Dvid Bruce: The Coolest People in Comedy — Children

Children

• Some people are fortunate in that they know what they want to do at an early age. When she was six, lesbian comedian Liz Feldman saw a Purim play at her synagogue in which her 11-year-old sister played Queen Esther. After the show, Liz pointed to the stage and told her mother, “That’s what I want to do!” At age 10, she asked her parents for an agent for her birthday. Unfortunately, she got a 10-speed bicycle instead. At age 12, she started auditioning in Manhattan. At age 15, she answered an ad looking for children who wrote and performed their own stand-up material, so she wrote three minutes of material and got a role in a play about very young stand-up comedians. One of the jokes she wrote — which she now considers “so bad” and yet “so gay” — is this: “You know how some kids will get embarrassed when their moms will spit on a napkin to wipe the dirt off their face? My mom just licks my face.”

• Jim Carrey was funny even as a youngster. One of his “acts” was to put a lot of colored candies in his mouth, chew them up, and then pretend to vomit. His very young audience loved it. In school, he once got in trouble when his teacher saw him mocking some musicians on a record. Fortunately, all turned out well. Thinking to embarrass him, his teacher ordered him to do what he was doing in front of the class. Young Jim did, and he was so funny that his teacher invited him to do the act at the school’s Christmas assembly. And when his mother became ill, Jim’s comedy cheered her up — sometimes at odd times. Occasionally, his father would wake him up and say, “Sorry to wake you up in the middle of the night, but your mother and I could use a good laugh. You’re on in five.”

• As you may expect, comedian George Carlin took too many illegal drugs in his life. According to journalist David Hochman, when Mr. Carlin and his 11-year-old daughter took a vacation to Hawaii, she made him sign a contract stating that he wouldn’t snort cocaine for the duration of the vacation. Despite his illegal drug use, and despite his heart problems, he got old, something that really wasn’t a problem for him. He stated that “the richness of memory, the richness of acquired and accumulated experience and wisdom, I won’t trade that. At 67, I’m every age I ever was. I always think of that. I’m not just 67. I’m also 55 and 21 and three. Oh, especially three.”

• David Letterman was an original even in high school. For an English assignment he was required to write about an important event in a person’s life, so he wrote about a man who had swallowed paper towels — his way of committing suicide. While working at a grocery store, David once put cornhusks in a box of cornflakes and put it on the shelf. Not everyone was impressed by him — or his sense of humor. His high-school guidance counselor, Marilyn Dearing, wrote that he was “a run-of-the-mill ordinary average kid.” In an interview after he became famous, she said, “I didn’t think David was funny then, and I still don’t think he is funny.”

• George Burns was Jewish, but once he wanted to become Presbyterian. Why? As a small child, he was a member of a singing group that sang in an amateur talent contest at a church picnic. They won first prize — each boy received a watch. Young George was so excited that he ran home and told his mother that he wanted to become a Presbyterian — he had been a Jew all seven years of his life and never gotten anything, and he had been a Presbyterian for 15 minutes and gotten a watch. His mother told him, “First help me hang up the wash, then you can be a Presbyterian.”

• Frank Sinatra loved his kids. Sometimes, he took daughter Tina out to eat. She was surprised that so many people stared at her in restaurants. Frank was embarrassed as he said to her, “They’re not staring at you, Pigeon. They’re staring at me.” Frank’s love for Tina worked out well for television comedian Soupy Sales, who was happy to get a telephone call one day from a major, major star: “I’m Frank Sinatra. My kid wants me to do your show.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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