David Bruce: The Coolest People in Comedy — Movies, Music, Names

From Bruce Anecdotes

Movies

• While filming the movie Silver Streak, Richard Pryor held on to Gene Wilder’s belt while Mr. Wilder hung out of a moving train. During rehearsal, the train went 10 miles per hour, but during the actual filming, the train went 50 miles per hour. The stunt was dangerous, and Mr. Pryor made a promise to Mr. Wilder: If Mr. Wilder fell and was killed, Mr. Pryor would jump off the train.

Music

• Comedian Steve Martin played banjo and performed magic during his stand-up days as a way to give his act a little extra. Later, he decided to get more serious about his music. In 2009, he spoke about solving a problem, “About 10 years ago I did something: I put a banjo in every room. So wherever I was, it was there. I didn’t have to be in the mood to play the banjo and say, ‘Oh, who wants to go back to the bedroom to pick it up?’ It really helped me. You know, I started playing a lot more that way.” Soon, opportunities came his way: banjo player Earl Scruggs requested that Mr. Martin play on one of Mr. Scruggs’ albums, and The New Yorker asked him to host a banjo evening. In 2009, Mr. Martin went on tour with the North Carolina bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers, who are family friends. The tour is 85 percent music and 15 percent talking, but if some humor occurs to Mr. Martin, he throws it in.

• Some people are brilliant, among them DustoMcNeato, aka Dustin McLean, who is a filmmaker in Pasadena. He says, “Ever wish songs just sang what was happening in the music video? Well now they do ….” DustoMcNeato had the idea of taking music videos and rerecording the lyrics so that what is sung simply states what is happening in the music video. Many people have borrowed this idea, and on <youtube.com> are a number of videos that give the “Literal Video Version” of famous songs. For example, DustoMcNeato’s Literal Video Version of “Head Over Heels” by Tears for Fears contains these lyrics: “I’ve got a stack of books to return / I wish they were better / Now I’m singing in the library / And trying to flirt.” Search <youtube.com> for “Literal Video Version” to see this and other videos of this kind.

• Comedian John Cleese lacks musical talent and is completely unable to sing. Nevertheless, because of his comedic talents, he earned a role in the Broadway musical Half a Sixpence — with the understanding that he would mime as someone else did the necessary singing. However, after 50 performances, he felt comfortable with the role, so he began to join in the chorus — softly. After singing the chorus — softly — Mr. Cleese saw the musical’s director, Stanley Lebowski, who scowled at him and asked, “John, are you singing?” Mr. Cleese admitted that he was, and Mr. Lebowski told him, “Well, don’t.”

• The ivory keys of pianos can get very yellow when they get very old — at least, that’s the usual explanation for the color. However, Victor Borge used to explain the yellow ivory keys on his piano by saying that the elephant had smoked too much.

• Famed violinist Jascha Heifetz once tried to play Charlie Chaplin’s violin, but it made a horrible noise. Mr. Chaplin then played it with his left hand doing the bowing, and it sounded beautiful. He had put all of the strings on backward.

Names

• Comedian Albert Brooks and singer Linda Ronstadt used to date. Ms. Ronstadt has high praise for her former boyfriend: “He turned me into a real human being.” Mr. Brooks agrees: “When I first met her, she was a Volvo.” By the way, his father was radio comedian Harry Einstein, who named him Albert knowing that neighborhood kids would tease him by comparing him to the famed physicist Albert Einstein. Chances are, the teasing helped him become a comedian.

• Groucho and Harpo Marx once managed a fighter who lost many more fights than he won. The Marxes promptly nicknamed him “Canvasback,” but continued to manage his career. In one fight, Canvasback was knocked down five times in the first round. When the round was over, he tried to sit in the fighter’s stool in his corner, but Harpo shoved him aside and sat down in his place, then Groucho fanned Harpo.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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