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


• George Burns and Gracie Allen had years of experience performing in vaudeville before they started doing their radio show. This long experience came in handy when mishaps occurred on their show. One day, the lights in the studio went out, and no one could read the script. On another occasion, Gracie accidentally dropped her script, and the pages scattered everywhere. Both times, they ignored the script. George simply asked, “Gracie, how’s your brother?” — and Gracie started one of their well-memorized and very funny vaudeville routines.

• Archeologist Brian Rose lectured in 1996 at Ohio University, where he told this story about excavating the site of Troy in Turkey: At the site is a huge wooden horse that was built by the BBC for a documentary on the Trojan War. Today the horse is a tourist attraction, as people can go inside the horse and look out through shuttered windows. One day, members of Mr. Rose’s crew were inside the Trojan horse smoking with the shutters closed. This alarmed the Turkish security guards because they noticed smoke coming out of the horse’s nostrils.

• British broadcaster Magnus Magnusson once invited some archeologists to appear on his television program because they had discovered evidence that the headquarters of the Roman fleet in Britain (Classis Britannicus) had been located at Dover. The most important evidence they had found was a red slate marked with the Roman initials “C.B.” The archeologists brought the red slate with them and handed it to Mr. Magnusson, who promptly dropped it, breaking it in two, in between the initials.

• While working as a co-anchor at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, Maryland, Oprah Winfrey ran into problems when the assistant news director decided to change Ms. Winfrey’s appearance. Ms. Winfrey went to a beauty parlor and got a permanent, but it made all of her hair fall out. She was totally bald! Worse, she couldn’t find a wig that fit while her hair grew back, so she was forced to wear scarves. She said, “All my self-esteem was gone. My whole self-image. I cried constantly.

• Ralph Edwards used to surprise celebrities on his TV show, This is Your Life, in which he would bring on friends and family of the celebrity to reminisce about the celebrity’s life. Many celebrities — but not all — enjoyed this. Newsman Lowell Thomas was one who did not. On air, he referred to the proceedings as “a sinister conspiracy.” When Mr. Edwards said to him, “Lowell, I know you are going to enjoy tonight’s surprise,” an irritated Mr. Thomas replied, “I doubt it.”

• In one episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Tyler Moore (who played Laura Petrie) was required to make some eggs. The scene was supposed to last five minutes, but unfortunately the actors worked faster than that, and when the eggs were supposed to be done, they were runny. According to Ms. Moore, “It was quite a problem — what I really needed was a soup bowl! But Dick ate them, bless him, and only turned a little green.”

• The first episode of The Simpsons was supposed to air on Fox in the fall of 1989, but it was delayed because its executive producers — Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon — discovered that the first episode contained several unauthorized tasteless jokes. (Apparently, authorized tasteless jokes are OK.) The Simpsonspremiered as a Christmas special in 1989, and the actual series started in January 1990.

• Tracey Ullman is a comedian who is known for her ability to create characters with her incredible acting talent and the aid of costumes, wigs, rubber masks, etc. While filming The Tracey Ullman Show for the Fox network, she changed characters so often that she once passed out in her dressing room from accidentally inhaling the chemicals used to remove her makeup.

• Kristen Bell, star of the TV series Veronica Mars, says that she once “fell madly in love” with Saturday Night Live star Amy Poehler because of her petiteness and sense of comedy. On a red carpet, she saw Ms. Poehler’s husband, actor Will Arnett, and told him, “I’m absolutely in love with your wife.” He replied, “I’m so glad you didn’t say me. That would have been awkward.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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