Good spelling is essential — t r e f o l o g y

BACK in the 1950’s if you were going to Dial M for Murder, you had better be ready to dial some other letters, too, if you wanted to complete the call.

Good spelling is essential — t r e f o l o g y

BACK in the 1950’s

if you were going to

Dial M for Murder,

you had better be ready

to dial

some other letters, too,

if you wanted to

complete the call.

David Bruce: The Funniest People in Television and Radio: 250 Anecdotes — Talk Shows, Telephones, Tobacco, Voices

Talk Shows

• An appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson could lead to fame and fortune and great success, and so of course many guests were understandably nervous before their first appearance on the TV program. The first time that movie critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel appeared on The Tonight Show, one of Johnny’s writers stopped by their dressing room to say that Johnny would be asking them which current movies they liked. It’s a good thing that the writer stopped by, for Mr. Ebert and Mr. Siskel were so nervous that they couldn’t think of the titles of any current movies they liked, although several were playing that they had given thumbs-up to. With their minds completely blank, they brainstormed to come up with the title of a good movie. The only one they could think of was Gone With the Wind, so Mr. Siskel ended up calling their office back in Chicago and asking an assistant to tell them the titles of some movies they liked. (Of course, when they actually went on the show, Mr. Carson, always a master interviewer, put them at ease and everything went very smoothly.)

• Before Mike Douglas’ talk show was nationally syndicated, it was a locally produced show in Cleveland, Ohio. Once, Mr. Douglas decided to bring in a new, very talented singer named Barbra Streisand to appear on his show for a week. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to pay her enough money to live on. Therefore, he found her a singing job for a week in Cleveland, and she was able to make enough money to afford to appear on his talk show.

• Comedian George Carlin once appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and did an entire routine about the Vietnam War and other socially relevant issues. When he sat down, Mr. Carson said, “Wow! Pretty serious stuff.” Mr. Carlin then explained that he could have spoken about innocuous stuff such as puppies and kittens, but since 5 million people were watching him, he had decided to say something important.

• TV’s Mister Rogers was Fred Rogers, who spoke in real life in the same slow way that he talked on the TV series. Once, Mister Rogers appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and Mr. Carson was so surprised that Mister Rogers spoke that way in real life that he found it difficult to keep from laughing. Mister Rogers told him, “You want to laugh, don’t you? It’s OK.” And Johnny laughed.


• One of the most famous gimmicks in the 1960s TV series Get Smart is the shoe phone worn by Control agent Maxwell Smart. Years after Get Smart went off the air, Don Adams, the actor who played Maxwell Smart, would sometimes stop at a red light, and someone in the car next to his would roll down a window, hand him a shoe, and say, “It’s for you.”

• As the wild-and-crazy character known as The Ghoul, Ron Sweed used to host mostly bad horror movies on a television station in Cleveland, Ohio. The show’s set included a telephone. Whenever The Ghoul had an incoming call, viewers at home heard the telephone emit a loud knock.


• When TV was just becoming popular, cigarette companies sometimes sponsored shows and censored them. For example, when Camel, a cigarette brand, was the sponsor of a news program, it would not allow any “No Smoking” signs to be seen in the program’s news footage, and it would not allow anyone to be seen smoking a cigar — with the exception of Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

• W.C. Fields once was on a radio program sponsored by Lucky Strike cigarettes when he told a series of very funny stories about his nephew, Chester. The sponsors were not amused when they realized that Chester’s full name — Chester Fields — was the name of a rival cigarette.


• Ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his partner, Charlie McCarthy (sometimes called a dummy, especially by W.C. Fields), wanted to be guests on the radio show starring Rudy Valle. However, an executive scoffed at the idea of a ventriloquist appearing on radio. During the audition, Mr. Bergen forgot his lines and asked for a look at the script. A young man showed Mr. Bergen the script, then started walking away. Suddenly, Charlie McCarthy’s voice rang out: “Let me look at that.” Without hesitation, the young man allowed Charlie McCarthy to “read” the script. The executive’s jaw dropped, and he gave Mr. Bergen his start on radio.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


The Funniest People in Television and Radio: 250 Anecdotes — Buy

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Music Recommendation: Wild Bill and the Railroad Cats — “My Pal Mescal”


Music: “My Pal Mescal”


Artist: Wild Bill and the Railroad Cats

Artist Location: Ramsgate, UK


Bill Renwick 
Paul Love 
Deven Mantle 
Gin Renwick

Price: £1 (GBP) for track; £7 (USD) for 10-track album

Genre: Boogie-Woogie, 1950s



Wild Bill and the Railroad Cats on Bandcamp

Open-Mic Night at Ohio University’s Baker Center: 11-5-2021

Ayana Johnson
Nate Johnson
Dan Canterbury
Rilee Bapst
Matt Hendrix
Dan Canterbury and Bruce Dalzell (right)
Matt Hendrix

Matt Hendrix on YouTube



David Bruce’s Spoken Word, More or Less

Tipping the Balance—Either Way

According to the Talmud, all of us ought to consider the world as being equally divided into good and evil. That way, we will regard our own actions as important. If we act evilly, we will tip the world onto the side of evil and all Humankind will suffer, but if we perform good deeds, we will tip the world onto the side of good, and all Humankind will benefit.

Tennis Shoes and a Pink Umbrella

One book that Gilda Radner read and enjoyed was Disturbances in the Dark by Lynne Sharon Schwartz. The main female character in the book remembers that when she was a young girl, she, her sister, and her parents would go to the beach. So that the two young girls would always be able to find the beach umbrella their parents were using, her father tied a pair of tennis shoes to the umbrella. The two young girls felt safe and protected when they saw the umbrella with the pair of shoes hanging from it. The night before Gilda underwent her first chemotherapy after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, her husband, Gene Wilder, walked into her hospital room carrying a little pink umbrella to which he had tied some shoes.

My Fellow Bums

While living in New York City, comedian Bill Hicks was shocked by the number of homeless people he saw, and he always left home with change in his pockets to give to the homeless. He pointed out, “I could have been a bum. All it takes is the right girl, the right bar, and the right friends.”

Visiting the Wounded Troops

Comedian Al Franken goes into Veterans Administration hospitals to meet the wounded troops. He thought that it would be very difficult, but he was amazed by how cheerful many of them—including a woman helicopter pilot who had lost most of her left leg and part of her right leg—are. He asked a man with one leg what had happened to him; the man replied, “I came in here for a vasectomy, and when I woke up my leg was gone.” By the way, Mr. Franken says not to thank these wounded veterans for their service to the country—they imitate all the politicians who tell them that. Therefore, Mr. Franken uses humor. When he has a photograph taken with one of these veterans, he writes on the photo, “Thank you for getting grievously wounded.”

“Paid, and Thanks. Danny”

When British comedian Danny La Rue asked fellow entertainer Larry Grayson to entertain at his club while he went on vacation for two weeks, he showed much kindness to Mr. Grayson. First, he showed him his own dressing room and asked if any alterations needed to be made. Of course, everything was excellent. During the first week of Mr. Grayson’s vacation, Mr. Grayson ran up a rather high tab, but when he called for his bill so he could pay it off, he was surprised to be given a bill marked, “Paid, and thank you. Danny.” The next time Mr. Grayson was asked what he wished to be served in his dressing room, he said, “Just a coffee, please,” thinking that he would not run up his tab because Mr. La Rue would pay for it. However, when he was informed that this week he would have to pay his own bill, he ordered what he really wanted: a gin and tonic. At the end of the second week, Mr. Grayson again asked for his bill, and again it came to him marked, “Paid, and thank you. Danny.” Mr. La Rue had known that Mr. Grayson would not order what he wanted and would not run up his bill the second week if he had thought that Mr. La Rue would pay it, so he had left orders for Mr. Grayson to be falsely told that the second week he would have to pay his own bill.

You Always Make Me Smile

When You Wish Upon a Star 

The Last Time I Saw You 

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The Alchemist