Monday, June 11, 2012

Comedy Classics: Henny Youngman - "Take My Wife. Please."


It's Monday, a good day to start the work week with a joke. Not just any joke, but a Henny joke -- a series of rapid-fire classic golden oldies by Henny Youngman (1906-1998), who was known as the king of one-liners.

Youngman, a British-American Jewish comedian and violinist, was very popular in the 1950s and 1960s, with many appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and on Laugh-in.

Watching one of his classic performances on the Sullivan show (see video below), it becomes apparent how much standup comedy has changed over the years.

As his biography in Wikipedia reads,
In a time when many comedians told elaborate anecdotes, Youngman’s comedy routine consisted of telling simple one-liner jokes, occasionally with interludes of violin playing. These gags depicted simple, cartoon-like situations, eliminating lengthy build-ups and going straight to the punch line. He was known as the King of the One Liners, a title bestowed upon him by columnist Walter Winchell. A typical stage performance by Youngman lasted only fifteen to twenty minutes, but contained dozens of jokes, delivered in rapid-fire fashion.
Many of his jokes were put-downs of his wife, including his most famous line, "Take my wife...please."  That line is included in the clip that we're sharing today, but you'll have to listen carefully because it comes and goes very quickly.

His Wikipedia biography continues:
Youngman's wife, Sadie Cohen, was often the butt of his jokes ("My wife said to me, 'For our anniversary I want to go somewhere I've never been before.' I said, 'Try the kitchen!'", or "my wife's cooking is fit for a king. (gesturing as if feeding an invisible dog) Here King, here King!" Also, "Last night my wife said the weather outside was fit for neither man nor beast, so we both stayed home.") but in reality the two were very close, with Sadie often accompanying her husband on his tours.
Youngman remained married for over sixty years until his wife's death in 1987, after a prolonged illness. While she was ill, Henny had an ICU built in their bedroom, so she could be taken care of at home, rather than in the hospital (Sadie was terrified of hospitals).
Henny explained the origin of his classic line "Take my wife, please" as a misinterpretation: in the mid-1930s he took his wife to a show and asked the usher to escort his wife to a seat. But his request was taken as a joke, and Youngman used the line countless times ever after.
Enjoy the video (from a May 1966 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.)

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)

3 comments:

  1. With comedians like Henny Youngman you can not go wrong. Lowell

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  2. funny and clean. we could use a few more like him

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  3. Brilliant!!! He makes me laugh...BEFORE the punch line!! I had the pleasure of operating a spotlight for him at an appearance he made at the Hyatt Hotel in Cherry Hill, NJ many years ago, He came into the lobby of the hotel bent over, looking like an old man who didn't want to be there. At 8 PM, when the show was about to begin, he entered the auditorium, stooped over.....but immediately upon entering the lit up area from the spotlight, sprang to a fully upright position, taking long, youthful strides on to the stage and began his rapid fire routine. He was 35 years old...again!!! He was incredibly funny!!! Thanks for the memories!!

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