David Bruce: The Funniest People in Theater: 250 Anecdotes — Language, Mishaps

Language

• At one time, Yiddish theater was alive and well in the United States and featured Yiddish translations of classic plays. Anita Loos once was watching As You Like It at a free Shakespeare festival in New York’s Central Park when an elderly lady got up to leave and asked her for directions to the nearest subway. Ms. Loos asked the woman why she was leaving so early. The elderly woman replied, “I saw it 40 years ago in Yiddish, and frankly, it loses something in translation.”

• As a youth, Wilson Mizner decided that he wanted to travel with Dr. Slocum’s medicine show. Because Dr. Slocum needed a spieler — a talker who could use Latin phrases to impress the rural customers — Mr. Mizner told him that he knew Latin. He then reeled off a steady stream of Spanish curses and vulgarities that he had learned while in Guatemala. Dr. Slocum said, “By God, you can speak Latin. You’re hired.”

• English entertainer Joyce Grenfell once spent several months entertaining troops in India and the Middle East. At one place she sang several songs, which were appreciated, but there was total silence — except for a few coughs — during her comic monologues. After the performance, she learned that she had been performing in front of people from Yugoslavia, who couldn’t understand English.

• Carl Laemelle fought the motion picture trust in courts of law early in the 20th century. He was out of town when the court made its decision, so he asked his lawyer to wire him the result. Mr. Laemelle’s case was decided in his favor, so his lawyer wired him, “JUSTICE HAS TRIUMPHED.” Mr. Laemelle wired back, “APPEAL AT ONCE.”

• Theatrical maven George Abbott both wrote and directed plays. Therefore, he was very particular about language. When he was in his late 90s, he fell while on a golf course. His wife pleaded, “George! George! Get up, please. Don’t just lay there!” Mr. Abbott looked up at his wife and corrected her: “Lie there.”

Mishaps

• Adrian C. “Cap” Anson was a professional baseball player of the late 19th century. He was also an occasional theatrical actor. At the climax of the baseball play The Runaway Colt, Mr. Anson used to hit a baseball into the wings of the stage, run offstage (to first base), then reappear on the other side of the stage and slide into home plate for a game-winning homer. It was an exciting finish, with the actor playing an umpire yelling “SAFE!” as the curtain descended. One day, Mr. Anson ran into a friend of his, professional umpire Tim Hurst, and suggested that he appear on stage with him and play the bit part of the umpire. Umpire Hurst agreed, and that night he stepped on stage to participate in the exciting conclusion of the play. However, once an umpire, always an umpire — when Cap Anson slid into home plate for what was supposed to be the game-winning homer, the ball arrived just ahead of Mr. Anson, and as the stage curtain fell, Umpire Hurst yelled, “YOU’RE OUT!”

• During a theatrical presentation of Bulldog Drummond, the villain was supposed to gain possession of a gun, then fire it at Bulldog — but no shot was supposed to fire. Bulldog was supposed to then say, “My good man, I would scarcely have let you amuse yourself with that toy had I not known it was unloaded.” However, one night the villain grabbed the wrong gun, which was loaded with blanks, then shot twice at Bulldog. Real bullets were not used, of course, but the gun sprayed powder onto Bulldog’s chest. The actor playing Bulldog couldn’t say his line about the gun’s being unloaded, and since Bulldog was the hero of the play, he couldn’t “die,” so he looked at the villain and said, “My good man, you’re a d*mned bad shot.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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Music Recommendation: Mary Lynn — “Um”

BRUCE’S RECOMMENDATION OF BANDCAMP MUSIC

Music: “Um”

Album: MY ANIMAL

Artist: Mary Lynn

Artist Location: Columbus, Ohio

Info: Mary Lynn is a band from Columbus, Ohio. This Columbus pop-rock band led by Mary Lynn Gloeckle (vocals) includes Joe Camerlengo (guitar/backing vocals), Jeremy Skeen (drums), Corey Montgomery (bass/backing vocals) and Austin Wyckoff (guitar).

Written by Mary Lynn Gloeckle (“Um” is track 1)
*Tracks 3 & 5 written by Mary Lynn Gloeckle & Joe Camerlengo

Joe Henson, a fan, wrote, “I wish I had the words to articulate how good this album is. Through and through my favorite of this year. Favorite track: ‘Um.’”

Price: $1 (USD) for track; $10 (USD) for 11-track album

Genre: Alternative. Indie Pop Rock

Links:

MY ANIMAL

https://marylynn.bandcamp.com/album/my-animal

Mary Lynn on Bandcamp

https://marylynn.bandcamp.com/album/my-animal

Mary Lynn on YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/user/songsbymarylynn