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

Children

• Gilligan’s Island is very popular with children. Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, tells this story: One small child ran inside after playing in her backyard every afternoon just in time to watch the show. Her mother asked how she knew Gilligan’s Island was on — after all, the little girl didn’t know how to tell time yet. She replied that when the sun touched the top of the big tree, it was time to watch “Giggle’ns Island.”

• Eve Arden, star of Our Miss Brooks, once had a problem because Liza, her older — but still very young — daughter, kept hitting Connie, Ms. Arden’s even younger daughter. Hoping that Liza would transfer her anger in another direction, Ms. Arden bought a Bozo the Clown punching doll for her to hit. Unfortunately, the plan didn’t work. Liza complained, “I don’t want to hit poor Bozo. I’m not mad at him. I’m mad at Connie.”

• When actor Patrick Macnee, star of The Avengers, went away to a boarding school, he and the other small boys were leery of changing their clothes where others could see them, and so they changed under sheets and behind curtains. One boy even climbed out the window and slid down a drainpipe, changed clothes outdoors, then climbed back up the drainpipe and in through the window.

• Nancy Cartwright’s children grew up knowing that their mother supplied the voice of TV’s Bart Simpson, and sometimes they let other kids in on this fact. One day, Ms. Cartwright found herself surrounded by a bunch of Cub Scouts, who begged her, “Do Bart! Do Bart!” She obliged, and then she heard her son say, “See, I told you my mom was Bart Simpson!”

• Lloyd Bridges was a rugged action hero in movies for many years. One day Sandy, his young daughter, appeared on Art Linkletter’s House Party. Mr. Linkletter, who is famous in large part because of his interviews with children, asked Sandy, “Who’s the real boss in your family?” She answered, “Daddy’s the boss in the movies. Mom’s the boss at home.”

• An early home movie of TV’s Mister Rogers shows him as a toddler. His father keeps putting a hat on his head, and the young Mister Rogers keeps grabbing the hat. Mister Rogers uses this anecdote to illustrate what a Dr. McFarland calls “hungry hands.” Toddlers have a need to touch things and explore them with their hands.

• Even in the 4th grade, Jay Leno was funny. During class, his teacher showed slides of an Egyptian mummy. On the slide of the mummy appeared the caption, “2050 BCE.” When the teacher asked if anyone knew what the caption meant, Jay replied, “That’s the license number of the truck that hit him.”

• Judy Pioli Ervin, a producer of the TV sitcom Laverne and Shirley, used to perform when she was a child for her parents’ friends. She would sit at an organ and play Lawrence Welk music, while her younger sister sat hidden behind the organ and blew bubbles. She always got the laughs she wanted.

• As a child, TV’s Mister Rogers occasionally became angry, but he wasn’t allowed to stomp around the house to work out his anger. However, he was allowed to play his emotions on the piano. He usually began by banging out single notes, but after a while, he started to play calm music.

• As a child, Carol Burnett used to pretend to be an entire radio show. She would open her window wide, then shout out all the parts of the pretend show — announcer, guest singer, etc. One day, she felt complimented when a neighbor shouted, “Turn that d*mn radio off!”

Clothing

• Bill D’Arcy, the first assistant director on Gilligan’s Island, got a big break when he was asked to direct an episode of the TV sitcom. He had been very easy going as an assistant director, but on his first day of work as a director, he showed up dressed as an autocratic Austrian-German director (think of Erich von Stroheim, Fritz Lang, and Otto Preminger) with beret, riding crop, monocle, riding breeches, knee-high boots — the works. With an Austrian-German accent, he announced that the set would have no fooling around while he was the director. Then he set up everything for the first scene. Everything was ready and the actors waited for him to say “Action!” Unfortunately, his nerves got the better of him, and he yelled “Cut!” instead. After that mistake, and a lot of teasing from the crew and cast, Mr. D’Arcy of course jettisoned the joke of the autocratic Austrian-German director, and he became a fine director.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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