David Bruce: The Coolest People in Comedy — Sports, Television

Sports

• Bill Cosby was an athlete before he became a stand-up comedian and movie and TV star. He once became the high-jump champion of the Middle Atlantic Conference by psyching out his opponents. He had not been jumping well, managing to clear only about six feet. However, at the meet a bump was on the approach to the high jump, and a few athletes had complained about it. Soon, Bill’s voice was heard coming loudly from a tent: “There’s really a terrible bump out there. There’s no way anybody is going to jump over five-ten today.” Mr. Cosby won the championship with a jump of only six feet, which was actually a short height in that event.

• Comedian Bernie Mac admires baseball player Pete Rose, aka Charlie Hustle. He tried to imitate Mr. Rose — once. Playing softball, he tried to steal second base. Trying to beat the throw to second, he slid headfirst — and tore off a bunch of skin on his chest. Normally, Mr. Mac’s skin is black, but for a while after that slide, his chest was pink. Mr. Mac says about Charlie Hustle, “Now tell me he don’t belong in the Hall of Fame.”

• Dick Van Dyke was tall at a very young age — 6-foot-1 at age 11. Because of his height, he tried out for the basketball team. However, he lacked coordination and warmed the bench all season. He had a chance to play in only one game — but unfortunately, when he jumped up to go on the court, his pants caught a splinter in the bench and the seat ripped out.

Television

• The world’s strangest comedian could very well be Andy Kaufman. One of his alter egos was Tony Clifton, an obnoxious jerk. While co-starring on Taxi, Mr. Kaufman wanted Tony Clifton to appear, but he insisted that he and Tony have separate contracts, separate dressing rooms, and separate parking spaces (although Mr. Kaufman, of course, was Tony Clifton). The good people at Taxi liked Mr. Kaufman, so they granted his wishes, but they soon discovered that Tony Clifton was not the right character to have on the show, so they decided not to use him. Mr. Kaufman, in the character of Tony Clifton, was outraged, and he yelled, “If you’re going to fire me, you better bring security guards, and I want to be fired on stage.” The good people at Taxi liked Mr. Kaufman, so they granted his wishes, and they fired Tony Clifton on stage. Mr. Kaufman, in the character of Tony Clifton, put on a great act, yelling at the Taxi head honchos, “You’ll never work in this town again.” Of course, security guards escorted Tony Clifton out of the building (just as Mr. Kaufman, in the character of Tony Clifton, had wanted), and soon afterward, Mr. Kaufman, in the character of Mr. Kaufman, walked in the building, acted like nothing had happened, and did not mention Tony Clifton.

• Back when Johnny Carson was king of late-night television as host of The Tonight Show, Drew Carey — and every other standup comedian — dreamed of getting on the show. They also dreamed of being called over by Mr. Carson to sit on the couch — something he did only when he really, really liked a comedian’s act. Unfortunately, Mr. Carey missed his first chance to be on The Tonight Show. While he was out of town, he did not check his messages, and when he returned to LA, he heard the message inviting him to be on The Tonight Show. He called The Tonight Show immediately, of course, but unfortunately they had already found another comic. The booker told Mr. Carey, “We’ll get back to you.” Mr. Carey took the mishap well, figuring that when The Tonight Showcalled again, he would have more experience and be funnier. Sure enough, The Tonight Show did call him again — two years later. Mr. Carey was very, very funny, and Mr. Carson invited him to sit on the couch. This TV appearance started many good things for Mr. Carey, who said, “I would take a bullet for Johnny Carson.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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