♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -This tiny young man here is Dick Cavett.
[ Laughter, applause ] -I can't believe that he's here now.
I can't believe that I know Groucho Marx.
I can't believe that there is a Groucho Marx.
-Either he's dead or my watch has stopped.
-And here he is, the one, the only... -Groucho!
-My dad would not let anybody talk in the house when Groucho's quiz show was on.
-Isn't he cute?
[ Laughter ] -Well, of course I became a huge Marx Brothers fan.
♪♪ Never dared to dream I'd meet him.
Is that a good cigar?
-Not very, but I wouldn't waste a good cigar on this show.
-I don't know any comedian who hasn't been influenced or thrilled, at least, by the slouch, the famous leer, and humor of my next guest.
Groucho was worshipped and adored by very literate people, and yet everybody could laugh at Groucho.
Your churlish attitude reminds me of the time I was having dinner with Groucho and -- -Look, you're gonna be having dinner with Groucho tonight if you don't beat it.
-Is there anyone you haven't insulted, Groucho?
-Very few people.
I plan on you before the evening's over.
-My guest list tonight, in alphabetical order, is Groucho Marx.
-The average grown-up person shouldn't have to wear a hat with three balls on it.
[ Laughter ] -You know who's on here tomorrow night?
-I haven't the faintest idea, and I care less.
[ Laughter ] ♪♪ -People have asked me, "How and when did you meet Groucho Marx, for God's sake?"
And other people have said, "You and Woody Allen have been friends for years.
When did you meet him?"
But I met Woody one day before I met Groucho.
We lamented the fact that his hero and one of mine and Groucho's god, George S. Kaufman, had died.
And his funeral was the next day, and I said, "Why don't we go to the funeral?
And he said, "Sure."
Typically Woody, he did not.
[ Laughs ] But I didn't know enough about him then to not be startled by that.
A Who's Who was there of probably everyone that was ever caricatured by Al Hirschfeld.
I recognized many of them from his great caricatures, and I looked across, and there's Groucho...Marx right across from me.
And I kvelled -- I think is the proper term.
And then everybody started out, and I didn't want to lose track of Groucho.
He went out a side door with the mob.
And I suddenly heard a voice say, "Hello, Groucho.
I'm Edna Ferber."
And I thought, "We aren't in Nebraska anymore, Toto."
I hurried to the corner and said, one of my most original things, if I may brag a little.
I said, "Hello, Groucho.
I'm a big fan of yours."
And Groucho said, "Well, if it gets any hotter, I could use a big fan."
And we started walking downtown.
He was staying at the Plaza.
And on the way, Groucho insulted every doorman who was visible.
So I just thought, "Well, the gods have allowed me to meet Groucho."
We're at 59th now.
There the Plaza.
He's going to lunch.
And then the dream began.
He said, in the voice from his game show, "Well, you certainly seem like a nice young man, and I'd like you to have lunch with me."
I don't want to get too reverent, because he sort of invented irreverence on the screen.
Will you welcome one of the landmarks of comedy, a great man, the incomparable Groucho Marx.
[ Applause, up-tempo music plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Down-tempo introduction plays ] [ Applause continues ] ♪♪ -♪ Hello ♪ ♪ I must be going ♪ ♪ I cannot stay ♪ ♪ I came to say I must be going ♪ ♪ I'm glad I came, but just the same I must be going ♪ [ Laughter, applause ] ♪♪ -Have a seat.
[ Applause continues ] We had our meal, I pinching myself repeatedly.
And I just thought -- There was a strange thing I did that I've always been kind of ashamed of, 'cause I wanted to impress Groucho any way I could.
And I was about to get to, "You know, I'm not just a guy off the street.
I write for Jack Paar."
-Did you ever tell them about the first time you were on the air with me?
-I never have, and you know -- -Well, tell them.
-Do you want to hear it?
-Well, but I never get you here, and I'm gonna -- -I've got to work you in somehow on the show.
[ Laughter ] -You had a German girl on who was a defectee from East Berlin who had won the Miss Universe contest.
-We have a young fella who works on the show booking talent, and his name is Dick Cavett, and he's a Yale graduate, and he speaks German.
Doesn't make a great deal of money.
Just joined us a couple of months ago.
Dick, would you come out?
Take your time.
[ Applause ] [ Laughter ] I think you are one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen.
[ Laughter ] -It's scary out here.
[ Speaking German ] I'm going back to Yale and get my money back.
[ Laughter ] -He did this interview in German.
I asked the questions, and he interpreted, and back and forth.
And he was getting laughs all along -- in German.
How can you get laughs in German?
-Um... [ Speaking German ] -[ Speaking German ] -Oh, yeah.
[ Speaking German ] She was... [ Laughter, applause ] This may be the end of the Yale German department.
-One more laugh, it's gonna be the end of you.
[ Laughter ] -Paar was certainly one of the strangest, oddest, neurotic, brilliant comic minds of anybody I've ever worked with.
I adored him.
I don't think I ever missed one of the late-night Jack Paar "Tonight Show"s. Groucho had been on it numerous times, and I made a point of seeing them all.
Jack's neurosis would strike surprisingly sometimes.
And one night when Groucho was on, backstage, Jack said, "Oh, God.
Groucho Marx again.
You know, he pushes it all the time, and he'll say, 'Hello, Paar.
Are you above par or below par?'
And I -- Oh, God."
You didn't get paid once on "The Jack Paar Show."
I remember you coming on and exacting money from him.
That was extortion, really.
Because I had flopped that night, but I still thought I should get paid.
[ Laughter ] The mere fact that you are not a sensation every time you appear has nothing to do with the shoddy sum that you're supposed to get.
[ Laughter ] When Jack Paar left "The Tonight Show," it caused great turmoil in the country.
He had such devoted fans.
The network was desperate because Johnny couldn't join it until several months later because of some other contract thing.
Didn't know what to do.
Somebody said, "How about a stock company of hosts?
We'll get everybody we think could possibly host 'The Tonight Show.'"
I entered a minority that I was glad to be part of.
I became the Groucho Marx writer for a week.
[ Theme music plays ] -It's "The Tonight Show," from New York, with guest-star host Groucho Marx.
You took your work down to the star's office and laid it on his desk, hoped he didn't read anything that you could cringe at while you were still in the office.
-And now here's the star of our show, Groucho Marx!
-I hesitantly laid my stuff in front of Groucho and left.
And in Groucho's monologue that night, I wondered if he would use anything I wrote.
[ Cheers and applause ] -You notice the only ones who are applauding are the crew.
[ Laughter ] In vaudeville, when I came onstage, the audience used to rise as one man.
And many times, the audience was one man.
[ Laughter ] -And he did three or four things that other people had written or things from his past.
-You know, it's very difficult to get into this show.
I asked one man how he got in.
He said, "On my brother's ticket."
And I asked, "Where is your brother?"
And he said, "Well, he's outside looking for his ticket."
[ Laughter ] -And then he seemed to be slowing down, and he felt he was.
[ Applause ] And then he said... -But enough of this bridled hilarity.
-And that was one of my insert lines.
And I knew a lot of comics wouldn't do it.
-♪ Ever since songwriters started writing songs ♪ ♪ They have written songs about a rose ♪ ♪ Red roses, blue roses, old roses, new roses ♪ ♪ Roses from the north and south and west ♪ ♪ But here's the rose song that I love the best ♪ -♪ We love the best ♪ [ Laughter ] -If you knew how awful that sounded.
[ Laughter, applause ] You sound almost as bad as I do.
♪ Show me a rose and I'll show you a girl who cares ♪ [ Down-tempo music plays ] ♪ Show me a rose ♪ ♪ Or leave me alone ♪ ♪ Show me a rose and I'll show you a stag at bay ♪ ♪ Show me a rose or leave me alone ♪ ♪ She taught me how to do the tango ♪ [ Mid-tempo music plays ] ♪ Down where the palm trees sway ♪ [ Down-tempo music plays ] ♪ I called her Rose-a-mir ♪ ♪ And she called a spade a spade ♪ ♪ Show me a rose and I'll show you a storm at sea ♪ ♪ Show me a rose or leave me alone ♪ ♪ One night in Bixby, Mississippi ♪ [ Mid-tempo music plays ] ♪ We watched the clouds roll by ♪ [ Down-tempo music plays ] ♪ I said, "My dear, how are you?"
♪ ♪ And she whispered, "So am I" ♪ [ Laughter ] ♪ Show me a rose, and I'll show you a girl named Sam ♪ ♪ Show me a rose or leave me alone ♪ ♪ Show me a rose ♪ -♪ Show me a rose ♪ [ Laughter ] -♪ A fragrant rose ♪ -♪ A fragrant rose ♪ ♪ Make believe that you don't know me ♪ ♪ Until you show me ♪ ♪ A rose ♪ [ Music builds ] [ Applause ] -I'm in the office with Groucho with two of my fellow writers, and there's an hour or so before the show.
So we're chatting, and the phone rang, and he picked it up.
And he said, "Yeah.
No, I'm in my office here on 'The Tonight Show.'
I've got three Shakespeares with me."
That was the first time I heard writers referred to as that.
Another time, the phone rang, and he said, "Yeah.
Who is it?
Can I call you back?
What room are you in?
Sounds like a cannibal story."
♪♪ We were quite nervous, because who wants Groucho Marx to say, "I can't use any of this crap"?
Which some comics will do.
One day, I'm in front of Groucho's desk with two other writers -- "Tonight Show" -- and he looks at something on the page, and he seems to rather like it.
I said, "Can I ask what you're looking at?"
And he said, "Yeah.
It's a funny line."
I don't remember what it was.
"But, um, it needs a 'soitenly.'"
And we all went, "What?"
"It needs a 'soitenly'" -- Groucho's pronunciation of "certainly."
As in, "You certainly could have fooled me," you know?
And he said -- He was right.
The rhythm of the line needed that -- just that.
People quoting Groucho will take out the "certainlies" and kill the line.
As in, "And then Groucho said, 'Well, gee, you could've fooled me.'"
What Groucho had said was, "Well, you certainly could've fooled me."
So that was interesting, Groucho editing you.
-Groucho was sort of fearless with jokes.
In other words, if somebody said a straight line that fit a joke that Groucho would hit you with, if they threw that straight line at him 10 times that day, he would do the same joke, see?
Like Sophie Tucker used to sing a song -- "If you can't see Mama every night, you can't see Mama at all."
That was a song.
Now, every time I ordered sea bass, Groucho would say, "If you can't see bass every night, you can't see bass at all."
That's not the world's greatest joke.
-Not his finest work.
-I don't think anybody ever stole it, you know?
But he said it.
"If you can't see bass every night, you can't see Mama at all."
Well, after 15 or 16 years, I got tired of that lousy joke.
-Maybe 12 would be enough.
So there was bass on the menu one day, and I was sitting next to Groucho.
I didn't want to hear "If you can't see bass every night."
So I got up, and I whispered to the waiter.
I says, "Bring me some sea bass."
And the waiter whispered back, "If you can't see bass every night."
[ Laughter, applause ] -Seriously, folks -- You know that I was responsible for that line?
I mean the juxtaposition of those two words -- "Seriously, folks."
Because it used to be that when a comedian was dying, he'd say something that he thought was very funny and the audience didn't laugh.
And then he didn't know quite how to extricate himself from this dilemma.
And he would say, "Well, seriously, folks," as though he had just had a tremendous laugh on that preceding...
I started saying it all the time, and now I see all the comics say it.
Fortunately, I've retired from show business, so I don't care.
Interviewers will sometimes ask me, "When you're writing for somebody else, don't you hate it when they get the big laugh?"
I didn't feel that very much, and it never occurred to me that, "Why is he standing out there in front of this audience and not me?"
But something very similar to it began to happen to me.
I remembered that I knew how to stand up in front of an audience as a kid magician, and I wonder if I might become a stand-up comic.
-We proudly present comic Dick Cavett.
[ Applause ] -Thank you.
I barely got here before the applause ended.
-About to join us now is a young fella who used to be my writer on the afternoon "Merv Griffin Show."
We were on NBC.
And he was the least likely of all the people who worked on that show to ever be a performer.
-I got on television.
As they say, I was making noise.
-And he is very quiet and shy, but he used to turn in awful funny stuff.
And after he left, he went on to write for Jerry Lewis and Groucho Marx.
And just as of three weeks ago, up until three weeks ago, he's been with Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show."
-They had checked with "The Tonight Show," saying, "You ought to have him on."
And whoever it was on the staff of "The Tonight Show" said no.
-He's been very successful.
All the New York papers have been writing about this bright young comedian.
So would you all welcome Dick Cavett?
-And I did four or five really good "Merv Griffin Show" appearances.
I always mention Nebraska right after Yale because I found that if you just say you went to Yale, right away, a lot of people hate you, you know?
But when you let them know you come from Nebraska, it seems to get their sympathy back.
[ Laughter ] -A letter came, and it seemed to say, as my vision swam, return name -- Groucho Marx.
"Caught you on 'The Merv Griffin Show' last night" -- and I got that old feeling.
"I think you've struck a mother lode with your premise of a rube or hayseed at Yale.
Mind that," he said.
And I did, and it was a big help.
[ Laughter ] Anyway, I had a terrible time with clothes.
I remember one thing -- the worst thing -- my entire freshman year, not knowing any better, I wore brown and white shoes.
Can you imagine?
I just didn't know any better.
For one thing, that isn't practical because the white one kept getting dirty.
[ Laughter ] -You stay here and paralyze this audience.
Don't make them laugh.
Just paralyze them.
-Do you think we have them in the palm of our hand?
-I think so, yes.
Thank you, Groucho.
-It was nice knowing you.
[ Laughter ] 1967 was the year, and something from the gods landed in my lap.
"Groucho Marx is doing a special, prime time, and he has asked for you to be one of the guest entertainers."
There was a point where we taped... ♪ Hooray for Captain Spaulding the African explorer ♪ And I had seen it in a movie, of course, with the brothers, but I never thought I would be one of the people backing up Groucho Marx doing that song.
Tell me, Captain, did you take any pictures on your trip?
We took some pictures of the native girls, but unfortunately they weren't developed.
[ Laughter ] But I haven't given up hope.
I'm -- I'm going back in a couple of years.
-♪ Hooray for Captain Spaulding the African explorer ♪ ♪ He brought his name undying fame ♪ ♪ And that is why we say hooray ♪ ♪ Hooray, hooray!
♪ [ Music ends, applause ] -The fun of it, of course, was being around Groucho, where he would ad lib things not for the air.
So you felt like, "I'm only one of six people who will ever hear this."
[ Laughter ] Thank you.
You know, it seems odd for me to up here doing jokes, because I used to write for comedians.
That's how I started out.
I wrote for a lot of famous comedians briefly.
But I was fired several times.
And once I was fired in California.
There were no jobs.
And I had a brilliant idea, and it worked.
I wrote little dirty remarks and sold them to children who wanted to get on the Art Linkletter show.
[ Laughter ] It was a rather short time between writing monologue jokes for Groucho Marx on "The Tonight Show" to standing in a big-time television studio being introduced by Groucho Marx.
[ Applause ] -A very funny young man.
-When you have a career of this kind, you will find that one of the pleasures of it is having a show and introducing your heroes on the air.
I'm Dick Cavett.
[ Applause, up-tempo music plays ] ♪♪ I have not really ever done this kind of show before.
Groucho was on my show almost immediately.
Groucho, we're back on the air, so we can't say some of the things we were saying during the commercials.
-This is true.
[ Laughter ] This is an unseen audience.
You never see anybody here.
-It's very weird.
They think we can see them, but we're blinded by the lights.
And if you look very closely, you can make out glasses and eyebrows.
Can you make out anything in the balcony?
-Well, I could if I saw how old she was.
[ Laughter ] I played this dump 40 years ago.
[ Laughter ] This is true.
There was the Palace, the Riverside, and the Colonial.
And this was considered the toughest audience in the United States on the United Booking Office circuit.
-Hasn't changed a bit, then, has it?
-Yes, it has, somewhat.
They used to drop furniture from the second balcony.
[ Laughter ] -Don't give them ideas.
-There were a lot of acts that wouldn't play here because they would shout at the actors on the stage here.
A lot of people wouldn't play here.
In addition to that, it was a cut week.
I mean if you got $1,500 for your act at the Palace, you'd get $1,200 here.
That's because they hit you with chairs.
They needed the extra $300 for loose furniture to throw at the acts.
[ Laughter ] Most talk shows, whatever coast they were on, they would do two weeks on the other coast.
Well, I went west, to California.
Had Groucho on for the second time.
The only unfortunate part of that show is that he had acquired a wig that looked like a dead crow lying sideways on his head.
I couldn't help noticing your hat, which you've won more than once here.
-I wear them because there was a time where the hair was receding so swiftly and I wore a toupee.
And I saw myself on the show once wearing a toupee.
It was ridiculous.
Just a big, greasy-looking smooth spot up there.
There's no point to that.
So I use this hat, actually, to play golf.
-That dreadful wig was from the movie "Skidoo," and he was gifted with the wig when that movie finished.
Because it's Groucho, you get used to it and it doesn't bother you after a while.
-What are you doing out here on the coast?
-I thought you'd never ask.
Some people don't know that you're making a movie again.
Groucho Marx has returned to film.
-Yeah, I went to a movie theater the other day.
No, actually, I did play a small part in that darling of the movie industry, Mr. Preminger.
[ Laughter ] -He's a second cousin to Hitler.
[ Laughter, applause ] But actually, he's a nice fella.
But he has a kind of a distaste for humanity that I... [ Laughter ] No.
I'm all for that.
I don't think there are enough people who hate.
Everybody is too nice, I think.
And Hitler if he's still around.
[ Laughter ] -The network had erased that show and quite a few others before they were caught by us.
But Frank Buxton, an old friend of mine, television personality and television director of the top series on the air, had been on it and had video-reel-to-reel-taped it.
So it survives.
-You know I haven't been paid for the last show I did here?
[ Laughter ] I was just thinking of it while I was outside here.
Do you ever pay on this show?
-How can I apologize for that?
-Well, you can give me the money.
-I hadn't thought of that.
-Seems very simple to me.
-Groucho loved to disrupt.
When he would walk on a show, he would go off to the other side or something.
[ Applause, up-tempo music playing ] Will you welcome the one, the only... [ Cheers and applause ] [ Down-tempo introduction plays ] [ Backup singers harmonizing ] ♪♪ -♪ A mother was chasing her boy 'round the room ♪ ♪ She was chasing her boy 'round the room ♪ -♪ 'Round the room ♪ [ Laughter ] -It's like Yiddish at church here.
♪ And while she was chasing her boy 'round the room ♪ ♪ She was chasing her boy 'round the room ♪ -♪ Oh, Jenny dear ♪ -He loved to sing.
He would sing at the drop of a hat.
How's that for an original expression?
-All the songs that are written over the years in show business are invariably about women, mothers.
You know, there's "Does Your Mother Come From Ireland?"
"My Mother's Eyes," which Jessel wrote, "'M' Is for the Million Things She Gave Me," "My Yiddishe Momme," "Mama," "Mother Machree," "Mammy" -- all those songs.
And they neglect fathers.
In this country, the father is nothing.
He's a jerk.
In most homes -- [ Thud in distance ] There he goes now.
[ Laughter, applause ] You know, there's only two songs that I can recall -- three, actually.
Mary Martin one sang a song called "My Heart Belongs to Daddy."
That was a kind of a sexual song.
-Yes, it was.
-Not incestuous, no.
And then there was a song called "Pop Goes the Weasel."
That's a great song about fathers.
[ Laughter ] Then there was one called "Everybody Works But Father," which was a big hit.
And I'm gonna sing you a chorus of that in English.
And if you like it, I'll sing it again in German, because this song went all over the world -- all over Europe, anyhow.
And this song went... ♪ Everybody works but Father ♪ ♪ He sits around all day ♪ ♪ Feet in front of the fireplace ♪ ♪ Smoking his pipe of clay ♪ ♪ Mother takes in washing ♪ ♪ So does sister Ann ♪ ♪ Everybody works in our house but my old man ♪ Now, that was a big hit.
It was -- [ Applause ] -Was that in the hit parade?
-It wasn't in the hit parade, no.
And then, in German, it goes this way.
♪ Alle schaffen, aber nicht Vater ♪ ♪ Er geht der ganze Tag herum ♪ ♪ Und raucht 'ne verdammte Pfeife ♪ ♪ Das alles geht druber und drum ♪ ♪ Und Mutter nimmt den Vasching ♪ ♪ Und auch die Schwester Ann ♪ ♪ Alle arbeiten in unser Platz ♪ ♪ Aber nicht der alter Mann ♪ [ Cheers and applause ] [ Music builds, ends ] So Harry Ruby, who by a strange coincidence, happens to be down front here in the front.
Stand up, Harry, and turn around, will you?
[ Applause ] [ Drumroll, laughter ] You might as well meet my beautiful wife and daughter.
Stand up and turn around.
[ Applause ] You wouldn't think with a family like that that I would cheat, would you?
[ Laughter, applause ] -Oh.
Uh... -I want to tell you, now that I've given you the -- Already a commercial?
On my show, we used to -- -You don't pay attention to everything you read, do you?
Once we were running down to the end of a segment and I said to the stage manager, "Are we in trouble?"
-I'm gonna sing a song that Harry Ruby -- -Oh.
Will we be in bad trouble if he does?
-Groucho, can I -- -I'm always in bad trouble.
[ Laughter ] -Because he said it in the Groucho Marx voice that we are conditioned to laugh at whether it was a joke or not, you laughed.
-First stage manager I ever saw that could count up to 10.
I thought you did that very well.
-He can do it backwards and forwards.
-Yes, I imagine he could.
[ Laughter ] -It's the tone of your voice that does something to things you say.
He loved to break the mold, and it was always, always funny.
-What are we gonna talk about for the next three days?
-You took a very circuitous route getting here.
You went all around the camera, bothered the cameraman and... -I try to delay seeing you as long as possible.
[ Laughter ] -Oh, I see.
His judgment of how to do that was perfect.
-♪ Today, Father, is Father's Day ♪ ♪ And we're giving you a tie ♪ [ Laughter ] ♪ It's not much, you know ♪ ♪ It is just our way of showing you ♪ ♪ We think you're a regular guy ♪ ♪ You say that it was nice of us to bother ♪ ♪ But it really was a pleasure to fuss ♪ ♪ For, according to our mother, you're our father ♪ [ Laughter ] ♪ And that's good enough for us ♪ [ Applause ] [ Music continues ] Isn't that a beautiful melody?
-And a beautiful sentiment.
"Today, Father, is Father's Day."
Sixteen men in that orchestra.
Nine of them are illegitimate children.
[ Laughter, applause ] ♪♪ -How dare you?
-Nine and a half, including the director here.
[ Laughter ] ♪ The tie that you got didn't cost such a lot ♪ ♪ And we'll give you the same tie next year ♪ [ Laughter ] ♪ You tell us it was nice of us to bother ♪ ♪ But it really was a pleasure to fuss ♪ ♪ For they say a child can only have one father ♪ ♪ And you are the one for us ♪ ♪ Yes, you are the one ♪ -♪ For us ♪ -♪ For us ♪ [ Applause ] [ Music ends, indistinct conversation ] -On the air and off, it began to dawn on me that not only did I know Groucho Marx, but from his letters and phone calls and being with him, I realized that he had a real affection for me.
In fact, on one show, I love the part where he walks on and just embraces me.
One of the writers at the roundtable at the country club, when Groucho went to the bathroom, said, "You know, Groucho really adores you."
And I thought, "I am gonna cry all over this place."
I have to do what we call a lead-out to this commercial.
Or would you like to read it?
-Armour bacon -- You get a little more because it shrinks a little less.
[ Laughter, applause ] How was that reading?
-That was good.
-You know, they may fire you and put me up here just to read the commercials?
-You ever get tired of people copying you?
There are many script directions -- You'll see "Read like Groucho" or "à la or Groucho."
And, you know, it's a style.
It's an individual, definite style.
I regard it as flattering when people do that.
I must tell you one line.
The first show I was in was called "A Man of her Choice."
It was a melodrama.
-And in the end of the first act, there were some papers.
They were very important papers, and the villain had gone to visit her in the hospital, the leading girl.
And just as -- He picks up the papers from under the pillow and he starts to leave, and I walk on.
I was 15 then.
And I pull out a gun and I say, "Stop.
Move one step, and I'll blow you to smithereens.
And the curtain came down.
That's all there is to it.
It's nothing funny.
It was tragic.
[ Laughter ] I was getting $6 a week in this show.
-Weren't you tempted to get a laugh with the line or do something silly?
I didn't know it was funny.
It was funny to the audience.
To me, I was sincere.
-Groucho complained once.
He said, "You know, I can't insult anybody anymore."
And I said, "How do you mean?"
and he said, "Whatever I say, they laugh at it."
I was in a restaurant in California having lunch, and a couple of walked over.
And the guy said, "Hey, Groucho, say something insulting to my wife."
Groucho said, "With a wife like that, you should be able to think of your own insults."
You know, Groucho, when I see the Marx Brothers films -- They come to the New Yorker Theatre, and on weekends, there are lines around the block every time they play there.
And I often wondered if they were ever censored in those days.
-Well, when we made "Night at the Opera" -- that was in 1935 -- I had the most innocuous line in that thing that you -- You know, today I understand there's a play on Broadway where five men come out naked.
-This is true.
It's called "Hair"?
Is that the name of it?
-Is it "Hair"?
-That's certainly a most appropriate name for a play like that.
[ Laughter ] -Oh.
It shows how the morality of the country -- I guess the whole world -- has changed.
Today there isn't anything you can't say on the stage.
The Palace Theatre -- and this applies to this one too -- where the electrician's switchboard is, they used to have a sign.
It was in every one of the first-class theaters.
"Anyone using the words 'hell' or 'damn' will be discharged from the show."
Now, imagine they should go and see that show with these five fellas in it.
[ Laughter ] Have you heard about this show?
-Yes, I have.
-I was going to go, but I saw myself in the mirror one morning... [ Laughter ] ...and I figured, "Why waste five and a half dollars?"
[ Laughter ] Now, when you see people walking around naked in the audience and on the stage, it's a whole different kind of world that moved in.
I don't belong in this world, really.
I'm an incongruity.
-He was talking about the structure of jokes, and he said vaudeville jokes were often interesting and complex in their construction.
Here's an example of a well-constructed joke.
-An actor was playing in vaudeville in a small town, and he got laryngitis.
And he's looking for a doctor.
He didn't know anybody.
He walks along the suburbs of this little town, and he finally comes to a cottage.
And there's a sign outside.
It says Dr. Smith or Brown or something.
And he can't talk very well, and he rings the bell, and a very pretty woman comes to the door, who is the wife of the doctor.
And she opens the door, and he says... [Hoarsely] "Is the doctor in?"
[ Whispering ] And she says, "No.
Come on in."
[ Laughter, applause ] -Of the many times that Groucho was on my show, there's one show we kind of referred to as the golden one.
It was his third time on the show.
You were telling me the other day a lady flirted with you, I think, in your hotel elevator.
-I had one come up to me the other day and say, "Aren't you Groucho Marx?"
And I says, "Yes."
She says, "May I kiss you?"
I says, "Feel free."
I was feeling free at the same time.
[ Laughter, applause ] She invited me up to her room, but I didn't want to go.
She was an old babe.
She was around 24 or something.
[ Laughter ] -Oh, yes.
That can be dangerous.
In the Plaza Hotel once, when I was doing the quiz show, there was a priest in the elevator.
I hope you're not offended by this, because I would tell a story about a rabbi, but it doesn't fit.
Neither did the rabbi, and they finally threw him out of the synagogue.
[ Laughter ] -But what happened?
-Anyhow, this priest said to me -- He says, "Aren't you Groucho Marx?"
And I says, "Yes.
He says, "Gee."
My mother's crazy about you."
And I said says, "Really?
I didn't know you fathers had mothers."
[ Laughter, applause ] -Well, that's a...
It was in prime time.
ABC had a funny schedule then of putting me on -- I think it was Monday, Thursday, and Friday or some crazy schedule like that.
And other things were on the other two days.
In fact, when Groucho came on, I said, "You need a secretary to know when this show is on."
-How have you been?
I've been fine.
It's nice to see you in New York.
-You look fine.
I'm glad you're back on the air.
And the proper time, too.
-Not at 4:00 in the morning.
[ Applause ] -Groucho pointed out that in those days, my show was seen, at his home in California, in the morning.
-Whenever I saw your show last year, I was eating oatmeal.
[ Laughter ] That's what they called prime time in California.
[ Laughter ] That isn't all they called it, either.
[ Laughter ] Well, you look fine, and this show's gonna be a big hit because you're on at 10:00 at night.
A lot of people are gonna watch it.
-I'm on at 9:00 Central time.
-Well, I-I wouldn't go that far.
[ Laughter ] I would go from here to Ossining.
-That's as far as I would go.
Do you know anything about Ossining?
-Not a thing.
If you asked me about Ossining, I would be stumped.
-How long since you've been stumped?
I don't know.
[ Laughter ] -Groucho was hot from the first moment to the end.
He was nostalgic in a fascinating way.
It's odd to see you in New York.
You're usually in Cal-- -It's hard to see me?
Odd to see you in New York.
I don't come here very often anymore.
This is my birthplace.
I was born on 78th Street, between Lexington and Third.
[ Applause ] And then we moved to 93rd Street, and I lived there for about 14 years.
I was there the other day.
They're tearing down part of your old neighborhood.
-This is not just a coincidence, you know.
[ Laughter ] -You couldn't say anything to him or about him on that show that he didn't get a laugh off some way.
Do you find it hard to be funny at any certain time of day?
-No, not if you get a glorious audience like this.
[ Applause ] No.
I can I can be funny most of the time.
-When you made films, you had to get up very, very early.
That's why I objected to making them.
I made 18, 19 pictures.
I mean -- I don't mean that was the year we made them, 1819.
[ Laughter ] -Talking to my dad while I'm in maybe junior high school out in Nebraska, and I had just learned of the Marx Brothers, and I'd read a book about them.
I asked my dad if he knew who they were, of course.
And he said yes.
He said he loved them.
And then he told me more about who the Marx Brothers were, and he said there was one called Zeppo.
So we fade to black, and many years later, I'm doing the show, and I thought it would be kind of a show-biz coup to get Zeppo Marx on the show.
And somebody said, "Oh, yes, you must.
Zeppo will tell you -- He has stories that nobody knows about the Marx Brothers."
And my mouth watered.
And I called him, and I got him in Las Vegas.
"Is this Zeppo Marx?"
And an ordinary sounding voice said, "Yes."
And I said, "This is Dick Cavett, and I'd love to have you on the show."
And he'd say, "Well, I'd do it for $5,000."
And I tried to laugh.
Maybe I did.
Zeppo said over the phone, "Well, I've got a wonderful life here, you know?
I have just about anything I could want.
Wouldn't I have to be out of my mind to leave it and take a schlep to New York City?"
And I said, "We would sure love to have you."
But he never did it.
And we were stupid not to pay it.
Groucho used to say, "In our act, when we had Zeppo, we were worth a million dollars, and without him, we were worth $2 million."
Which brother were you the closest to?
-I think Gummo.
We roomed together.
-Some people, you know, don't know there is a Gummo.
-They know -- -He doesn't know.
-Chico got most of the ladies.
-Chico got most of the girls.
Yes, he always -- -Yeah.
-When he played the piano -- and he had kind of a flirtatious look on his face.
And the dames -- he'd fall down.
They were so crazy about him.
And it took the rest of us four or five weeks what Chico would do in two nights.
He had an enormous amount of charm for women.
-Yeah, they say he was just fatal to women.
-Yes, he was.
-He was fatal to a number of them, too.
And I always envied him because it always took me a long time to get a girl.
I had a very close friend who was getting married, and they gave him a bachelor party when we were playing on our first Broadway show called "I'll Say She Is."
And we went through with the show around 11:00.
So Harpo and I, who were close friends of the groom, had decided then to go to Keens chophouse and surprise everybody there, which we proceeded to do.
We got in the elevator, which was a tiny elevator on that building, and they have no elevator boy around.
You get on the elevator, and you run it yourself.
So Harpo and I got in the elevator, and we each had a suitcase and straw hats.
This was in the summer.
And we got in the elevator, and we we locked it.
And we took off all our clothes, and we put them in these two respective suitcases.
[ Laughter ] Now, the bachelor party was on the fourth floor.
[ Laughter ] And we got to the fourth floor.
We stopped the elevator and swung the door open, and we stepped out there stark naked with straw hats and the suitcases.
[ Laughter ] Unfortunately, we were on the wrong floor.
-My best friend in that family was Harpo.
See, Harpo and I were very close.
People talk about Harpo as if you were a saint.
-He was certainly the nicest.
He was the nicest man I ever met in my life.
-He was a doll.
Harpo was a kind, nice, darling man.
He was -- four lovely children, four adopted children.
-And I one said to Harpo, "How many kids are you going to adopt?"
He says, "As many windows as I have in my house.
So when Susan and I leave, I want a kid in each window to wave to us."
-Oh, that's lovely.
How do you feel about singing?
-You mean me or other people?
Your own or other people.
I'm not crazy about other people's.
I like a few singers.
[ Laughter ] -I thought it might entice you because you have so many great song -- -I love to sing, really.
[ Applause ] -Yeah.
-What do you want me to sing?
-"Lydia" would be great.
"Lydia" would be best.
-Then I have to drop the cigar until I come back.
And keep your filthy hands off it.
I'm not used to this.
Wait a minute.
[ Applause ] Tell them what it is.
This is a song from a picture called "A Day At The Circus," which we did at MGM.
And I sang this in a Pullman car, but -- [ Cheers and applause ] Why are you applauding a Pullman car?
[ Laughter ] There aren't any more Pullman cars.
[ Laughter ] -Groucho was a devotee of Gilbert and Sullivan.
Every week, we would have dinner at Groucho's house, and he'd put on about 12 or 14 of us screenwriters and so on, and he'd put on one of Gilbert and Sullivan's records and sing along with it.
So I knew he loved words and fast-rhyming things.
I had this job to do for Metro, and he was a barker in the circus.
Why, I thought of some Gilbertian way of doing a circus thing for him, and "Lydia" came out.
Of course, it had his type of humor and impertinence.
-♪ Oh, Lydia, oh, Lydia ♪ ♪ Say, have you met Lydia?
♪ ♪ Lydia the tattooed lady ♪ ♪ She has eyes that men adore so ♪ ♪ And a torso even more so ♪ ♪ Lydia, oh!
Lydia, that encyclopedia ♪ ♪ Oh, Lydia, the queen of tattoo ♪ ♪ On her back is the battle of Waterloo ♪ ♪ Beside it, the wreck of the Hesperus, too ♪ ♪ And proudly above waves, the red, white, and blue ♪ ♪ You can learn a lot from Lydia ♪ -♪ La, la, la, la, la, la ♪ [ Applause ] -♪ When her robe is unfurled, she will show you the world ♪ ♪ If you step up and tell her where ♪ ♪ For a dime, you can see Kankakee or Paris ♪ ♪ Or Washington crossing the Delaware ♪ -♪ La, la, la, la, la, la ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Oh, Lydia, oh, Lydia ♪ ♪ Say, have you met Lydia?
♪ ♪ Oh, Lydia, the tattooed lady ♪ ♪ When her muscles start relaxin' ♪ ♪ Up the hill comes Andrew Jackson ♪ ♪ Lydia, oh, Lydia, that encyclopedia ♪ ♪ Oh, Lydia, the champ of them all ♪ ♪ For two bits, she will do a mazurka in jazz ♪ ♪ With a view of Niagara that nobody has ♪ ♪ And on a clear day, you can see Alcatraz ♪ ♪ You can learn a lot from Lydia ♪ -♪ La, la, la... -♪ La, la, la, la, la, la ♪ [ Laughter and applause ] ♪♪ -♪ Come along and see Buffalo Bill with his lasso ♪ ♪ Just a little classic by Mendel Picasso ♪ ♪ Here's Captain Spaulding, exploring the Amazon ♪ ♪ Here's Godiva, but with her pajamas on ♪ -♪ La, la, la, la, la, la ♪ ♪♪ -♪ Oh, Lydia, oh, Lydia ♪ ♪ Say, have you met Lydia?
♪ ♪ Oh, Lydia, the champ of them all ♪ ♪ She once swept an admiral clear off his feet ♪ ♪ The ships on her hips made his heart skip a beat ♪ ♪ And now the old boy's in command of the fleet ♪ ♪ For he went and married Lydia ♪ ♪ I said Lydia ♪ -♪ He said Lydia ♪ -♪ I said Lydia ♪ -♪ He said Lydia ♪ -♪ Hurray ♪ [ Cheers and applause ] -Some of the lines were considered a little bit racy, weren't they?
-Yes, there were risqué.
-But which ones?
I mean, surely "when her muscles start relaxing, up the hill comes Andrew Jackson" isn't -- -Yes.
We were asked to cut that out.
That's why I had to write that third stanza.
I had to write a third stanza to save us from the censor.
-You had to marry her off in the end?
-I had to marry her.
-[ Laughs ] -♪ She once swept an admiral clear off his feet ♪ ♪ The ships on her hips made his heart skip a beat ♪ ♪ And now the old boy's in command of the fleet ♪ ♪ For he went and married Lydia ♪ That's right.
Now, that made it kosher.
[ Applause ] -Groucho, nobody ever explains why the films were named what they were.
Why "Coconuts," why "Duck Soup," why "Animal Crackers"?
-Well, "Coconuts" was named because the fella who produced it was Sam Harris.
-And he used -- [ Laughter ] He used to go to Florida every winter, and then he would write his unfunny postcards while we were knocking our brains out, working on Broadway, while he was down in Florida, drinking mint juleps.
So the first one was called "Coconuts," and it was a lot about Florida, Miami.
-Why "Duck Soup," then, "Animal Crackers"?
-"Duck Soup," there really was no logical reason for that.
[ Laughter ] But, you know, it was a comedy.
It was about a war.
It wasn't as serious as the one we're still having.
It's a strange feeling to see it now, because -- -It's a strange feeling I got yesterday when looking at the front page and saw Johnson and Nixon walking towards the library, and they looked so proud and happy.
What great things they have done.
Johnson lengthened the war to six years.
Nixon has started three wars since he's in there.
[ Laughter and applause ] -I didn't get to ask you about the rumor that you were running for governor, or somebody asked you to run for governor or something like that.
-Fella from California, they wanted me to run for governor.
This is pre- Ree-gan -- or Ray-gan, he prefers.
And I asked them how much they paid.
-And they said it was $35,000 a year.
Well, at that time, I was getting $16,000 a week for doing the quiz show.
So I tell them, "Unless they get raises to that sum, forget about it."
[ Laughter ] It's a true story.
[ Laughter ] You don't want me to sing anymore, huh?
-Oh, I love when you sing.
-You know, if I sing... you haven't got any time to talk.
And I like to hear you talk.
-Oh, listen, I'm here every night.
[ Applause ] -I'm not.
[ Laughter ] -If you had it to do over, would you do anything different?
There were rumors that you once wanted to be other things besides a performer.
I wanted to be a doctor at one time.
[ Laughter ] No, really.
I wanted to be a doctor.
But that was before Medicare.
I wouldn't do it now.
[ Laughter ] In those days, the doctor could keep all the money he made.
Now he keeps about 20%.
But what they've done, the doctors, they've raised the price of everything.
So you were gonna get your leg sawed off, it used to cost maybe $85.
It'd be about $140 now.
-It's hardly worth it, is it?
-No, it's hardly worth it.
[ Laughter ] -For $200, I'd seriously consider it.
[ Laughter ] Or both legs.
Then I can say I haven't got a leg to stand on.
People are so grateful to me that I had Groucho on a number of times.
You could see a little bit of failing from about halfway in his appearances to the last four or five or so.
I got perhaps the last of Groucho's prime.
-I want to sing a song that was written by Irving Berlin during the First World War.
He's supposed to be watching the show tonight.
-Yes, he is.
He told me that he was gonna watch it tonight.
I don't know the song well, but I'll fake my way through it.
-Just for Berlin.
-♪ Down below ♪ ♪ Down below ♪ ♪ Sat the devil, talking to his son ♪ ♪ Who wanted to go up above ♪ ♪ Up above ♪ ♪ He cried, "It's getting too warm for me down here ♪ ♪ And so, and so ♪ ♪ I'm going up on...where I can have a lot of fun" ♪ ♪ The devil simply shook his head ♪ ♪ And answered to his son ♪ ♪ "You stay down here where you belong ♪ ♪ The folks who live above you ♪ ♪ They don't know right from wrong ♪ ♪ To please their kings, they've all gone off to war ♪ ♪ And not a-one of them knows what they're fighting for ♪ ♪ "Way up above, they say ♪ ♪ That I'm a devil and I'm bad ♪ ♪ But their kings up there are bigger devils than your dad ♪ ♪ They're breaking the hearts of mothers ♪ ♪ They're making butchers out of brothers ♪ ♪ You'll find more hell up there than there is down here below" ♪ [ Applause ] -Thank you.
Good night, Irving Berlin, who I consider the greatest songwriter America's had.
And one night, he had come to California, and they gave him a big dinner, ASCAP -- that's the musicians' organization.
And I had arranged with Harry Ruby, a close friend of mine, that I would sing this song that I just sang.
And when I got through singing, Irving Berlin called me over to the table.
And he said, "Groucho, if you ever have the urge to sing that song again, will you come to me and tell me that you want to sing it?
And I'll give you $100 for every time you don't sing this song."
[ Laughter and applause ] It's a true story.
-The one sort of person that Groucho you might say liked best were writers.
-I was never much interested in acting.
I always wanted to be a writer.
-Is it true you stole a printing press at the age of 10, or is that just a biographical -- -Yes.
No, no, this is true.
And when I was about 10 years old, I wanted to be a writer, and I had nothing to write with.
I had a lead pencil, but I wanted a printing press.
Now, they had them on sale at Bloomingdale's for $1.98.
They were about this size, and they had letters.
And, you know, you'd pick out a letter -- "H," "G," whatever letter you wanted.
And I stuck it under my coat.
And a floor worker came along, and he saw a peculiar bulge.
[ Laughter ] And he says, "What do you got under there?"
And I said, "Nothing."
He reached in and pulled out this printing press, and he got -- a cop came over and arrested me.
And old man Bloomingdale came along around this time, and he says, "What are you doing there?
What's the policeman for?"
He says, "Well, this kid stole a printing press."
He says, "Let him go.
All the kids steal in this neighborhood.
Let him go."
And they did.
They let me go, but they didn't give me the printing press.
[ Laughter ] You know, some years later, one of the Bloomingdale family had a play opening in Philadelphia, and it was a real stinker.
[ Laughter ] And George Kaufman, who was known as the architect of the theater at that time -- he was invited by the Bloomingdales' son to come down to Philadelphia and look at this show and see if he had any suggestions for fixing it.
And after the show was over and the curtain was down, Bloomingdale came down in the audience where Kaufman was setting and says, "George, what about the show?
What should we do about it?"
He says, "I tell you what you do."
He says, "Close the show and keep the store open at nights."
[ Laughter and applause ] He was a genuine writer, a genuine intellect.
He was such a literate man, such a well-read man.
His grammar, his language was artful and perfect.
-If I'd have gone to college, I'd have been a writer much faster in my life and probably a much better one, because I wasn't sure of grammar or English or anything else.
-You're better educated than a lot of college people.
You know that.
-I'm not sure of that, no.
-I think you -- 'cause you've read all your life, and you've made a point of revealing yourself.
-Yes, I have read a lot.
I was one of the first contributors to the New Yorker magazine under my name, which is Julius Henry Marx.
I was much prouder of that than I was in any play I'd ever been in, or in Vaudeville or movies or anyplace else.
I always wanted to be a writer.
I hate to think of you being solely a writer, though, because then Captain Spaulding would have been played by Lloyd Nolan or something, and it wouldn't be the same.
Groucho pretty much avoided the legendary Algonquin Round Table of witty people.
It didn't appeal to him, somehow.
I can sort of remember his saying, "They often came with prepared lines."
And he said, "It was sort of like opening an oyster and finding a cultured pearl."
-You're very highly regarded among the literati.
It's not that you write well for an actor, but that you write well for anybody.
-I wrote for an actor a few weeks ago, but he didn't come on.
[ Laughter ] No, I... Well, I'm a guess what you'd call a self-made man, which is a sad description of a man.
You know, I didn't finish public school.
-One of Groucho's greatest honors was when the Library of Congress asked for his collected letters.
That meant everything to him.
-Do you know that I have a book in the Congressional Library in Washington?
Did you know that?
-Well -- -It's a book of letters that I wrote.
-Yeah, your book of letters.
-The letters that were -- You're included in the letters, and Fred Allen and Thurber and T.S.
Eliot and Benchley and practically every notable in America.
-I didn't actually get into the book, but I have letters from you.
I just missed the book.
-I have letters from you, which are much better than mine.
I may do another book on your letters.
[ Laughter ] -But I was flattered.
I was on one of the night shows.
I don't want to mention the name of the show.
It was the Johnny Carson show.
[ Laughter ] I had mentioned that I had written a book with all these notable people on.
And the next day, I got a letter from the head of the Congressional Library in Washington, and they asked me if they could have the original letters, which I sent to them.
And if anytime you're in Washington, you go to the Congressional Library, and you can read my book there.
And it's two cents a day, by the way.
[ Laughter ] This is true.
I'm probably the only actor in the last 40, 50 years that had a book in the Congressional Library, and I'm very proud of that.
And you know what they say?
Self-praise is no praise.
Well, let's forget this and get on to something dirty or obscene.
[ Laughter ] Is it the same thing?
-It used to be.
Speaking of letters, I've had three letters from your friend Harry Ruby in as many days.
He's a congenital idiot and... [ Laughter ] And a compulsive letter writer.
Harry Ruby is the great songwriter, also.
I thought I'd slip that in.
-He's a great friend of mine, too.
And he's written virtually all the songs that I sing.
"Lydia" is one of the few songs that I sing that he didn't write.
I was driving Groucho Marx and Harry Ruby, his great friend, home from dinner in Beverly Hills.
And driving my rental car, I cursed the fact that I wasn't wearing a microphone and a tape recorder, because I could hear Harry Ruby and Groucho Marx talking, talking, talking.
It was all good.
Here's the one I remember best.
I think we stopped at a stoplight on Sunset.
It's dark, after dinnertime.
And Groucho looks around, and he says, "Oh, there's an apartment where your son lives, Harry."
And Harry Ruby said, "No, it isn't, Groucho."
He said, "Yeah, your son lives in that apartment house."
And Harry Ruby says, "He does not, Groucho.
He lives way over on the other side of Wilshire Boulevard," or something.
And Groucho said, "He doesn't live there?"
"Well, that's funny.
I ran into him last week, and he never mentioned not living there."
I heard that you went to the theater last night and saw yourself, so -- -Don't change the subject.
What did you have to eat in Washington?
[ Laughter and applause ] A couple of shrimp, some -- -Anyone I know.
[ Laughter and applause ] -No, but a couple of meatballs asked about you.
[ Laughter ] That's your style.
You see, I never would have said that if I hadn't heard you talk that way.
You've influenced a lot of people.
That's kind of ironical, that you sit here and pull a bad joke and then blame me for it.
[ Laughter and applause ] There came a time when inevitably a musical was written and staged and on Broadway about the Marx Brothers.
There's a show opening on Broadway called "Minnie's Boys."
Shelley Winters -- great actress Shelley Winters was cast as Mother Marx.
-And I've always wanted to be in a picture with Groucho, and I never -- the closest I've made it is playing his mother in a musical.
-How does he feel about you being his mother?
-How do you feel about me being your mother?
-Well, I haven't felt you in some time.
[ Laughter and applause ] -Groucho, tell me, truly, really, how did Minnie, your mother, handle all these boys who were obviously a handful?
-Completely ignored us.
[ Laughter ] She put us out in the street and let us play, that's all.
And when we got hungry, we went in the house.
-But when you all went on the road -- -She was busy, my mother.
-What was she doing?
-Well, she had to clean the house and cook a pot of bean soup and smoked tongue or whatever we were having, depending on how much money my father brought home.
And he rarely brought home any money, 'cause he was the world's worst tailor.
He never would use a tape measure.
He was too proud.
[ Laughter ] That's not a joke.
-If he had a customer in there -- Would you mind standing?
Can you stand?
[ Laughter ] Come out here.
-He plays Harpo.
-Alright, standing up.
[ Laughter ] "Okay, that's fine.
I got you."
[ Laughter ] Three weeks later, the suit would come.
One pants leg would be up to here.
[ Laughter ] Would be a mini-pants.
And what are -- the other expressions are?
And neither the coat would fit.
Usually didn't have buttons.
And, you see, the big problem here is that Chico was a congenital gambler and compulsive.
He couldn't avoid gambling.
When Chico died, he didn't have a penny.
As a matter of fact, the last three or four pictures we made, we had to do it to keep Chico back in money again at MGM, because he never had any money.
He was either at the racetrack or in a crap game or someplace.
He had no sense about money.
He spent it as he got it.
Now, I don't know, he may have been better off than we are, because I've saved my money.
That's why I'm on the show for nothing.
[ Laughter ] He had me go over to a hotel and pick up a coat to take to the actor Lewis J. Stadlen to play Groucho in.
[ Laughter ] And it was the coat from the movies.
And I folded it carefully over my lap and worshiped it all the way to where I delivered it.
-I must tell you a brief story which isn't in the show.
There was a fella on First Avenue, around 88th Street or something in New York, that had a confectionery store.
And he was a devout Catholic, and he was getting a suit made by my father for Easter, which was the following day.
I mean, the suit was finished, and he had empowered me to take the package over to the confectionery store, and he was so delighted to see me.
And he gave me a chocolate soda, and I was sitting on the counter there with that nickel chocolate soda.
I was having a wonderful time.
And finally, this confectioner, whose name was Stuckfish -- You wouldn't believe this.
[ Laughter ] This was his name.
And he came out and bellowed as loud as he could.
He says, "Where's the pants?
Where's -- There's no pants here."
And what happened was that Chico had opened this package the night before and taken the pants out and hawked them on 88th Street.
[ Laughter ] -Groucho was on again five days later.
We found out he was still in town.
-Next guest is an actress and a singer who likes to do Broadway musicals best of all.
Since there's not much to do on Broadway anymore, she stays home and takes care of her two kids.
One of them is legitimate.
[ Laughter and applause ] Hey, will you get your hand out of the way?
She has two kids and her husband, the Broadway, film librettist, Adolph Green, and more than occasionally, she drops in on television shows.
Would you please, for the love of heaven, welcome the rapturous and beautiful and sexy Ms. Phyllis Newman?
[ Applause ] -Yes.
-I just one want to tell you... that's the worst introduction I ever heard.
-Well, I have worse ones than that, which I'm holding up.
-Can I cut in?
-Do you still love me after all these years?
-Yes, I do.
-Well, then you can go over and sit down.
-Wherever you want me.
-In Dave Foster's spot.
[ Laughter ] Because it's very cold there.
-At a party after that show, I was standing next to Phyllis Newman, and a man came over, and Phyllis introduced me to him and then said, "He wrote 'The Rothschilds.'"
And Groucho said, "Did they answer?"
-He's a professional writer.
Which is more than I can say for the rest of this group.
[ Laughter ] -Oh, I don't know.
I thought you you've written five books, haven't you?
-Yes, I have.
-And Dick was a professional writer.
-Well, I was a comedy writer.
That's not the same as writing.
I think it's the hardest form of writing there is.
-But it comes -- -You bet it is.
-I'd had Groucho on with Truman Capote.
And you said earlier that you'd be a better writer if you had gone to college.
-This is true.
-I want to hear if you agree.
-I didn't finish high school.
-I didn't finish public school.
-I went to PS-86 at 96th Street and Lexington Avenue.
-He had on that unique golf hat.
-You want to try the hat?
I don't need a hat with three balls.
I'm just an average person.
[ Laughter ] -That's explaining it clearly.
He certainly surprised everyone, I guess, by proposing marriage to Truman Capote.
You're a single man.
You pay a much bigger income tax than if you're a married man.
-I didn't realize that.
-Well, it's true.
-So there are advantages to being gay?
-That's about the only one that I can think of.
When you're home alone at night in a single bed, it doesn't help any.
-But if you have a companion with you who will listen to reason, I think there is money to be made in income taxes.
[ Laughter ] Have you ever thought of getting married and splitting the tax?
-Well, you find somebody for me to marry, and I'll consider it, okay?
-I would marry you in a minute if you write another hit book like you did about Kansas.
Did you read "In Cold Blood"?
Of course I did.
-It was wonderful.
-Will you consider this an engagement?
[ Laughter and applause ] You're a little old for me, though.
-[ Laughs ] -That's true.
I can't give you what you're entitled to.
-The best years of your life.
[ Laughter ] -At one point, early 70s, a young woman named Erin Fleming came into Groucho's life.
Will you please welcome a very good friend of Groucho's, Ms. Erin Fleming?
This was a controversial thing, because she got a lot out of being with Groucho, and she was an ambitious actress.
Woody Allen, as a friend of Groucho, has used her in one of his movies, and she's dead -- suicide -- years later.
But Groucho certainly enjoyed being in front of an audience even at that age.
But he was certainly frightening backstage, and sometimes he had to take a Ritalin.
You and Groucho are very good friends.
-I'm Groucho's secretary.
[ Audience murmuring ] Now, let me ask you this.
-This is the euphemism of the year.
[ Laughter and applause ] -It was a strange relationship, because he was what, 50 years older than she was or more.
You remember your first conversation together where you and Erin first met?
-The first thing she said to me, if you have any notion that I would marry, you, forget it.
And I said the same thing to her.
-And we've been very close friends ever since.
-Some thought she was a blessing.
Others hated her guts, thought she was gonna kill him by dragging him up and out into the public and as they saw it promoting her own self and career.
We did kind of a documentary of Groucho and bits from the show and so forth, and I thought it worked beautifully.
And the phone rang, and it was Groucho.
and I said, "Did you see it, Groucho?"
And he said, "I want $16,000."
I said, "I'm sorry?"
"I want $16,000."
It's possible that someone had prompted this, but Erin -- you got to give it to her, got him up, got him dressed, got him to shows, got him to the Oscars.
It's true that she did all that, and I think she was hard on him, and sometimes life-threateningly some say who were there.
I don't think I could ever forget the night I introduced Groucho at Carnegie Hall, remembering complaints that he made backstage about having to go on.
He was very, very frail, but you could tell that he wanted to.
What is Groucho really like?
[ Laughter ] -Why do you think they call him Groucho?
-Well, is he irascible and all of that?
-He's very lovable and easy to work for.
-On the subject of Erin dragging Groucho at times when it was excessive, the premiere of "The Poseidon Adventure."
-Here's an unmistakable face, despite the fact that he's in a Santa Claus costume tonight.
Groucho, I'd like you to introduce to us this lovely gal that you're with tonight.
She really is.
-You want me to introduce you to her?
-[ Laughs ] -Yeah, I'd like to know her.
-He'd like to know her.
-Groucho was ill, but he and Erin appeared there.
She was the only one well enough to go.
-I shouldn't be here at all tonight because I should be at home in bed.
-Once I went up to Groucho's and Erin's room in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in New York and we chatted, Erin excused herself to smoke a joint in the bedroom and then came back, and we chatted some more, and then I had to leave.
And as I left and I said, "Goodbye, Groucho," I felt when this door finishes closing, it might be the last time I ever see Captain Spaulding.
And it was.
-He had achieved everything that I wanted to achieve, you know, as a comedian.
But he still got old, and he still aged, and there was nothing special was gonna happen because he had achieved this enormous artistic accomplishment.
-And yet he died.
-And yet he died.
I remember saying to you one day when we were both annoyed at the skimpy Time obituary on Groucho and wrote letters about who do you have to be to get something, a longer obit then -- -And what does it mean?
What does it mean anyhow?
I mean, is that a big deal, to get a long obituary?
-I'm Harry Reasoner, here tonight with Dick Cavett, to remember the man with a funny mustache and the big cigar he waved like a wand -- this magician who could turn just about anything or anyone into jelly and belly laughs.
-I wrote for Groucho, worked with him, and, incredibly to me, came to be his friend.
It's hard for me to believe he's gone.
When I first met Groucho, I was 25.
He was 70.
But it seemed to me that we were the same age.
And he was a guest on my show many times in the early '70s.
And once, when we talked about the fun we'd had doing those shows, Groucho said, "Well, let's do another one, only leave me out of it."
-I remember that you introduced him to me at Lindy's restaurant.
I had morbid thoughts, because, you know, he was then quite old, really, and not in great shape.
And I was very struck as we were sitting opposite him in Lindy's that he reminded me of kind of a Jewish uncle in my family, kind of a wisecracking Jewish uncle with a sarcastic wit.
Not that different from many of the characters that turn up at a wedding or a funeral or a bar mitzvah in a Jewish family.
You know, just more gifted, clearly.
-I'm generally admired you know?
-That's from Gilbert and Sullivan.
-I wonder if you ever noticed how complicated and tricky and elaborate some of the lyrics are in Groucho's songs of Captain Spaulding and all the others.
Part of that points to the fact that he was -- and you would assume this if you knew him a little -- a great fan of wordsmiths and particularly Gilbert and Sullivan.
-♪ As someday it may happen that a victim must be found ♪ ♪ I've got a little list, I've got a little list ♪ ♪ Of society offenders who might well be underground ♪ ♪ And who never would be missed, who never would be missed ♪ ♪ There's the pestilential nuisances ♪ ♪ Who write for autographs ♪ ♪ All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs ♪ ♪ All children who are up in dates ♪ ♪ And floor you with 'em flat ♪ ♪ All persons who on shaking hands ♪ ♪ Shake hands with you like that ♪ ♪ And all third persons who on spoiling tête-á-têtes insist ♪ ♪ They'd none of 'em be missed, they'd none of 'em be missed ♪ -♪ He's got 'em on the list, he's got 'em on the list ♪ ♪ And they'll none of 'em be missed ♪ ♪ They'll none of 'em be missed ♪ -Mr. Cavett is an old Gilbertian scholar.
-No, you are.
-And he insists on singing this song.
-Oh, come on now!
You roped me into doing this.
-When did I rope you?
-I almost doubt that it's true that I got to sing with Groucho on a couple of occasions.
And to sing with him... he sort of carried you [laughs] like a great singer does.
-♪ On a tree by a river a little tom-tit ♪ ♪ Sang, "Willow, titwillow, titwillow" ♪ ♪ And I said to him, "Dicky-bird, why do you sit ♪ ♪ Singing, "Willow, titwillow, titwillow" ♪ ♪ "Is it weakness of intellect, birdie?
", I cried ♪ ♪ "Or a rather tough worm in your little inside?"
♪ ♪ With a shake of his poor, little head, he replied ♪ ♪ "Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow" ♪ [ Speaks indistinctly ] -Mm.
[ Cheers and applause ] You asked me this.
-Do you want me to -- -See, it's hard for me to get my voice up as high as yours.
♪ He slapped at his chest as he sat on that bough ♪ -Real highbrow stuff here.
-♪ Singing, "Willow, titwillow, titwillow" ♪ You're not with me.
♪ And a cold perspiration bespangled ♪ Thank you.
♪ His brow ♪ ♪ Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow ♪ [ Laughter ] ♪ He sobbed and he sighed, and a gurgle he gave ♪ ♪ Then he plunged himself into the billowy wave ♪ ♪ And an echo arose from the suicide's grave ♪ [ Deep voice ] ♪ Oh, willow ♪ [ Laughter and applause ] ♪ Titwillow ♪ -Frightened the hell out of me.
[ Laughter and applause ] ♪ Now, I feel just as sure as I'm sure that my name ♪ ♪ Isn't Willow, titwillow, titwillow ♪ ♪ That 'twas blighted affection that made him exclaim ♪ ♪ "Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow" ♪ ♪ And if you remain callous and obdurate, I... ♪ Just a moment.
Is there anyone in the audience that knows what obdurate means?
[ Laughter ] Is there really?
No, I'm serious about this.
What's the point of singing a song?
-What does it mean?
Who said that?
One literate person.
[ Laughter ] Okay, now continue.
[ Laughter ] ♪ And if you remain callous and obdurate, I... ♪ ♪ Shall perish as he did, and you will know why ♪ ♪ Though I probably shall not exclaim when I die ♪ -♪ "Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow" ♪ [ Applause ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Barks ] ♪♪