David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families — Husbands and Wives

Husbands and Wives

• When Constance Samwell was secretly engaged to Frank Benson, she sometimes heard two actresses discussing in the dressing room which of them would marry him. Sometimes, one of the actresses would say that Mr. Benson had walked her home and stayed with her until late — but Ms. Samwell knew that Mr. Benson had walked her home that particular night and stayed with her until late. (Later, Constance and Frank were married.)

• Jane Stevenson learned that her police officer husband was a transvestite on their wedding night. He came out of the bathroom wearing a white embroidered peignoir that was prettier than what she was wearing. On his face was an imploring look that said, “Please understand me.” She put her arms around him, and she said, “I love you.” He said, “I can’t help this.” She replied, “You don’t have to explain. I love you. Tonight you don’t have to explain. I accept it.”

• In his old age, Moe Howard of Three Stooges fame guested on TV’s Mike Douglas Show. At one point, Mr. Douglas asked Moe if he had “any unfulfilled ambitions.” Moe got a gleam in his eye, grabbed a pie (when you’re a Stooge, one is always handy), charged straight into the audience, and hit his wife smack in the face with the pie. His wife, Helen, took it well, saying, “Moe’s been rehearsing for that all his life. I’m glad he finally got it out of his system.”

• In the 16th century, Irishwoman Elizabeth Fitzgerald was surrounded by enemies who told her that they had captured her husband and would hang him unless she surrendered her castle immediately. Standing on the battlements of her castle, Ms. Fitzgerald shouted, “Mark these words — they may serve your own wives on some occasion. I’ll keep my castle; for Elizabeth Fitzgerald may get another husband, but Elizabeth Fitzgerald may never get another castle.”

• Henny Youngman’s most famous joke was written by accident. One day, he was preparing for a stint on the Kate Smith radio show, when his wife and some of her friends came backstage to visit him. Unfortunately, because of their talking, Mr. Youngman wasn’t able to concentrate on his preparation, so he decided to have someone take his wife and her friends to sit in the audience. Finding a stagehand, he told him, “Take my wife — please!

• Israel Zangwill married a non-Jew in 1901, upsetting many Jews. Shortly after his marriage, he spoke before a large Jewish audience. Worried about how his wife would be treated, he said to the audience, “Fellow Jews, I trust you will be courteous to Mrs. Zangwill, and that you will not do or say anything that might offend her. While I may deserve censure for marrying a Gentile, Mrs. Zangwill deserves nothing but praise — she married a Jew.”

• Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese were poems intended to be read only by her husband, Robert Browning, but because of their high quality, he insisted that they be published. The sonnets were not translated from Portuguese. Instead, the poems received this particular title because Mr. Browning called his wife, who had a dark complexion, “my little Portuguese.”

• When African-American comedian Dick Gregory became a stand-up comedian, he knew that eventually someone in the audience would call him a n*gger, so he practiced controlling his reaction by having his wife yell “n*gger” at him at home. When it finally happened in a nightclub, Mr. Gregory had his response ready: “You hear what that guy just called me? Roy Rogers’ horse. He called me Trigger.”

• Mark Twain liked to visit neighbors informally — without wearing a collar or tie. This upset his wife, Livy, so Mr. Twain wrapped up a package which he sent to his neighbors along with this note: “A little while ago, I visited you for about half an hour minus my collar and tie. The missing articles are enclosed. Will you kindly gaze at them for 30 minutes and then return them to me?”

• Anne Sexton once wrote a volume of poetry titled Love Poems. One poem was intended to be titled “Twenty-One Days Without You” because her career required her to spend that amount of time away from her husband. However, the title had to be changed to “Eighteen Days Without You” after her husband said to her, “I can’t stand it any longer; you haven’t been with me for days.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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