David Bruce: The Funniest People in Television and Radio: 250 Anecdotes — Mishaps


• James Van Der Beek, star of TV’s Dawson’s Creek, got into acting partly through an accident. When he was 13 years old, he played organized football, but he suffered a concussion in a game. Instead of sitting on the bench the rest of the season, he decided to try acting in community theater and landed the role of bad boy Danny Zuko in Grease. That role increased his interest in acting, and soon he was heading to New York City to try to land roles. He did get a role in an acne-medicine commercial in which he would play the teenager with clear skin. Unfortunately, on the day the commercial was shot James had an outbreak of zits. Fortunately, he was able to keep the job — the zits were covered up with lots of makeup. Acting as a teenager had one other bad result for James: At Cheshire Academy, he had been elected vice president of his class, but he missed too many meetings because he was filming a movie titled Angus, and so he was impeached.

• Comedian Dave Thomas once starred in a television series titled The Dave Thomas Comedy Show. On the very first show, Mr. Thomas and guest Chevy Chase did a sketch about being afraid to fly, and they even wore ridiculous wigs with hair standing straight on end to show how scared of flying they were. On the night the TV show debuted, Mr. Thomas invited Mr. Chase and many other friends to his house, and they sat watching the program. Unfortunately, breaking news occurred as the fear-of-flying sketch unfolded. A real airplane crashed, and news of the crash — and film of staggering survivors — kept interrupting the show. For a while, the TV station alternated between showing horrible airplane wreckage and showing Mr. Thomas and Mr. Chase in ridiculous wigs joking about airplane disasters. Shortly afterward, the series was cancelled.

• Back in 1967, a TV commercial for Colt 45 Malt Liquor showed an impassive man named Billy Van seated at a table in a bullring as a matador fights a bull. The bull charged Mr. Van and the table, crashing him into a wall. In a close-up, Mr. Van dusts himself off impassively, sits down at the table impassively, and pours himself a glass of Colt 45 Malt Liquor — which makes him smile. The stunt with the bull was unplanned — the bull was supposed to ignore the man at the table and concentrate instead on the matador fighting him. Actually, the man at the table was not Mr. Van; it was another matador dressed as Mr. Van, who appeared only in the close-ups. The owner of the bullring told the TV film crew, “Don’t worry. If de matador dies, I get you another one.” Fortunately, the matador did not die.

• Carole Lombard once appeared in a radio program sponsored by International Silver. In addition to performing on the program, Ms. Lombard read a commercial endorsing the sponsor’s products. The commercial touted International Silver’s new pattern of silverware, Interlude, and Ms. Lombard had to read, “The bride who has Interlude on her dining room table will want Interlude in every room of the house.” However, during a dress rehearsal, a practical joker changed the wording of the commercial, so that Ms. Lombard found herself reading, “The bride who has Intercourse on her dining room table will want Intercourse in every room of the house.”

• Art Linkletter once pulled a stunt on his People are Funny TV program in which he rented a room at a hotel and had a young woman drop notes into the street reading, “Am being held by kidnappers in Room 617 … Help!” Sure enough, a sailor saw one of the notes and came rushing into the hotel, where he “rescued” the young woman, then appeared on Mr. Linkletter’s TV show. Unfortunately, several of the notes that the young woman dropped from her window fell to a ledge, where they stayed until a few days later, when they were blown into the street. Eventually, police officers rushed into room 617, searching for kidnappers and startling the paying guest.

• Arthur O’Connell once had the pleasure of conducting for Lily Pons — and of conducting a few selections without Ms. Pons. After Ms. Pons’ final song, the MC announced, “And now the Philadelphia Orchestra will play Beethoven’s Consecration of the House under the direction of Mr. O’Connell.” Unfortunately, a loud member of the audience yelled — with a voice clearly audible to Mr. O’Connell and the millions of people listening on the radio — “To h*ll with Mr. O’Connell; give us some more Lily Pons!” Ms. Pons was enough of a lady not to laugh — until she saw Mr. O’Connell laughing.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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