Monday, October 04, 2010

Bob Hope's Writers

I was not a big Bob Hope fan.  Oops, I should fix that before I get deported for un-American activities. I might better have said I am not a fan of the snappy, topical one-liner kind of comedy that Bob did so well. Old ski-nose was a great and giving entertainer who probably made more people laugh, including our  service men and women, than anyone before or since.

Being a serious student of humor and comedy, I have  greatest admiration for the writers who put all  those gags in Hope's mouth. To his  credit, he often praised his writers for their good work.  There's a book, THE
LAUGH MAKERS  by Bob Mills, one of Bob Hopes best writers. If you want to know how it was done, this  will tell it all. Just think of the leg work and research it took to make every one of Bob's shows topical and local, something the members of each audience would relate to. When he did a show in my town he fired off a one liner about Nunica, a very small village near here.  He did that wherever  he went, making the audience laugh at things they know about. His overseas trips are full of topical gags that poked fun at something about the war or the particular military base where he was performing.

 I took a comedy writing course years ago and turned out quite a few groaners. When I am about to undergo some sort of surgical procedure I think up a topical  line to amuse the doctors and nurses. It doesn't always  work.  But my colonoscopy nurse thought it was real funny when I told her I drank my gallon of  Kickapoo Joy Juice to get cleaned out.  She was too young to know about Li'l Abner and  Dogpatch, so she thought I made up a funny word that had "poo" in it. If you don't know anything about that procdure I won't tell you why it was funny. An old friend told me my sense of humor is warped and untimely.  A local priest says it's devious.  They are both right.  That's why it's so much fun.

Zippy one liners are not my chosen brand of  humor.  I like a story or monologue that might or might not have a punchine but has laughs along the way.  If it's topical, that's even better.
Garrison Keillor does that well when he takes the Prairie show on the road. He always has something local and topical for the audience.  If he's in Florida his Lake Wobegon tale might include a bit about a Minnesotan vacationing in the Sunshine State.  If he's out West he speaks of a Lake Wobegon rebel who left the Lutherans and joined a California cult.

I guess I can't handle the shotgun comedy style.  I need to savor the humor. A belly laugh is always good but a  knowing chuckle is nice, too.