Boredom is Anti-Life: 250 Anecdotes and Stories

Actors and Acting

  • Actors often know their own limitations. Early in his career, E.A. Southern tried to act the roles of tragic heroes but discovered that he was not very good at them and so performed other kinds of roles on the stage. He once told theatrical critic John Rankin Towse about a conversation that he had had with fellow actor Edwin Booth: “We were talking, among other things, of Will Stewart, the old dramatic critic, and his capacity for apt and cutting definition. By way of illustration I quoted his remark about my Claude Melnotte, that it ‘exhibited all the qualities of a poker except its warmth.’” Mr. Southern then added, “I suppose that my performance was about as bad as anything ever seen upon the stage.” Mr. Booth chuckled and then asked, “You never saw my Romeo, did you?”[1]
  • Early in his acting career, Sheldon Leonard competed for parts with Sam Levene because they played similar characters. In a road production of Three Men on a Horse, Mr. Leonard played a comedic part that Mr. Levene had originated on Broadway. During a dress rehearsal, Mr. Levene stopped by — not to watch Mr. Leonard, but to time his laughs to see if Mr. Leonard was getting bigger laughs than he had gotten. After an especially long laugh, Mr. Levene turned to Mr. Leonard’s wife, who was also standing in the back of the theater, and snarled, “What did he do? Drop his pants?”[2]
  • When British actor Hugh O’Brian was visiting in New York City and feeling prosperous and famous, a woman said to him, “Excuse me, but would you be kind enough to tell me your name?” Mr. O’Brian also felt mischievous, so he replied, “Certainly, madam, my name’s Natalie Wood.” The woman turned to her companion and said, “There you are — I told you I was right.”[3]
  • Filmmaker John Waters once received a resume from a 16-year-old boy whose only acting experience was playing the Easter Bunny in a grade-school play. He offered the boy an acting job, but the boy’s parents vetoed his acting career.[4]

Advertising

  • In April 2012, the Coca-Cola Company put a special Coke machine in Singapore. It looked like a regular Coke machine, but it had the words “Hug Me” written on it in large letters. Anyone who hugged the machine got a reward: a free cold Coca-Cola. Leonardo O’Grady, ASEAN IMC Director, The Coca-Cola Company, said, “Happiness is contagious. The Coca-Cola Hug Machine is a simple idea to spread some happiness. Our strategy is to deliver doses of happiness in an unexpected, innovative way to engage not only the people present, but the audience at large. Whether you were hugging the machine or experiencing the event online, our goal was the same — to put a smile on your face and share that emotional connection. Reactions were amazing … people really had fun with it and at one point we had four to five people hugging the machine at the same time as well as each other! In fact, there was a long line of people looking to give hugs — it was really heartwarming.” Of course, this is good advertising. Louise Kuegler, Regional Business Director at Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific, said, “We’re excited to work with The Coca-Cola Company in delivering what is really a very simple idea. All you need to do is give the Coca-Cola Hug Machine a hug and it will love you back, by giving you a free Coke. Something simple and engaging, that lifts people’s spirits and brings a smile to their face.”[5]
  • Magician Herrmann the Great had a knack for publicity. Once, in full view of two police officers, he clumsily picked a handkerchief from the pocket of one of two men. The police officers immediately intervened, and the second man looked in his pockets and discovered that his watch was missing. The police officers asked Herrmann the Great if he had the watch, but he replied that they should look in their pockets. They did, and they discovered both the watch and the handkerchief. By this time, the two men had recognized Herrmann the Great, and they thought the joke was funny. However, the police officers were not amused, and they took the magician to the police station, where they lectured him about respecting the dignity of the police. Of course, the whole affair was written up in the newspapers — exactly as Herrmann the Great had wanted.[6]
  • Stan Freberg once parodied soap operas with a skit titled “John and Marsha.” The skit consisted only of the words “John” and “Marsha.” Marsha would say, “John.” John would then say “Marsha.” As they said the words, they went through all of the emotions seen on soap operas — love, passion, anger, etc. To advertise the skit, which appeared on a comedy album, Capitol Records printed bumper stickers. Restaurant owners took the bumper stickers, cut them in half, and put “John” on the door to the men’s restroom and “Marsha” on the door to the women’s restroom. By the way, one of Mr. Freberg’s advertisements claimed, “Nine out of ten doctors recommend Chun King chow mein.” The advertisement showed ten doctors, nine of whom were Oriental.[7]

Alcohol

  • Financial writer Andrew Tobias is often frugal. For example, he buys cheap vodka, and then pours it into bottles bearing the label of an expensive brand. According to Mr. Tobias, “When it comes to mixed drinks, vodka is vodka.” By the way, Mr. Tobias knew Bill Clinton before he became President. As a joke, Mr. Tobias once tapped Mr. Clinton on the shoulder and asked, “Now, Bill, forgive me — but where is Arkansas again?” Mr. Clinton didn’t laugh.[8]
  • Noël Coward had just finished having a drink with a VIP when a newspaper reporter spotted him. The reporter asked, “Was it just a friendly drink?” Mr. Coward replied, “My dear boy, have you ever heard of people taking unfriendly drinks?” By the way, Mr. Coward once wrote a letter to Lawrence of Arabia — Aircraftsman T.E. Shaw, No. 338171. Mr. Coward began the letter, “Dear 338171, May I call you 338?”[9]
  • Filmmaker John Waters once went to the supermarket to buy water, an act that seemed suspicious to a lower-class woman, who wondered why on earth anyone would buy water. She asked Mr. Waters, “What is that sh*t anyway?” He replied, “Perrier. It’s good for hangovers.” Hearing that, she smiled, revealing a toothless mouth, and said, “I’ll have to get me some.”[10]

[1] Source: John Rankin Towse, Sixty Years of the Theater: An Old Critic’s Memories, pp. 194-195.

[3] Source: Stanley Holloway, Wiv a Little Bit O’ Luck, pp. 222-223.

[4] Source: John Waters, Shock Value, p. 128.

[5] Source: “Coca-Cola vending machine delivers a Coke and a smile.” Ogilvy and Mather. 5 April 2012 <http://www.ogilvy.com/News/Press-Releases/April-2012-Coca-Cola-vending-machine-delivers-a-Coke-and-a-smile.aspx>.

[6] Source: Adam Woog, Magicians and Illusionists, p. 40.

[7] Source: Stan Freberg, It Only Hurts When I Laugh, pp. 78, 183.

[8] Source: Andrew Tobias, The Best Little Boy in the World Grows Up, pp. 117, 169.

[9] Source: Dick Richards, compiler, The Wit of Noël Coward, pp. 51, 99.

[10] Source: John Waters, Shock Value, p. 83.

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