David Bruce: The Funniest People in Television and Radio: 250 Anecdotes — Cartoons, Censorship, Children

Cartoons

• Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera worked together on many Tom and Jerry cartoons, as well as cartoons starring the characters The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, and Scoobie-Doo. Both were capable of causing mischief. When they were youngsters, Bill and Norma, his sister, cracked every window in the family’s barn. Of course, they had a good reason: They liked the patterns the cracked windows made. As a cartoonist working on Tom and Jerry, Joe once drilled a hole in a wall, then he inserted a soda straw into the hole. When the cartoonist who worked in the office next door sat down, Joe filled his mouth with water, then used the straw to spray the back of the cartoonist’s head with water. This is the artistic sensibility and the sense of humor that resulted in the Tom and Jerry cartoons winning seven Academy Awards. Nowadays, of course, the Tom and Jerry cartoons are shown on television.

• Leon Schlesinger was cartoon director Tex Avery’s boss, and he was a very hard man to get money from. However, he loved to gamble, so when Mr. Avery wanted a $25 raise, Mr. Schlesinger proposed that they draw cards to see who got the highest-value playing card. If Mr. Schlesinger won, Mr. Avery would get no raise. If Mr. Avery won, then he would get a $50 raise. Fortunately for Mr. Avery, he won — jack to eight.

Censorship

• Tommy Smothers realized that his 1960s TV variety show The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was controversial, and he knew that it was only a matter of time before the censors would start making very strong “requests” to tone down the satire — especially the political satire. He had a decision to make: either fight to keep the satire or be bought off and lose the satire. He could fight the censors, or he could continue to live the easy life of a major television celebrity with lots of money, lots of cars, and lots of houses. He made his decision. He sold off cars and houses to reduce the kind of expenses that make courage difficult, fought the censors, and eventually his show was cancelled despite its coveted high ratings among younger people with lots of disposable income. Of course, by that time Mr. Smothers had made being fired affordable.

• In the early days of radio, producers avoided controversy; however, feminist Olga Petrova got her point across anyway. Before Ms. Petrova’s program of singing, the station manager asked what she planned to say on the air. She replied, “Just a few nursery stories like ‘The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.’” There’s nothing controversial about nursery stories, is there? Wrong. On the air, Ms. Petrova said, “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children because she didn’t know what to do.” Before the station manager realized the satiric meaning of what she had said, it had already been broadcast.

Children

• Tori Spelling’s father was Aaron Spelling, a spectacularly successful and wealthy TV magnate. Because of her family connection, Tori co-starred in Beverly Hills, 90210. Growing up in such a wealthy family led to experiences that were much different from those of lower- and middle-class kids, although for Tori they were the only experiences she knew. For example, she got a nose job as a teenager, and her mother reserved one room out of a 123-room mansion for the sole purpose of wrapping presents. In addition, when Tori was very young, her father trucked in several tons of snow so that she could enjoy a white Christmas in Los Angeles.

• Lucille Ball was born in Celoron (a suburb of Jamestown), New York, on August 6, 1911. When she was almost four, her father died, and the family was taken under the wing of her mother’s father, “Grandpa” Fred Hunt. A few months after her father’s death, Lucy wore a harness that was tied to a trolley on a clothesline so she could run around in the yard but couldn’t run next door to visit some kids who had measles. Her mother overheard Lucy talking to the milkman: “Oh, mister, somehow I happened to get caught in this silly old clothesline. Do you think you could get me loose?”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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