TAKE MY LIFE, PLEASE! by Henny Youngman


Email this review


 ``I'm so old that when I order a three-minute egg here [at the Friars Club], they make me pay up front.'' Henny Youngman (Take My Wife...Please!: My Life and Laughs, 1972) is now 86 and still ``the King of the One-Liners,'' as he was dubbed by Walter Winchell (uh, some time ago). ``I don't have any enemies--I've outlived them all...Take my life, please. It's all been a big mistake. Even at 86, I still don't know what the hell happened.'' Now that Sadie, his wife of 57 years, is gone, Youngman is ready to tell stories he couldn't before. Born in London, he was raised in Brooklyn: ``I knew I was born to the stage when my first-grade teacher picked up my option for 26 weeks.'' His father was an opera buff, hounded him to practice his violin. His first job was fiddling to silent films in his uncle Morris's movie house--no pay, but he was fired anyway. For quick cash, he fiddled on the Staten Island ferry, began cribbing jokes from vaudeville comics. After forming his own band, he became a tummler (noisy emcee, gagster, scenic designer, electrician, busboy, schmoozer who danced and flirted with unattractive women) on the borscht belt in the Catskills: ``You schticked just to survive.'' Soon he found himself befriended by Milton Berle and doing insult humor to gangsters in speak-easies (``This place was so rough the hatcheck girl's name was Rocco''). Among his more dismal tales is one about mobster Waxey Gordon asking Youngman to hold his automatic pistol, then following a waitress into the Lido Venice's kitchen and raping her on the floor. Always a bum to his mother-in-law, Youngman went on to perfect the mother-in-law joke: ``I just got back from a pleasure trip. I drove my mother-in-law to the airport.'' No match for George Burns but socko about the laws of comedy and show-biz. Nice for shut-ins. (Eight pages of b&w photographs- -not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1991
ISBN: 0-688-07744-7
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1991


NonfictionTHE STORY OF YIDDISH by Neal Karlen
by Neal Karlen
NonfictionSLOUCHING TOWARD FARGO by Neal Karlen
by Neal Karlen
NonfictionBABES IN TOYLAND by Neal Karlen
by Neal Karlen