LAFFS From the PAST (From our issue dated May, 5, 2000)
UFO enthusiasts believe that last weekend's rare alignment of Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus may portend the apocalypse. Now if they ever align with Art Bell, we'll have something to worry about.
President Clinton read a passage from “Charlotte's Web” during a visit to Audobon Elementary School in Owensborough, Ky. He seemed less than pleased during the Q & A following when a student asked if Charlotte's is yet another web invented by Al Gore.
Londoners have elected their first mayor since the city was founded by the Romans in 43 A.D. Marking the first time a British Monarch has pulled a lever that wasn't attached to a guillotine.
Scientists in Moscow have displayed a skull fragment complete with a bullet hole they strongly believe once belonged to Adolph Hitler. Based on carbon dating, DNA match-ups and a certificate of authenticity signed by Pat Buchanan.
Until next time, I leave you with the immortal words of the Hunchback of Notre Dame who was overheard telling a girl in a singles bar, "Right now I'm a bell ringer but I really want to direct."
From THE LAUGH MAKERS (Preface xvi)
When you signed on with Bob Hope, it was akin to entering an ancient, tradition-laden religious order where you agreed to forego the temptations of the secular world in exchange for a life of unwavering loyalty, absolute obedience and, I have to admit, more thrills and excitement than anyone could possibly imagine. First, there was great professional satisfaction in being a “Hope writer.” In those days, a contract to write for him was considered giltedged— the comedic equivalent of a degree from Harvard. As for the work itself, he might have been the pope and you a cardinal commissioned by the Almighty to provide a never-ending supply of wit and drollery for delivery to the masses assembled in Vatican Square. Hope-staff-alumnus Larry Gelbart (M*A*S*H, A Funny Thing Happenedon the Way to the Forum), quoted in the Museum of Broadcasting’s “Bob Hope: A Half Century on Radio and Television,” summed it up perfectly: “Hope would never fire anybody. If he bought you, you were there. He knew pretty much you were going to stay. He got his help down to a science — people preparing him, massaging him, laying out his clothes. It was a little like preparing a bullfighter.” The only difference being, the work was steadier. When a bullfighter dies, you’re out of a job. When Hope died, he kept coming back for more. When you were invited to take a seat at his comedy Round Table (to switch to a less religious metaphor), you were keenly aware that your name was being added to a venerable honor roll of humorists. Hope had employed more writers over a longer period than any performer in history and among the veterans of “Hope’s Army” (so labeled by the press) were Mort Lachman, Mel Shavelson, Larry Rhine, Sherwood Schwartz, Norman Panama, Jay Burton, Jack Douglas, Larry Marks, Si Rose, Mel Tolkin, Al Schwartz, Jack Rose, Les White, Johnny Rapp, Mel Frank, Bill Larkin, Hal Goodman, Marty Ragaway, Ray Siller, Hal Kanter and Milt Josefsberg. To a man, these veteran jokesmiths shared a common talent: the ability to put words into Hope’s mouth that appeared to have originated there. Hope himself was the first to point out that having maintained a staff of the most able writers he could find contributed as much to his sustained popularity and prodigious body of work as the uncommon physical stamina with which he had been genetically gifted. The unique performer-writer symbiosis that developed between Hope and his comedic entourage was the first — and most likely will be the last — of its kind. What follows is an inside look at how Hope’s system operated — one that I hope will provide clues as to why it did for seventy years.
Order your copy of The Laugh Makers online:
Now available from Amazon.com in an unabridged MP3 audio version (11 hours, 40 min.) read by the author for an introductory price of $7.99:
UPCOMING BOOK SIGNINGS
June 8, 2010, Borders Books, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd, Thousand Oaks, CA. (Moorpark exit from 101). 7 PM.
July 12, 2010, North Hollywood Library, Magnolia & Tujunga, NH. 3 PM (Preceded by a showing of “Road to Morocco.)