David Bruce: Boredom is Anti-Life — Comedy and Comedians

Comedy and Comedians

• Comedian Myron Cohen loved to tell jokes, including these: 1) A man went to an expensive store, pointed to a one-ounce bottle of perfume on display, and asked how much it cost. The saleswoman replied, “$100.” The man whistled, then pointed to another one-ounce bottle of perfume on display and asked how much it cost. The saleswoman replied, “Two whistles.” 2) A woman was asked how she got her children to behave so nicely. She replied, “I give my seven-old-year $5, and he’s good. And I give my five-year-old $2, and he’s good.” She was then asked what she gave her three-year-old for him to be good. “Oh,” said the woman. “He’s like his father — good for nothing.”

• Phyllis Diller performs in a fright wig that has hair sticking up everywhere. Early in her career, she used to perform in her own hair. Once, worried about hair loss, she went to a specialist who told her that to stimulate hair growth, she should use a curry comb. She did, and it worked, but it made her hair stand straight up. She went out on stage like that one night, her hair got a laugh, and she started to use fright wigs in her act. In her stand-up comedy act, Ms. Diller carries a long cigarette holder, which she uses to punctuate her jokes. The cigarette in the holder is made of wood — Ms. Diller doesn’t smoke.

• The British comedy duo French and Saunders — Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders — disliked facing hecklers, and when they thought hecklers would be present they hurried through their act so they could get off stage and avoid them. Once, they went through their 20-minute act in five minutes. On another occasion, they didn’t get off the stage on time, so Ms. French used her day job as an educator to put down the heckler by using the persona of a strict teacher: “Excuse me, you prickhead there — now come on! If you don’t think it’s funny, then leave, but I’m not going to have this talking!”

• Early in his career, comedian Jay Leno met Rahsaan Roland Kirk, a blind African-American jazz musician. They worked together, with Mr. Kirk performing his black nationalist rap in front of a black nationalist audience that was thinking “Get Whitey” throughout his performance. Mr. Kirk then introduced the very Caucasian Mr. Leno as a “brother.” This had Mr. Leno worried, but he broke the ice by telling the audience, “Hey, maybe you haven’t noticed — Rahsaan’s blind.” The audience laughed, and Mr. Leno followed with a very funny set.

• American ballerina Nora Kaye used to dance in a satire called Gala Performance, in which she would make fun of flashy Russian ballerinas. One day, just before she was to dance this part, a real Russian ballerina danced in a flashy pas de deux (a ballet dance for two people). Ms. Kaye watched from the sidelines, then told the director, “Well, she’s already done the part, and short of taking my teeth out and tossing them over the footlights, I can’t think of any way to make this look like a comedy.”

• Monty Python member Graham Chapman was an original from early in his life. As a child, he once placed a chair in the kitchen sink, then sat on it in order to gain a different perspective. As an adult, Mr. Chapman was known for being late for everything. When he and John Cleese wrote sketches together, they would meet at one or the other’s house, and Mr. Chapman always managed to arrive half an hour late — even when they were meeting at his own house.

• Stand-up comedian Jay Leno once worked at Cleveland’s Front Row Theater. He tried to get a room at a nearby motel, but the manager’s wife explained that all the rooms were booked. Just then, a loud commotion arose, caused by the motel manager yelling at and kicking out musician Stephen Stills. Mr. Stills said, “Hey, Jay.” Mr. Leno said, “Hey, Stephen.” The manager’s wife said, “I think something just opened up.”

• Lord Buckley was a 1950s comedian who said pretty much whatever he wanted, whether the audience wanted to hear it or not. Once, a big man started to heckle him, so Lord Buckley asked him to step outside. They did, and a few minutes later, the two men returned. The heckler was unharmed, but Lord Buckley had been stomped. Lord Buckley then continued his act as if nothing had happened.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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