Everyone knows who originally said the oft quoted, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” right? It was the English actor Edmund Kean, who lived from 1787 to 1833, who first said it on his death bed. Wait, no one recorded it and it wasn’t until the middle of the last century that it was attributed to him, so probably not. Well, then, it was Edmund Gwenn (Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street) who said it on his death bed to director George Seaton. The exact quote is a little different, but the gist is the same:
One day Seaton, coming into the room and looking down at his game old friend, felt a sudden surge of compassion.
“All this must be terribly difficult for you, Teddy,” he said sympathetically.
Gwenn didn’t buy that sympathy. A smile touched his lips. “Not nearly as difficult as playing comedy,” he answered cheerfully.
They were his words of exit. His head turned on the pillow. He was dead.
The only problem is that Seaton never claimed Gwenn said it. Motivational-writers Neil and Margaret Rau wrote it in their book seven years later. It has been cited, with a number of variations, as Gwenn’s by actors and writers many times and, eventually, biographer Don Widener recorded actor Jack Lemmon describing the scene thusly:
“George, I don’t like it. I don’t like it a bit. There is no feeling of peace, no feeling of anticipation. George, it’s awful. It’s frightening and I hate it.”
Not knowing what to say, Seaton murmured “Yes, old friend, I guess dying can be very hard.”
Gwenn thought about it for a moment and then looked at Seaton. “Yes,” he said, “but not as hard as playing comedy!”
Those were his last words.
Hmmm, quoting accurately must be even more difficult than comedy. But the two Edmunds are not the only contenders. Depending upon which source you prefer to buy into, it was George Bernard Shaw, Groucho Marx, Noel Coward, David Garrick, Marcel Marceau and, the last-ditch source of all wry humor, Oscar Wilde. Good ol’ Oscar has almost as many quotes attributed to him as Shakespeare. But at least Shakespeare’s were all written down on paper. The only sure source is Peter O’Toole, when playing the washed-up actor Alan Swan in the 1982 movie My Favorite Year, says “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” But he never claimed to be the first. So let’s leave the first speaker as “To Be Announced” and you fill in your own preference.
Now that the quote author is unsettled, let’s briefly consider what it says. Is comedy harder than dying? Stand-up comics refer to failing onstage as “dying,” so dying is failed comedy to them. If you’ve ever told the wrong joke (like a blond joke at a feminists’ convention) or the same one for the umpteenth time in front of your wife at parties, you’ll agree. It’s far easier to step in front of a Mack truck barreling down the highway than tell a great joke. So, as you read the following selections from The Write Room authors, be open to off-beat humor and enjoy. As the Reader’s Digest says (and I accurately quote), “Laughter is the best medicine.”
R.L. Cherry has published two books, a female-detective mystery titled Christmas Cracker and a noirish suspense titled Foul Shot, both available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.com. For more about him and his writing, go to http://www.rlcherry.com
NOT FOR SALE by Micki Peluso
(From a friend’s actual adventure)
My daily horoscope hinted of disaster if I did not stay close to home. The throbbing pain in my recently-sprained ankle concurred. However, never being one to miss any sale, whether or not I needed anything, the warnings went unheeded.
I borrowed Nicholas, my grandchild who was both young enough to be endearing and old enough to be helpful, and drove to the discount warehouse with the temptingly advertised specials.
It was mobbed. When I glanced over at the scooters provided for the disabled, I was tempted. “How hard could it be? “ I thought, forgetting that I was technology impaired. Any gadget requiring more than two buttons, preferably off and on, was almost always a catastrophe. But fortune favors the bold, so I awkwardly climbed on one.
After zigzagging throughout the aisles, narrowly missing sideswiping young children or leveling tall, stacked shelves, I reconsidered my mode of travel. Scowls and snide remarks from other customers influenced my decision. Eight-year-old Nicholas trailed several feet behind me, pretending to belong to someone else. It was time to leave.
I drove the scooter to the nearest register a little too fast and became wedged tightly in the checkout lane. Even reverse could not budge the jammed scooter.
Amidst laughter from the observers that echoed through the warehouse, a strong, disgruntled male cashier lifted and unceremoniously dumped my 5’9” body onto the conveyor belt.
As I was scanned and slid down the length of the counter, my grandson asked, “How much did you cost, Gram? Were you on sale?”
Memoirist and humorist Micki Peluso is the author of And The Whippoorwill Sang
DEATH BY CLICHÉ by Linda Hales
It all started last Saturday night. My boyfriend treated me to comedy dinner theater. Dinner was only so-so but the comedy acts were killer and more than compensated for the mediocre fare. The star act began by cracking jokes about what sort of people you meet up with when you get to heaven. First, he warned the audience to think carefully about what they would like to be doing when the grim reaper comes knocking and especially, to think about what they do not want to be caught dead doing.
We heard about the clown who was greeted by an old movie actor who was renowned for his clown acts. This character instructed the newcomer to get into his sidecar and then proceeded to tour him around Heaven. Next up was the lady who went for a midnight swim and got caught in an undertow that forcefully whipped off her clothes leaving her stark naked. Needless to say, she spun frantically until she finally succumbed to those whirling waters. Well, darned if she wasn’t greeted in Heaven by a bevy of strippers!
Each successive routine was funnier than the last until I was laughing so hard I passed out. Or at least that’s what it must have looked like to the rest of the audience. Apparently they carried me out and no one was any the wiser.
Yeah, I actually did die laughing. When I got here, I was in for the surprise of my life or should I say afterlife? Some of the best comedians the world has ever known were here to greet me. Not wanting to be a name dropper, I can only assure you that my Heavenly buddies were literally household names so we’re talking major funny here. I’m in Heaven in more ways than one.
So now you know how I got here. I may have died in a cliché, but at least I died with my clothes on.
See Linda’s books at http://www.linnieslittlebooks.com. Available on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/LindaHales/e/B004YKW4QU/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_nu_I4tGrb51FD314
DEATH IN THE ROSE GARDEN: Confessions of a Professional Assassin by Delinda McCann
I run a small farm and sell cut flowers. I suppose you might say I have a green thumb, in a sense I do. However one should keep in mind that I’m a professional. I plant great masses of flowers. When I assassinate flowers, they die in great masses.
As a professional, I try to keep up with all the latest in scientific and botanical discoveries. Last year, I fell victim to all the experts and decided to buy some new rose bushes on multi-flora rootstock, which is the scientifically proper and botanically correct rootstock for our damp Pacific Northwest summers. I even went so far as to purchase these beauties from a local grower a few miles from my house. I was doing the rose bush buying thing right! I even paid eighteen dollars for each of the little beauties. I bought two dozen. I leave it to you to calculate how much I spent. The total is painful. I carefully planted, fed, and watered my new scientifically and botanically correct babies. They died. Two dozen rose bushes at eighteen dollars each and I assassinated them.
I forgot to consider that while I get lots of rain, and I water my gardens regularly, my soil is sand and gravel. There is no way I can keep enough water on a multi-flora rootstock to keep the thing alive. However I am a professional grower. I will rise up and go forth to grow and assassinate more beauties. Until then, “They’re dead Jim.”
Delinda McCann is a social psychologist with many years experience working with at-risk children. She recently gave up writing learned papers for journals and has started writing novels. Her work can be seen on her website where you can also find her blog. She occasionally shares gardening tips among her other musings. http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html
THE GRUNT by Anne Sweazy-Kulju
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the farm team on that day.
The score was nothin’-nothin’, not one inning did they play,
The home plate ump implored the child–Musberger was his name,
The Red Sox catcher (minor league), said, “C’mon, let’s play the game”.
The mother glared in her reply, “she’s not a charm”, she said,
“Like unwashed socks and jock straps, or rubbing Pumpsie’s head”;
“Oh, c’mon, I’ll pay the kid. Heck, I’ll do anything”,
Is what the third base coach professed, then he began to sing.
Soon the players of both sides piped up a lullaby,
But instead of growing sleepy, the child let out a cry.
Upon the stricken bleacher-crowd grim hopelessness convoked
“This is a strange ‘delay the game’”. Musberger softly joked.
They sat down on the outfield; the infield swiped at flies;
“Well, I can’t just give a bottle every time this baby cries”.
The visitors grew restless, unversed in baby’s grunt,
Demand, they did, to start the game,
“Enough! This is a stunt!”
All eyes were on the baby, as Musberger yelled, “Play ball!”
Mom stood the baby on her lap in answer to the call.
From benches full of people, there came a growing rumble;
“They don’t pay me enough for this,” the home plate ump did grumble.
“Grunt, grunt, grunt, grunt”, came the allied roar,
It carried on the summer breeze; it beat the distant shore.
They saw the baby’s face twist up; they saw her muscles strain,
“I’ll make her MVP”, said coach, “if she’ll just do her thing.”
Suddenly a lip curled up, a scowl answered the crowd,
And to the wonderment of all, she grunted good and loud.
Her mother blushed bright scarlet, the catcher did the same.
Musberger smiled benignly, “Now we can start the game”.
If you agree with Anne Sweazy-Kulju (and Anatole France) that history books that contain no lies are extremely dull, visit her website: www.Historical-Horse-Feathers.com and read more of the author’s fun perversions of the past!
BREACH OF PROMISE by Kenneth Weene
“When I text him, we won’t even answer. He ignores me.” Tears trickled down her chubby cheeks.
The attorney noted each drop of sorrow in the margin of his long, lined, yellow pad. Money in the bank.
“He promised to love me forever, but he lied. It isn’t fair. I followed him for years, from the very beginning.” She dabbed her eyes with a hanky. “That first show he did, the one with his open arms. The poem about the secret place in his deepest heart. Wasn’t he speaking to me?”
The lawyer gave her a practiced look of sympathy.
“I did as he asked. I joined, I bought, I liked, and I followed. All for love of him. There was never another.”
The lawyer nodded.
“Even now, betrayed, I dream of him. If he asked, I’d even…” She shuddered. “I’d even go back to Manhattan with him.”
“You were promised love that would last forever, and then he disappeared.” the lawyer summarized.
“Leaving only his name written in electrons on my heart,” she replied, “never to tweet again. Without him I wish I were dead.”
“It’s breach of promise clear and unconscionable,” the lawyer growled. “We’ll sue for your distress. How dare he walk away like that!”
Quickly, the attorney drew up a formal complaint – filling boxes on a computerized boilerplate.
Through her tears, his client smiled. She blew her nose, signed her name, and paid a big, fat retainer.
The lawyer rubbed his hands with glee. They’d sue the entertainer for two mil and settle for half. Unless it went to trial, which could be even better. Miss Piggy could win the jury’s hearts no matter how sympathetic they were with Kermit for being a frog of color.
Ken Weene’s novels are available on Amazon and wherever good books are sold. Check out his writing at http://www.kennethweene.com