• A man once tried to borrow £5 from Irish playwright Brendan Behan, but Mr. Behan declined to give him the money. The man angrily said that he remembered a time when Mr. Behan had not had even a farthing to his name. Mr. Behan replied, “That may be, but you don’t remember it half as well as me.”
• Brendan Behan, a notorious Irish playwright and alcoholic, once asked the Bishop of Knaresborough, “What’s your f**king business, Mac?” The Bishop replied, “Not as profitable as yours, I’m afraid.” Mr. Behan appreciated the reply, and he shook the Bishop’s hand.
• A production of Bohème in Hamburg involved nudity. A young woman playing Euphémie, Schaunard’s girlfriend, appeared completely nude to model for a picture and donned clothing only when Rodolfo worried that she might catch cold. At a dress rehearsal, things went fine until the nude actress appeared and the members of the orchestra tried to play their instruments in strange positions so they could turn around and look at the nude actress. Of course, this caused havoc with the music. The conductor, Nello Santi, solved this problem by asking the nude actress if she would walk to the end of the stage for a few moments so the members of the orchestra could look at her. She didn’t mind, the members of the orchestra got a good look, and then the rest of the rehearsal proceeded smoothly.
• In 2001, actor Anthony Flanagan revealed his naughty bits in a scene in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s A Russian in the Woods. He says, “It happened right at the end of the play. My character was centre stage, and he was made to drop his trousers so the soldiers could see if he was circumcised. So I spent what felt like three hours — although it was probably about two or three minutes — with my trousers down.” The other actors were professionals about it — during rehearsals. However, when the play was acted in front of a real audience, they sometimes made the scene drag on much longer than it should have — especially when the audience included Mr. Flanagan’s mother.
• While serving in Parliament at a time when a man named John Robinson was Secretary of the Treasury, playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan once said that a certain man was corrupting politicians so he could buy their votes. When asked to name the man, Mr. Sheridan replied, “Sir, I shall not name the person. It is an unpleasant and invidious thing to do. But don’t suppose that I abstain because there is any difficulty in naming him. I could do that, sir, as easily as you could say ‘Jack Robinson.’”
• The famous English actor David Garrick was asked to run for election to Parliament, but he replied, “I prefer to play the part of a great man on the stage than the part of a fool in Parliament.”
• When he was a young man acting in England, Jerome K. Jerome played a practical joke on his friends when they came to see him in a play in which his role was very brief and unremarkable. First, he informed his friends that since he was now a master of makeup and of changing his voice, they would find it difficult to tell who he was on stage. He also told his friends that he had taken a stage name — but the name he gave them was that of an old actor in his troupe who specialized in playing old men. He then hinted to his friends that in the play his character would be concerned about long-lost children. Finally, he bought a cane similar to that used by the old-man character in the play, and he made sure that his friends saw it. The joke worked. Mr. Jerome’s friends thought that the old actor was he, and they applauded the old actor’s every move.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Theater: 250 Anecdotes — Buy