January 11, 2009

Making a Crack, Taking a Dig, and Hurling a Barb

Former talk-show host Dick Cavett blogs for the New York Times, and he recently mused on witty insults. One that stuck with Cavett over the years was a disagreement between two comedy writers that ended with one firing off, “Your parents owe the world a retraction.”

Cavett also includes a comment by Clement Freud, who was apparently not a Frank Sinatra enthusiast. Upon learning that Sinatra had been punched by a fan, Freud said, “That’s the first time the fan hit the s***.”

Blog commenters chimed in by the score; among their contributions is an apocryphal Frank Zappa story:
Joe Pine was one of the first TV hosts to specialize in haranguing and humiliating his guests and audience. Some attributed his nasty behavior to an outlook on life soured by having lost a leg and needing to wear a prosthesis.

Pine made the mistake of having Frank Zappa on his show and greeting him by saying, “Well, I guess that long hair makes you a girl.”

Zappa replied, “I guess that wooden leg makes you a table.”
Strangely, there’s another amputee anecdote: In London, stage comedienne Coral Brown saw “a theatre critic who had panned one of her performances. The woman, who had an amputated leg, was sitting at a table surrounded by an adoring coterie.

Coral strode to the table and in a voice no one could ignore, exclaimed: ‘How wonderful to see you with all of London at your foot!’”

Ooh, two more: Billy Wilder putdown another person's musical ability thusly: “He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.”

And when George Kaufman had a feud with producer Jed Harris, he said, “When I die, I want to be cremated, and have my ashes thrown in Jed Harris’ face.”

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