David Bruce: Anecdotes About Bathrooms

Jack Benny’s comedic persona was that of a miser. He once ate at the Brown Derby restaurant with the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen of Charlie McCarthy fame. After lunch was over, Mr. Benny asked the waiter for the check. The waiter, who was well aware of Mr. Benny’s comic miserliness, said, “Mr. Benny, I’m surprised to hear you ask for the check.” Mr. Benny replied, “So am I, and that’s the last time I’ll ever eat with a ventriloquist.” Of course, many people joked about Mr. Benny’s comic reputation for miserliness. When he was in a hospital, a nurse asked him for a urine sample. Mr. Benny protested that he had just urinated, but she asked him to try to give a sample anyway. He managed to pee a little, and she looked at the small amount of urine and said, “You never give anything away, do you?” (Mr. Benny called this “a perfect reading” of a funny line.) Once, Mr. Benny had finished doing his business in a bathroom when he noticed that his checkbook was missing. He looked under the door of the stall he had been using, and he saw his checkbook. To open the door, the user had to insert a dime in a slot and turn. Mr. Benny did not have a dime, and because he had to catch a plane he did not have time to get change for a quarter. He thought, What the hell. Nobody’s around — I’ll crawl under the door. Of course, as soon as he started crawling under the door, someone walked into the restroom. Mr. Benny writes that the man “recognized my face. And he believed what he saw. He thought I was trying to sneak under and get a free bowel movement.” Of course, other comedians made jokes about Mr. Benny’s comic stinginess when they performed with him. When Mr. Benny’s daughter, Joan, got married, Bob Hope joked, “The reason Jack Benny is looking so sad these days is that he’s not only losing a daughter — but losing a deduction, too.” And after Mr. Benny was nominated to be honorary chair of a March of Dimes campaign, Fred Allen said, “The dime hasn’t been minted that could march past Jack Benny.”

Comedian Ed Wynn played many serious dramatic roles — for example, he played one of the Jews hiding from the Nazis in the movie “The Diary of Anne Frank,” directed by George Stevens. In one scene, Mr. Wynn was supposed to exit and go into a bathroom and wait. While he was in the bathroom, he began to laugh loudly. He ruined the take, and Mr. Stevens asked him why he had laughed. Mr. Wynn explained, “As I was sitting here in the john, I suddenly remembered something my father once said to me long ago, when I told him I wanted to go into show business. He warned me, ‘If you go into show business, someday you’ll end up in the toilet.’ And so I did. Here I am. I ended up in the toilet.”

In June 2015, Henry Rollins finished filming a movie titled “The Last Heist,” directed by Mike Mendez, who likes lots of murder and blood in his films. Henry plays a “completely diabolical” character named Bernard and spends much of the movie covered in fake blood. One day, completely covered in fake blood, he was walking to the restroom. The movie was being filmed in an industrial area of Glendale, California, and a man driving a forklift saw him and deadpanned, “Rough day?” Mr. Rollins says that the blood dries quickly and becomes sticky: “I was, at times, a murderous candy apple dipped in dirt and debris. A fly actually got stuck in my hair and buzzed in frustration.”

The elderly become preoccupied with always knowing where a bathroom is located. Such was the case with the 82-year-old Norman Mailer, who once was hurrying to a bathroom when fellow author Philip Roth asked him, “Where are you going in such a hurry, Norman?” Mr. Mailer replied, “Well, I have to tell you, Phil. I’ve got to urinate. When you get to my age, this becomes a desperate matter. In fact, let me warn you, when you get to my age, you’re going to be looking around for telephone booths in which you can relieve yourself.” Mr. Roth replied, “Norman, I’m already there.”

According to cartoon director Chuck Jones, Jack Warner, who was one of the famous movie Warner brothers, judged how good a movie was by how many times he had to pee during the movie. (He would stop the movie and then go and pee.) He might pee three or four times during an ordinary movie, but for a movie he hated, such as “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” he might pee seven times. Cartoons were difficult for Mr. Warner to judge, because it is hard to pee more than once during a short cartoon.

Sarah Johns moved to Nashville, sang, and to support her singing, washed tour buses. A few years later, she had a contract with a music company, and she was touring in her own tour bus. Does that she doesn’t have to clean tour buses anymore? No. She has to clean her own tour bus. She says, “I clean the toilet every morning, because, you know, I’m on there with a bunch of guys, and they always miss.”

June Millington met Cris Williamson and played music with her. During one conversation, June enthusiastically quoted some graffiti that she had read in a women’s restroom in Arkansas. Cris looked at her and said, “June, that’s me. Those are my lyrics.” June adds, “She loved it.”

“If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be sweet and wipe the seat.” — Anonymous

© 2015, David Bruce, All Rights Reserved

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Free PDF book: William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure: A Retelling in Prose by David Bruce

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Free PDF book: Honey Badger Goes to Hell — and Heaven by David Bruce

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