: For the baseball player of the same name, see Henry Youngman (baseball player).
Henny Youngman (Henry Youngman, March 16, 1906 – February 24, 1998) was a United Kingdom born American comedian and violinist famous for "one-liner joke," short, simple jokes usually delivered rapid-fire. His best known (and oft misquoted) one-liner was "Take my wife—please".
Youngman’s comedy routine consisted of telling simple “one-liner” jokes, occasionally with interludes of violin playing. He was known as the “King of the One Liners,” a title bestowed upon him by columnist Walter Winchell . A typical stage performance by Youngman lasted only fifteen to twenty minutes, but contained dozens of jokes, spouted in rapid-fire fashion.
Youngman was born in Liverpool, England, and his family moved to Brooklyn, New York when he was young. He grew up in New York City, and his career as a comedian began after he had worked for a number of years at a print shop, where he penned and published a large number of “comedy cards” – cards containing one-line gags that were sold at the shop. The comedy cards were discovered by up-and-coming professional comedian Milton Berle, who discovered Youngman and formed a close working friendship with him. Berle quipped about his friend, "The only thing funnier than Henny's jokes is his violin playing."
Encouraged by his family to learn the violin, Youngman’s start in show business was as an orchestra musician. He led a small jazz band called the "Swanee Syncopaters," and during the band's performances, Youngman often told jokes to the audience. One night, the regular comedian didn't show for his performance, and the club owner asked Youngman to fill in. Youngman was a success, and he began a long career of stand-up, telling one-line jokes and polishing his act to razor sharpness. His generally inoffensive, friendly style of comedy kept his audiences in stitches for decades. He started his career playing in clubs and speakeasy, but his big break came on the Kate Smith radio show in 1937. His manager, Ted Collins, booked him on the popular show, where he was a great success; he made many return appearances to the radio.
During the 1940s Youngman tried to break into the movies and become an actor, but he was unsuccessful in Hollywood. He returned to the nightclub scene and worked steadily with his stand-up act, performing as many as 200 shows a year.
As with a number of other New York comedians of the mid-20th Century, Youngman’s Jewish heritage led him to fit the profile of many comedians who treat their profession as a working job, one where it is difficult to make a living and getting paid for their work was all-important. In numerous interviews, Youngman’s advice to other entertainers was to “get the money.”
He was quoted in an interview with the World Wide Web-based magazine Eye: "I get on the plane. I go and do the job, grab the money and I come home and I keep it clean. Those are my rules. Frank Sinatra does the same thing, only he has a helicopter waiting. That's the difference."
When the New York Telephone Company started its Dial-a-Joke line in 1974, over three million people called in one month to hear 30 seconds of Youngman's material—the most ever for a comedian.
Youngman's wife, Sadie Cohen, was often the butt of his jokes ("My wife said to me, 'For our anniversary I want to go somewhere I've never been before.' I said, 'Try the kitchen!'", or "my wife's cooking is fit for a king. (gesturing as if feeding an invisible dog) Here King, here King!") but in reality the two were close, with Sadie often accompanying her husband on his tours.
Youngman remained married to his wife for over sixty years until her passing in 1987. He explained the origin of his classic line "Take my wife, please" as a misinterpetation: in the mid-1930s he took his wife to a show and asked the usher to escort his wife to a seat. But his request was taken as a joke, and Youngman used the line countless times ever after.
Youngman never retired, and he performed his stage act in venues worldwide until his final days. As his fame passed into legendary status, he never considered himself aloof or above others, and he never refused to perform a show in a small venue or unknown club. In a tribute to Youngman, TV and animation producer Mark Evanier described Youngman in a way that emphasized both his money consciousness and his love of performing:
:“He would take his fiddle and go to some hotel that had banquet rooms. He'd consult the daily directory in the lobby and find a party—usually a Bar Mitzvah reception — and he would go up to the room and ask to speak to whoever was paying for the affair. ‘I'm Henny Youngman,’ he would tell that person. ‘I was playing a date in another banquet room here and one of the waiters suggested you might want to have me do my act for your gathering here.’ He would negotiate whatever price he could get—$200, $500, preferably in cash—and he would do his act for them.” – published on Mark Evanier’s home page at (see http://povonline.com/cols/COL178.htm) on April 3, 1998
Youngman made numerous appearances on television, including a long-running stint on Laugh-In. In 1955 he was host of a TV series titled The Henny and Rocky Show, appearing with champion boxing Rocky Graziano. He had cameo appearances in several movies, including History of the World, Part I and Goodfellas.
He had a larger role in Herschell Gordon Lewis The Gore-Gore Girls, a fact he denied vehemently. He made a few recordings, most notably
The Primitive Side of Henny Youngman, recorded in St. Louis
and released in l959 on the NRC label.
His published autobiography is entitled Take My Life, Please!
Henny Youngman developed pneumonia and died at the age of 91. He is interred in the Mount Carmel Cemetery, Flushing, New York.
Courtesy of: http://www.wikipedia.org/