HENNY YOUNGMAN Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Name: Henry Youngman                                                                       
Born: 16 March 1906                                                                       
Died: 24 February 1998                                                                     
Henry "Henny" Youngman (March 16, 1906 - February 24, 1998) was a British-born             
American comedian and violinist famous for "one-liners," short, simple jokes               
usually delivered rapid-fire. His best known (and oft misattributed) one-liner             
was "Take my wife please".                                                                 
In a time when most comedians told elaborate anecdotes, Youngman's comedy                 
routine consisted of telling simple one-liner jokes, occasionally with                     
interludes of violin playing. These gags depicted simple, cartoon-like                     
situations, eliminating lengthy build-ups and going straight to the punch line.           
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           
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 encouraged 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             
speakeasies, 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.             
Like many comedians, Henny Youngman treated his profession as a working job, one           
where it is difficult to make a living, and getting paid for the work is all-important.   
In numerous interviews, Youngman's advice to other entertainers was to "nem de             
gelt" (Yiddish for get the money).                                                         
He was quoted in an interview with the 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. 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 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             
Youngman made numerous appearances on television, including a long-running stint           
on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. In 1955 he was host of a TV series titled The           
Henny and Rocky Show, appearing with champion boxer Rocky Graziano. He had cameo           
appearances in several movies, including History of the World, Part I and                 
He had a larger role in Herschell Gordon Lewis's The Gore-Gore Girls, a fact he           
denied vehemently.[citation needed] He made a few recordings, most notably The             
Primitive Side of Henny Youngman, recorded "live" in St. Louis and released by             
National Recording Corporation on the NRC label. The CD is still in print.                 
His published autobiography is entitled Take My Life, Please!.                             
Youngman's last movie appearance before his death was in the Daniel Robert Cohn           
film Eyes Beyond Seeing, in which he has a cameo as a mental patient claiming to           
be Henny Youngman.