David Bruce: The Funniest People in Television and Radio: 250 Anecdotes — Voices, War, Work

Voices

• Because the TV character Bart Simpson is a 10-year-old boy, people naturally expect a guy to provide his voice and not Nancy Cartwright, who does provide his voice, as well as the voices of Nelson and Ralph. One day, Ms. Cartwright was going shopping and did Bart’s voice in the parking lot. A man heard her and said, “That’s not Bart. I know the guy who does him.” Ms. Cartwright said, “A guy does Bart’s voice?” The man replied, “Yeah, that’s right. Yours is pretty good, but it’s not Bart.”

War

• War correspondent Christiane Amanpour got into broadcasting through an accident. One of her sisters paid tuition to attend a broadcasting school in London, then changed her mind. She asked for her tuition back, but it was not refundable. Therefore, Christiane asked if she could attend the school in her sister’s place. This was acceptable, and she eventually became so famous that Pentagon officials once gave her an Amanpour Tracking Chart that detailed her journeys around the world to do reporting. Ms. Amanpour says, “They say I give great war. Is that sexual or what?”

• When MacLean Stevenson, who played Colonel Blake, left the television sitcom M*A*S*H, his character’s plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan — with no survivors. This was a bit of realism no TV sitcom had previously engaged in, and the episode’s writers, Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum, were both praised and d*mned by letter writers. To people who wrote him letters criticizing the decision to kill the character, Mr. Greenbaum wrote back, “The essence of war is the quick and final departure of a loved one.”

• As young soldiers during World War II, British comedian Spike Milligan and his friends took a dislike to a certain Bombardier while they were still stationed in England. They got their revenge when the Bombardier went to bed very drunk one night. They loaded him and his bed into a truck, then drove him to a cemetery, where they unloaded him and his bed, removed his pants, then drove back to the base. The Military Police found him the next day.

• Back in the administration of George Bush, Sr., Defense Secretary Dick Cheney once flaunted a Bart Simpson doll dressed in camouflage. Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, responded by saying, “It’s always sad when a 10-year-old gets drawn into war.”

• Two days after Pearl Harbor, the radio show Fibber McGee and Molly made a joke about Japan. A character on the show said that he wanted to buy a globe, and Molly replied, “You want a globe with Japan on it? Then you better get one quick.”

• Norman Fell, who played Mr. Roper on the TV sitcom Three’s Company, flew cargo planes during World War II. As he tells it, “I was getting shot at for 8,000 pounds of toilet paper.”

Work

• Tex Avery is the cartoonist who gave Bugs Buggy his distinctive personality. Before Mr. Avery started working on the Bugs Bunny cartoons, Bugs was a lot like Daffy Duck but in a rabbit suit. Mr. Avery gave Bugs a coolness and made him totally in control of every situation. The line “What’s up, Doc?” actually came from the cool kids Mr. Avery remembered from his old high school in Dallas, Texas. Late in his career, when Mr. Avery was working on TV commercials, he directed a commercial featuring Bugs Bunny. Someone actually asked if he knew how to draw Bugs Bunny. About that experience, Mr. Avery says, “I think that’s when I started making it clear just who created Bugs Bunny.”

• In one episode of Mr. Ed is a scene in which Wilbur, the character played by Alan Young, gave Mr. Ed a bath. After Mr. Ed had his bath, Wilbur was supposed to lose his balance and fall in the bath water. Unfortunately, during this scene, Mr. Ed had a bowel movement that fell in the tub. At this point, Mr. Young had to decide what to do. It was the end of the day (and the end of the week), the camera had not caught the bowel movement, and everyone — including himself and Mr. Ed — was tired. Stopping the scene would mean having to set up the scene again and reshoot it on Monday. All in all, a lot of work. So Mr. Young thought, “The h*ll with it,” and Wilbur lost his balance and fell in the tub — then took a long, soapy shower.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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