David Bruce: Puns Anecdotes

• Perry Como really was an easy-going celebrity. Once, in the first Paar show of the fall season, comedy writer Goodman Ace came up with this joke for him: “I was trapped in my house all summer with my kids playing the jukebox, records, and all that. It was the summer of my discotheque!” However, Mr. Como wasn’t sure that the joke was all that funny, so it was given to the show’s announcer, Frank Gallop. During rehearsal, the joke got a big laugh, and Mr. Como said, “If I had known it would get that big of a laugh, I wouldn’t have given it to Frank.” When Mr. Goodman suggested that he take the line back, since he was the star of the show, Mr. Como was shocked: “Oh no. You can’t do that.”

• While having dinner with President Abraham Lincoln, a man complained about how hard it would be to beat the Confederate soldiers in the Civil War: “You can’t do anything with them Southern fellows. If they get whipped, they’ll retreat to them Southern swamps and bayous along with the fishes and crocodiles. You haven’t got the fish-nets made that’ll catch them.” President Abraham Lincoln listened to the man, then said, “We’ve got just the nets for traitors, in the bayous or anywhere.” “What kind of nets?” asked the man. President Lincoln replied, “Bayou-nets,” and speared a fishball with his fork.

• In 1952, Milton Schulman criticized a new revue by writing, “The new revue arrived on that stage of the Globe Theatre last night with all the chic of an elegant Parisian bandbox tied up with ribbon. As the bow was untied and the lid removed, however, out fluttered a collection of aged moths.” Noel Coward had a song in the revue, so he sent the cast members this telegram: “Dear aged moths, congratulations, but watch out or I shall be after you with some balls. Love, Noel.”

• Paul Candler Porter was the youngest child of a strict preacher; he also had a strange sense of humor. One Sunday, his father stood in the pulpit and said, “Let us sing hymn number 135. Please stand on the last verse.” When it was time to stand on the last verse, young Paul put his hymnbook — opened to hymn number 135 — down in the middle of the church aisle, then literally stood on the last verse.

• Paul Beard used to lead the orchestra for Sir Thomas Beecham. Later, he led a different orchestra — the BBC Symphony Orchestra — upon which he stamped his personality and at which Sir Thomas was asked to be a guest conductor. At the end of a rehearsal, Sir Thomas stood in front of the orchestra, stroked his goatee, and said, “May I suggest to you, gentlemen, that when we reassemble, you pay a little more attention to thisbeard?”

• During a rehearsal for H.M.S. Pinafore, Sir William Schwenck Gilbert told heavily built Rutland Barrington to sit on a skylight “pensively.” Unfortunately, Mr. Barrington was too heavy for the skylight and it broke. “For goodness’ sake, Barrington,” Sir William complained. “I said ‘pensively,’ not ‘expensively.’”

• G.K. Chesterton once gave a speech on “The New Enslavement of Women.” In it, he made the thesis that women had gone to the enslavement of work after leaving the freedom of home. In his speech, he said, “Twenty million young women rose to their feet with the cry, ‘WE WILL NOT BE DICTATED TO!’ And immediately proceeded to become stenographers!”

• After reading a book titled The Son of the Great Eunuch, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote a Broadway musical based on it. In the musical, the son has no interest in becoming a eunuch. At one point, he is being carried away so the operation can be performed, and Mr. Rodgers’ music includes a few bars of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite.”

• Actor Arthur Wood’s performance as Bottom in Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dreamwas denounced by the critics, so Mr. Wood wrote an angry letter to a newspaper. The editor printed the letter, but added this note: “Mr. Wood seems rather thin-skinned about his Bottom.”

• Edward Gibbon wrote a massive history of the decline and fall of Rome. Once, Richard Brinsley Sheridan called Mr. Gibbon “luminous.” When a friend later asked why he had chosen that particular word, Mr. Sheridan joked that he had made a mistake: “I meant voluminous.”

• Sydney Smith once saw two women arguing while standing in the windows of two buildings located opposite each other on a narrow street. Mr. Smith said, “They will never agree, for they argue from different premises.”

• In the General Election of 1935, Lord John Gretton ran against a Mrs. G. Paling. Mrs. Paling once shouted, “John Gretton is a dirty dog!” One of Lord Gretton’s followers shouted back, “That’s as may be; but we all know what dirty dogs do to palings.”

• At a testimonial dinner, the toastmaster called composer Richard Strauss “the Buddha of modern music.” Mr. Strauss whispered to a friend, “If I am the Buddha of modern music, then our toastmaster is the Pest.”

• Edwin Booth’s nose was broken, causing many people to stare at it. A fan complimented Mr. Booth on his acting ability, but added that she just couldn’t get over his nose. “Small wonder,” Mr. Booth replied. “The bridge is gone.”

• Nunnally Johnson (1897-1977) was known as a Hollywood script doctor. If a producer had a screenplay that wasn’t very good, the cry went out: “Get thee to a Nunnally.”

• While he was rehearsing in Peer Gynt, Peter Ustinov was told that he had a telephone call. He said, “I’d better take it. It may be a troll call.”

• Gioacchino Rossini’s mother wondered how one of his operas had been received. He sent her a drawing of an Italian straw-covered bottle — the kind called “fiasco.”

• James Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, was asked if all his plays were successful. “No,” he replied. “Some Peter out and others Pan out.”

• Danny Kaye’s wife was Sylvia Fine. Mr. Kaye used to joke, “I have a Fine head on my shoulders.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

SOMETIMES FREE EBOOKS

John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/792090

William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:  A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/530136

Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist: A Retelling, by David Bruce

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/731768

***

David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.

David Bruce: Puns Anecdotes

• In the play Clair de Lune is a hot romantic scene between a duchess and a hideous crippled person. Because the duchess seemed to be by far the most interesting role for a woman in the play, dramatic critic Alexander Woollcott wondered why Ethel Barrymore did not choose that role for herself. However, the reason why is evident when one considers that the hideous crippled person was played by her brother, John Barrymore. In fact, one actress remarked, “Ethel could hardly have played the duchess. It would have been adding incest to injury.”

• Dame Edith Evans consistently made the same mistake during rehearsals for Hay Fever, saying, “On a very clear day you can see Marlow.” Mr. Coward told her, “Dear Edith, you spoil the rhythm by putting in a ‘very.’ The line is ‘On a clear morning you can see Marlow.’ On a veryclear morning you can also see both Beaumont and Fletcher.”

• Morris K. Udall helped clean up the loose ends in the Pacific after the Allies won World War II. While helping to close the base on Iwo Jima, Mr. Udall served as emcee of a variety show. At the end of the show, Mr. Udall said, “Gentlemen, I guarantee you this next act will bring down the house,” and a bulldozer demolished the wooden stage.

• Lord Kames was not known for prodigality in offering good wine to his guests, although he did serve a port of low quality. One day, his guest was the Hon. Henry Erskine. When the conversation turned to the fleet of Sir Charles Hardy, which the French were blockading, Erskine said, “They are, like us, confined to port.”

• During poker games on rainy nights, Heywood Broun used to serve bad port, then say, “Any port in a storm.” Once, Alexander Woollcott forgot to bring a special liquor called kümmel to a poker game, so Mr. Broun said that he would go to Mr. Woollcott’s house to pick it up, because he would “walk a mile for a kümmel.”

• June Cerza Kolf tells this story: At her family reunion held in California, an earthquake struck as the family members attended church. Afterwards, one of the family members, who was new to California, told the pastor, “I’ve been to a lot of church services in my life, but I can honestly say this was the most moving one I’ve ever attended.”

• George Washington once stood with his back to the fire, but as the fire was very hot, he moved away from it. A friend observed that a general ought to be able to stand fire, but Mr. Washington replied, “It does not look well for a general to receive fire behind.”

• Edward Heath once said about Tom Fraser, who was Minister of Transport, “He has done absolutely nothing to alleviate our traffic problems, but he is the only Minister who produces jam today as well as promising jam tomorrow.”

• The last time Leslie Caron saw Fred Astaire was at a benefit for Gene Kelly. A waiter accidentally brushed against her and knocked her off-balance. Mr. Astaire, then 85 years old, immediately grabbed her wrist and steadied her. Ms. Caron told him, “Fred, you haven’t lost your grip.”

• Rev. Glenn Zorb, pastor of a Lutheran church in Philadelphia, doesn’t expect the lower-income members of the congregation to give as much money in the collection plates as other, wealthier members. Why? He understands “not everyone is fit to be tithed.”

• President Abraham Lincoln, a very tall man, and his wife, Mary Todd, a short woman, once appeared before a crowd. President Lincoln addressed the crowd, saying, “Here I am, and here is Mrs. Lincoln. That’s the long and the short of it.”

• George S. Kaufman frequently attended the poker games of Young Men’s Upper West Side Thanatopsis and Inside Straight Club, where he had the habit of saying, whenever he was dealt a three when he had a two in the hole, “I’m being trey-deuced.”

• Daniel Purcell had the reputation of being a punster. Once he was challenged to make a pun on the spot. “Upon what subject?” he asked. On hearing the reply, “The King,” Mr. Purcell replied, “The King is not a subject.”

• When California Governor Earl Warren was campaigning for re-election, he told his audience, “I’m pleased to see such a dense crowd here tonight.” A man from the audience called out, “Don’t be too pleased, Governor. We ain’t all dense.”

• Pierre Salinger was the Presidential Press Secretary during the Kennedy administration. Once he was criticized for sticking to a prepared press release and declining to answer questions. Mr. Salinger explained, “I am not a textual deviate.”

• On a very cold day, Brendan Behan looked across the street and saw a woman who wrote about nature. Taking advantage of the situation, he yelled at her, “Hey, missus, how’s the blue tits?”

• After being called a “two-faced man” by his political opponent Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln said, “I leave it to my audience, — if I had another face to wear, do you think I would wear this one?”

• At a wedding, Lord Morris, who had a very heavy Irish accent, looked for a shoe to throw after the happy couple. Oscar Wilde suggested, “Why not throw your own brogue?”

• At a Cannes Film Festival, Peter Ustinov noticed sitting on the beach a critic who idolized French Jean-Luc Godard. Mr. Ustinov asked the critic, “Waiting for Godard?”

• Ludwig van Beethoven enjoyed making puns. After hearing an overture by Carl Maria von Weber, he said, “S’ist eben gewebt” or, in English, “It is nicely woven.” (“Weber” means “weaver.”)

• Sydney Smith was once forced to turn down a social invitation: “Dear Longman, I can’t accept your invitation, for my house is full of country cousins. I wish they were once removed.”

• In 1949, William Faulkner won the Nobel Prize in Literature. John Steinbeck sent him the telegram: “Joyeux Nobel.”

• Professor J. P. Mahaffy, a male, was once asked what was the difference between a man and a woman. He replied, “I cannot conceive.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

SOMETIMES FREE EBOOKS

John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/792090

William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:  A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/530136

Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist: A Retelling, by David Bruce

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/731768

***

David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.