHERE ARE YOU?” 

I would sometimes teach students how to identify sexist and racist and discriminatory language and how to avoid writing it. One of my sample sentences was this: “Irish men are drunks.” Of course, I expected a student to identity this as a stereotype, but one of my students struck a blow for feminism by pointing out, “Irish women can be drinks, too.” 

While in high school, my student Kate K. took a German class. Of course, students would use the word “herr” to refer to an adult man, with one exception: Their teacher made them call him “Mister.” Why? He did not want them to call him “Herr Ball.” 

In a class on avoiding clichés and writing vividly, my students would take a cliché and give it a twist to make it a vivid expression. An example I gave my students was Tallulah Bankhead’s “I am as pure as the driven slush,” which is a variation on “I am as pure as the driven snow.” One of my students changed “Better late than never” to “Better late than later.” 

By the way, I tend to wear what I want. Once I find a comfortable shirt, I will buy several of them and not worry about wearing different styles. However, I used to constantly wear solid-color shirts, but when I found out that my students were making bets on what color of shirt I would wear I did buy a few shirts with stripes of different colors. 


Bruce Dalzell’s YouTube Channel (Above)