David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families — Fathers

Fathers

• As a teenager, President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright went on dates that were not like the typical dates of today’s American girls. Although she had moved to the United States as a girl, Ms. Albright was born in Czechoslovakia, and her father followed old-world ideas about dating. He would let Ms. Albright’s boyfriend drive her to wherever the date would happen, but he followed them in his own car and went on the date with them. After the date was over, he drove his daughter home while her boyfriend followed them in his car, then Mr. Albright invited his daughter’s boyfriend in for milk and cookies. Needless to say, Ms. Albright didn’t keep boyfriends for long. (Nevertheless, she did get married and gave birth to three daughters.)

• Comedian Albert Brooks’ father was funny. In a restaurant, he would sometimes stand up and announce to the other diners, “I want your attention, all of you. This boy [Albert] is not eating his vegetables.” As a high school student, Albert did an imitation of escape artist Harry Houdini as an incompetent who couldn’t even get his hands out of his own pockets. This impressed family friend Carl Reiner so much that when Johnny Carson asked him on The Tonight Show who were the funniest people he knew, he named Mel Brooks and young Albert.

• Choreographer Martha Graham’s father was a doctor. When she was a child, he showed her a drop of water on a slide and asked what she saw. Of course, she replied that she saw a drop of water. He asked if the water was pure, and she answered that it was. Dr. Graham then asked her to look at it with a microscope. She did, and she saw lots of bacteria in the water. “Yes, it is impure,” Dr. Graham said. “Just remember this all your life, Martha. You must look for the truth.”

• Just before the short program at the 2001 World Championships, figure skater Michelle Kwan had a problem when the heel of one skate came loose. According to figure skating rules, if you don’t have your equipment prepared to skate when your name is called, you are disqualified. Fortunately, Ms. Kwan’s father came to the rescue. He fixed the heel by using six screws — and three tubes of super glue. (Yes, Michelle won the gold medal.)

• Kerry Strug’s father once told her that she was his least expensive child, because the only gifts she ever wanted were leotards and because she never wore out her shoes since she was always walking on her hands. (Later, Ms. Strug became an elite gymnast and her father had to pay out big bucks for her training — the training paid off with a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.)

• Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller once performed a very bad vault that sent her crashing to the mat. Her father, Ron, is a university professor who uses video of that vault to teach his class some principles of physics. The agreement Shannon and her father made is that after he shows the video of the very bad vault, he has to show a video of her performing the vault flawlessly.

• Cordell Brown has cerebral palsy and two sons. (He also founded a summer camp called Camp Echoing Hills and several residential homes for handicapped adults in Ohio.) He never asked his sons about his disability until they were grown, then he asked if having a father with cerebral palsy had made life difficult for them. They answered, “Dad, you’ve just always been Dad.”

• Gay comedian Bob Smith warned his boyfriend, Tom, that his father, a retired state trooper, judged people by their handshake, so that when they met Tom would know to give him a firm handshake. Bob’s father once told him, “Bob, I like all your friends because all the men have very solid handshakes, and come to think of it, all the women do, too.”

• A Jewish man heard that his father was ill; however, visiting his father would involve an expensive train journey. Knowing that Jewish law does not require a child to spend money to honor a parent, he asked Rabbi Hayyim of Brisk to make a ruling. Rabbi Hayyim quickly made the ruling: “You are not required to spend the money — walk!”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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