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“I Will Go with You Into the Grave”
In a medieval Christian mystery play, a man asks who will go with him into the grave when he dies and give him support at the Day of Judgment. Time after time, he hears the answer, “I won’t go with you into the grave.” His wife won’t go with him into the grave, his children won’t go with him into the grave, his priest won’t go with him into the grave, his friends won’t go with him into the grave — even his wealth won’t go with him into the grave. Finally, the man’s good deeds say, “I will go with you into the grave,” and the man and his deeds knock at the door of death, together.
A Full-Time Comedian
When Richard Lewis was learning his craft as a comedian, he was also working three part-time jobs. He felt that he was good enough to make it as a full-time comedian, but he needed a stake to live on to get started. One day, he complained to his friend and very successful comedian David Brenner, saying that he wished that he could quit his three jobs and be a full-time comedian. Mr. Brenner asked how much money it would take for Mr. Lewis to be able to quit his three jobs. After Mr. Lewis said it would take $1,000, Mr. Brenner gave him $1,000 and said, “Here, you’re a full-time comedian.”
Everything About Texas is Big
Joe Bob Briggs once followed Bob Hope around at a golf tournament in Texas in order to write an article about him. He liked the comedian, and he even wrote a joke for him, which he passed along to Mr. Hope’s press agent. (Joe Bob was never able to actually meet Mr. Hope.) The press agent asked such questions as “You’re a joke writer?” and “You want money for this joke?” The answer to both questions was, No, and Joe Bob said to the press agent, “It would be an honor if I could say I wrote a joke for Bob Hope.” That night, Mr. Hope told the joke to an audience. The press agent found Joe Bob the next day and said, “Bob wanted me to personally thank you for the joke.” Joe Bob says today, “So I never met him, but I never got anything in professional compensation that compared to that moment.” What was the joke? This is it: “I love Texas. Big hats on the men and big hair on the women. Even the golf courses are big. I lost my ball three times today, and I was putting.” Joe Bob says, “Okay, I admit it, not that funny. The point is, when Bob Hope said it, it was hysterical.”
Letters to a Young Fan
Andrew Buckingham was 13 years old when he started to write comedian Kenneth Williams, co-star of many British Carry On movie comedies. The correspondence lasted almost three years, ending only with Mr. Williams’ death. Mr. Buckingham says today, “He replied to all my letters, often by return of post. It still surprises me.” The first letter was simply a request for a photo — autographed, of course. But young Andrew mentioned positively a book that Mr. Williams had written, and Mr. Williams thanked him for the compliment. The correspondence continued, and young Andrew, who knew that Mr. Williams had been bullied while in school, once asked him for advice about how to handle being around bullies. Mr. Williams wrote back, “Obviously, one does anything to avoid confrontation. My method was to chum up with a tough guy at school, and that provides protection. But the individual invariably has to find his own way round all the pitfalls.” After Mr. Williams died, his sister, Pat, went through his possessions, and she was surprised to find letters from young Andrew. She called Andrew and told him, “It’s amazing. Most letters from people your age would have gone straight in the bin.” She also asked Andrew if he wanted anything that had belonged to Mr. Williams. Today, he wishes that he had asked for Mr. Williams’ fountain pen.
Two Kind People
George Carlin’s mother, Mary, was a kind woman. When George was a child, he would sometimes talk her into having a meal at the Automat. While they were there, she would often see a man nursing a cup of coffee because he had nowhere to go, and she would give George a quarter — which bought a lot more then than it does now — to give to the man. George says, “She really did have a generous heart.” So did George, who used to be part of a comedy team with Jack Burns. (After they split up, Jack became very successful with Avery Schreiber.) One day, George and Jack were goofing around in a Chicago hotel when for some reason Jack threw a paperback out of the window. Suddenly, they remembered that Jack had put his pay in the paperback for safekeeping. They went to the window and watched twenties and fifties float down to the ground, knowing that the money would be long gone by the time they ran down the stairs and reached the street. A nice guy, George split his pay with Jack.
“Bill, are You OK? How’s Everything at Home?”
Billy Crystal’s father died when Billy was 15 years old, and Billy took it hard. He had a hard time functioning because he felt like he was carrying a boulder all the time. He did try out for the varsity basketball team, but during tryouts he played as if he were carrying a boulder. Obviously, if you’re carrying a boulder and trying to play basketball at the same time, the basketball is not going to do what you want it to do. The coach, Mr. Farry, called Billy to his office and asked him, “Bill, are you OK? How’s everything at home?” Billy told him all his troubles, especially including his father’s death and the effect it was having on his mother. Coach Farry put him on the team. As an adult, Mr. Crystal wrote in his autobiography, 700 Sundays, “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.”
“Now Don’ Say Nuthin’ to Her”
Richard Pryor’s grandmother was a kind and understanding woman. When he was 26 years old, he went back home to attend the funeral of his stepmother. At the wake were many dishes of food brought by neighbors. One dish brought by an elderly neighbor held baked dressing, and Mr. Pryor saw cockroaches in it. His face showed his horror, but his grandmother told him in a low voice, “Now don’ say nuthin’ to her. She old an’ blind. She can’t see no more. She probably lef’ the oven door open an’ they crawled in there las’ night.”
Sarcasm — and Great Kindness
Comedian Drew Carey sometimes has the persona of a very outspoken and sarcastic person, but he does good deeds. After the taping of an episode of Mr. Carey’s TV sitcom, The Drew Carey Show, a man in the audience refused to leave until he had spoken to Mr. Carey. Of course, celebrities sometimes attract weird — and dangerous — fans. However, after Mr. Carey learned that the man was a former Marine like himself, he talked to the man for approximately 90 minutes. An unnamed source who spoke to Kathleen Tracy, author of Home Brewed: The Drew Carey Story, said, “It turns out the guy had just been discharged. He was depressed and was really having a hard time adjusting to life outside of the service. He didn’t know what his future held and felt aimless.” Mr. Carey had felt the same way, so he knew what the man was feeling — and he was able to give him some encouraging words. In addition, Mr. Carey once organized a benefit for Antonio, an employee at the Improv, whose son had been shot and was racking up expensive medical bills. Another anonymous source who spoke to Ms. Tracy said, “Hardly anybody knew that Drew had done that, because it isn’t something he’d ever advertise. But that’s the kind of guy Drew is.” Antonio also is capable of great kindness. When Mr. Carey was a young comedian struggling to be successful, Antonio gave him free food.
Cleaning the Unwashed
Comedian Chris Rock’s parents, Julius and Rose, are good people. Together, they cared — well — for 17 foster children while Chris was growing up. Even as a schoolgirl, Rose was doing good deeds. Some very young children at her school would be unwashed for days, so she began bringing a bar of soap to school to clean them so that their classmates would not tease them.
Not the Reality
In 1918, Julian Johnson wrote an article titled “Charles, Not Charlie” for Photoplay. In it, he mentioned that an actor had died suddenly the previous winter in Los Angeles, but fortunately he had left behind no debts, some money in the bank, and wealth enough to support his family until his children grew up. However, Mr. Johnson went on to say that this was not the reality. He writes, “I am one of three people who know that the poor fellow had squandered all he made, had $2.67 in cash, no insurance, and owed half the tradesmen in town. Charles Chaplin righted all this, and not even the widow knows!”
 Source: James Fadiman and Robert Frager, Essential Sufism, pp. 251-252.
 Source: Richard Zoglin, Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-up in the 1970s Changed America, p. 92.
 Source: Joe Bob Briggs, “The Secret Bob Hope.” <http://www.joebobbriggs.com/index.php?/en/the-secret-bob-hope.html> Accessed 21 August 2010. Joe Bob keeps an archive of his essays at <http://www.joebobbriggs.com/>. Check it out.
 Source: Andrew Buckingham, “Experience: I was Kenneth Williams’ pen pal.” The Guardian. 21 August 2010 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/aug/21/kenneth-williams-pen-pal>.
 Source: George Carlin, Last Words, pp. 30, 84.
 Source: Billy Crystal, 700 Sundays, pp. 138-140.
 Source: Jim Haskins, Richard Pryor: A Man and His Madness, p. 7.
 Source: Kathleen Tracy, Home Brewed: The Drew Carey Story, pp. 120-122, 142-143.
 Source: Anne M. Todd, Chris Rock, p. 10.
 Source: Kevin J. Hayes, editor, Charlie Chaplin: Interviews, p. 37.