David Bruce: The Funniest People in Theater: 250 Anecdotes — Audiences, Censorship, Children


• John Barrymore could be temperamental on stage. Mr. Barrymore once grew irritated at an audience that coughed too much, so he flung a fish at it and cried, “Busy yourselves with that, you d*mned walruses, while the rest of us proceed with the play!”

• After watching Eve Ensler perform her play The Vagina Monologues, an entranced 70-year-old man told her that he “finally got it.” A few weeks later, he brought his girlfriend to the play, and she thanked Ms. Ensler.


• Jewish actor Zero Mostel was a victim of the blacklist during the McCarthy era. While he was working on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the services of Jerome Robbins, who staged songs, were needed. Mr. Robbins had been a friendly witness in the House Un-American Committee hearings, and people worried that Mr. Mostel might not want to work with Mr. Robbins. But Mr. Mostel said, “We of the left do not blacklist.”

• Mae West was often faced with censorship. For example, she wrote and starred in a play titled Sex, about a group of prostitutes. As a result, she was arrested, put on trial, found guilty, fined $500, and sentenced to 10 days in prison. Although she wore a prison uniform like the other prisoners, underneath she wore her own silk underwear.

• Ancient Roman playwrights suffered from censorship. For example, they could be put in prison or exiled if they defamed a very important person. However, they figured out a way to avoid punishment and still attack their targets. They set their plays’ locations in Greece and made their characters — which were sometimes based on important Romans — Greeks.


• Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár was very leery of child actors because of an experience that happened during a play staged by Max Reinhardt’s Vienna Repertory. The play called for a five-year-old boy who had no lines. Because the part was so easy, the nephew of the stage manager was called into action. Unfortunately, it was a dramatic scene in which one of the characters shouted, and this scared the boy so much that he wet himself on stage. Also unfortunately, the stage was raked (that is, slanted), and the stream of urine began to flow downstage — directly toward the prompter’s box, where the prompter was sitting. Of course, the audience members in the high seats were watching the stream of urine, which was clearly visible, and wondering what the prompter would do. Just before the stream of urine reached the prompter’s box, the prompter’s hand reached out and diverted the urine away from his box.

• While he was in kindergarten, children’s book author Tomie DePaola hoped to get the lead role in the class production of Peter Rabbit, but because he talked so much, his teacher gave him the minor role of Flopsy instead. In his dancing class, he had learned that when acting on stage, he should react to what the other actors did. Therefore, when the actor playing Peter Rabbit did anything, Flopsy reacted — opening his mouth in shock, waving his arms, putting his hands over his ears. Naturally, all this reacting got a lot of attention and gave the audience pleasure — with the result that Flopsy stole the show. Afterward, Tomie’s mother made him apologize to his teacher and to the child playing Peter Rabbit, but Tomie apologized when no one could hear him, because he wasn’t very sorry.

• While on tour in Edinburgh, Scotland, John Gielgud played the lead role in Macbeth. Unfortunately, he found a matinee of Scottish schoolchildren very difficult, as they giggled during the performance and threw paper cups. However, Mr. Gielgud was astonished when they laughed when his character kissed Lady Macbeth at breakfast. When he made a speech a few days later, he mentioned his astonishment at the laughter, and the next day a letter appeared in The Scotsman and explained the laughter: “We do understand Mr. Gielgud’s feelings, but perhaps he did not realize that husbands and wives in Scotland do not kiss at breakfast-time.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: Magnatone — “Drag City”


Music: “Drag City”

Album: IF IT AIN’T TASTY IT AIN’T MELTED​.​.​. THE MELTED RECORDS YEARS (1995​-​2001) (Free Bandcamp download) mixtape sampler

Artist: Magnatone

Record Company: Rum Bar Records

Record Company Location: Boston, Massachusetts


“Rum Bar Records is turning into one of the absolute best labels for real rock and roll these days, if you haven’t gotten hip to that trip. It’s the boss sound from the Boss-town.” – Bill Kelly, Bill Kelly’s Teenage Wasteland WFMU

“Disclaimer: Including all the snaps, crackles, skips, hisses & pops of your favorite worn out record and high school mixed tape. This is not a proper retrospective, or full compilation into the label’s releases, it is just a glimpse into the awesome world and music that came out of Melted Records with a hope that we will be able to present more to you down the line, enjoy.”

Band Pro Tip: When you choose a band name, make sure people can find your band on social  media, including YouTube. (Of course, in 1995-1998, this wasn’t a consideration.”

“There was a time when rock & roll didn’t have to be heady, groundbreaking or poetic–just fun. While most musicians seem to have forgotten those early primal impulses, Magnatone hasn’t. Stealing from everyone, the trio puts together a collection of catchy garage-pop songs that generally clock in under three minutes. Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Tom Rosenthal not only shamelessly robs Graham Parker of his chord progressions (which Graham himself shamelessly swiped from his late ’50s/early ’60s influences), but somehow he also manages to steal his voice. Johnny O’Halloran’s revived Mersey-beat drumming and Jacques Wait’s melodic bass lines round out a sound that is raw, fast, and furious. No, Magnatone’s debut is not earth shattering, but it is, beyond a doubt, irresistible. –Bill Snyder”

Brewzerr wrote this two-paragraph review on Amazon:

“Well I know this review comes about 6 years [now 23 years] after this severely underrated band’s untimely breakup, but I’ll sleep better knowing I put my 2 cents in on this overlooked treasure. I saw these guys play in Austin, TX back in ’97 and we became fast friends. A few months later I went on the road with them up the I-35 corridor and I could write a book about how much fun we had on that short trip… but back to the album (that’s why you’re reading this, right?). This is hard-edged power pop perfection. Very few people these days even know what power pop is. The frequently made misjudgment is that it is the same as “pop punk”. The fact of the matter is that the two genres are VERY different. Power pop is a genre that emerged in the early 70’s with bands like the Raspberries, Big Star, and the Flamin’ Groovies… bands who coupled the 60’s pop stylings of the Beatles and the Byrds with 70’s angst and distortion to give it a harder edge. The genre reached a zenith in the late 70’s and early 80’s with bands like (early) Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Paul Collins’ Beat, The Knack, The Records, and The Plimsouls.

“So enough with the history lesson. Like I said, this album is a perfect modern example of this genre. It doesn’t come off as retro and it is definitely pop… but with balls. Every song on this short but sweet disc has all the best ingredients of power pop. Had this album been picked up by a more ambitious label I have no doubt in my mind that it would have spawned more than one number-one hit. Just listen to the amazing “Up in Flames” and tell me that shouldn’t have been tearing up the airwaves! It’s a damn shame these guys broke up way before their time. Oh well… the CD is still here so by all means buy it and hear what most of the world missed out on.”

Magnotone’s “Boys Say” is also on this album.

Formed: November 1995, Minneapolis, MN, United States

Disbanded: 1998

Members: Tom Rosenthal (vocals, guitar), Jacques Wait (bass, vocals), Johnny O’Halloran (drums)

Price: Name Your Own Price (Includes FREE) for 33-track album

Genre: Rock




Rum Bar Records