Ever Say Anything Funny?. Give a man a reputation as an early riser, said Mark Twain, and that man can thereafter sleep until noon. Quick, then—what is your favorite Bob Hope gag? It wouldn't take you long if I challenged you on Milton Berle, or Woody Allen, or John Cleese, or even (for the older customers) Lenny Bruce or Mort Sahl. By this time tomorrow, I bet you haven't come up with a real joke for which Hope could take credit. ">
August 09, 2003
Did Bob Hope Ever Say Anything Funny?

Warmed-over wit
To be paralyzingly, painfully, hopelessly unfunny is not a particular defect or shortcoming in, say, a cable repair man or a Supreme Court justice or a Navy Seal. These jobs can be performed humorlessly with no loss of efficiency or impact. But to be paralyzingly, painfully, hopelessly unfunny is a serious drawback, even lapse, in a comedian. And the late Bob Hope devoted a fantastically successful and well-remunerated lifetime to showing that a truly unfunny man can make it as a comic. There is a laugh here, but it is on us.

Give a man a reputation as an early riser, said Mark Twain, and that man can thereafter sleep until noon. Quick, then—what is your favorite Bob Hope gag? It wouldn't take you long if I challenged you on Milton Berle, or Woody Allen, or John Cleese, or even (for the older customers) Lenny Bruce or Mort Sahl. By this time tomorrow, I bet you haven't come up with a real joke for which Hope could take credit.

There were many cringe-making references last week to Hope's doggedness in entertaining the brave boys overseas. I have met more than one veteran who says that those USO concerts were the last straw. Here's Canby, extracting the last ounce of brilliance from a Hope gag in Saigon after an officers' billet had been blown up by the Vietcong. "I was on the way to my hotel, and I passed another hotel going in the opposite direction." Nobody had the bad taste to recall the moment at which Hope was openly booed by the grunts in Vietnam: He was to the comedy of the war what Nixon was to its negotiation and what Billy Graham was to its husky religiosity.

Christopher Hitchens

Posted by tstubbs at August 09, 2003 05:01 PM | Trackback
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