David Bruce: The Funniest People in Television and Radio: 250 Anecdotes — Nothing, Comedians


• Geraldo Rivera once interviewed Holly Woodlawn, who was born male but who looked fabulous in women’s clothing. Mr. Rivera kept asking Ms. Woodlawn nosy questions, and he even wanted to look under her skirt, but she skillfully deflected his questions and declined to let him look under her skirt. Finally, Mr. Rivera demanded, “Please answer me. What are you? Are you a woman trapped in a man’s body? Are you a heterosexual? Are you a homosexual? A transvestite? A transsexual? What is the answer to the question?” Ms. Woodlawn replied, “But, darling, what difference does it make as long as you look fabulous?”

• Honor Blackman wore a lot of leather outfits when she played Mrs. Cathy Gale on the British tongue-in-cheek TV series The Avengers. Her role required a lot of physical activity, as Mrs. Gale never screamed for help when attacked, but instead responded with judo. After splitting her pants in a scene, she knew that she needed stronger costumes to perform in. Patrick Macnee, who played John Steed in the series, suggested leather, and a new fashion statement was born.

• Eve Arden was the star of Our Miss Brooks, featuring a sometimes sarcastic but always loveable schoolteacher. After being criticized for the wardrobe she wore on the TV series — her clothing was way too expensive for a schoolteacher — Ms. Arden started shopping for costumes that a schoolteacher could afford to wear.

• George Lindsey played Goober for a few years on The Andy Griffith Show — a role that has stayed with him. One day, he was walking in the Knoxville, Tennessee, airport while wearing sunglasses, a trench coat, and a mustache — but a boy still spotted him and yelled, “Mama, there’s Goober with a mustache!”

• Reggie Smith was both the prop man on The Andy Griffith Show and a member of a nudist colony. Don Knotts, who played Deputy Barney Fife, once got a laugh by saying on a Friday afternoon, “Everybody’s going away for the weekend, and Reggie’s the only one who doesn’t have to pack.”


• Carl Reiner, creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show, decided that he wanted to do something different from the first year’s opening montage of photographs of the cast, so he decided to use Mr. Van Dyke’s gift for physical comedy and keep the audience guessing. Therefore, he had two opening segments for the show filmed. The first shows Mr. Van Dyke tripping over an ottoman in the sitcom living room, while the second shows him deftly sidestepping the ottoman. These opening segments were used randomly on the episodes. A third segment was filmed later; it showed Mr. Van Dyke deftly sidestepping the ottoman, then stumbling.

• Joan Rivers was thin, and she didn’t mind making fun of fat celebrities. Back when Elizabeth Taylor had gained weight, she became one of Ms. Rivers’ favorite comedic targets: “Elizabeth Taylor is so fat, when she pierces her ears gravy comes out.” (Ms. Taylor was a good sport about it.) Roseanne, on the other hand, is fat, and she doesn’t like it when thin people make fun of fat people. She says, “What I would say to Joan is, ‘Yeah, I eat just like you. I just don’t puke when I’m through.’” About herself, Roseanne says, “You’re looking at one happy fat b*tch.”

• Durward Kirby was the announcer on The Garry Moore Show, and he was also a comedian in many of the show’s sketches. Colleagues remember one sketch in which a comic gangster shot his character many, many times with a machine gun, and the character took a long time to fall to the floor and “die.” Later, Mr. Kirby explained that the stage floor had been dirty, and he had simply been looking for a clean spot to die on.

• Fred Allen was amazingly funny on radio, but he was never a hit on TV, which he disliked. A hotel manager once gave Bob Hope a basket of fruit, which Mr. Hope put on top of the TV in his hotel room. Fred Allen walked into the hotel room, saw the basket of fruit, smiled, and then told Mr. Hope, “You know, that’s the best thing I’ve seen on television yet.”

• Arsenio Hall suffered from an attack of the nerves before his first attempt at stand-up comedy. When he heard his name called to go to the stage, he didn’t run up to the stage — he ran out the door.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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