||<< Page 1 | Page 2|
Little did he know, less than 10 years
later he'd be writing movies for those guys. And there's a
story in the book describing the day Groucho got sick and couldn't
make a shoot for “Go West” promotional posters and Irv was made up
and played the guy. The photograph is a hoot because Harpo and Chico
drop clues in it implying that this mustachioed young fellow – Irv
was 20 years younger than the brothers – is surely an imposter.
featured Jackie Cooper and Cleo, a talking basset hound. And they remained friends for another 40 years after that. Irv did standup at those various Hillcrest events and at every roast for Burns, whether George was reaching 85, 90, 95 years old. Irv played me an amazing audiocassette that I'd like to get on the worldwide web for folks to hear: At Irv’s wedding to Norma in 1983, these same kings of comedy fought each other for the microphone, each trying to out-emcee the other, telling hilarious Yiddish stories, Hollywood stories, New York stories. George Burns sang a couple songs. It's like a classic comedy LP never pressed, you know?
Irv told the telemarketers he couldn't afford the product, the $19.95 or whatever it was, “so just send me the shipping and handling.”¯ I thought it sounded like something Groucho would say: Well then just send the shipping and handling.
Anyway, Irv explained the difference between his friends Groucho and George this way: “George Burns had his own style. A style I liked. He was impish and had an attitude about life: he didn't take it seriously. I don't know of anybody else quite like George Burns. He had a long history in vaudeville; when I was a kid, I saw Burns and his wife Gracie Allen perform at Keith's Fordham Theater in my native Bronx. George Burns told outrageous lies and told you they were lies. Everything related to show business. Once after he rebounded from a case of pneumonia, I asked him if he had ever during his hospital stay thought he might never get out alive. He blew smoke in my face and said: 'I knew I wouldn't die because I'm booked to play the Palladium in October.' Typically George.
“Groucho was not necessarily that kind of
fellow. Different natures. I loved the nihilism of Groucho. Fucking
the big shots. I'm a complainer and a put-downer and Groucho was my
alter ego. The truth is, Groucho hated being an actor. He wanted to
be a writer. And whereas Harpo was upbeat, Groucho was quite
pensive. He was interested in politics, by which I mean he had a
contempt for most politicians. He was a Roosevelt Democrat.
But Groucho was also murder. He used to do something that I never
quite understood: when dealing with strangers, he'd create danger in
order to make me laugh. Only me. Destroy a situation to put me in
peril! An audience of one. He couldn't resist. Maybe it was because
I was twenty-four and he was in his forties? No, he was just a
dangerous companion. A menace. His tongue was an unguided missile.
Worse than in his movies.”¯
Oh, and Irv also told
me they were both liars.
honored him in the fall of 2007. He had some younger friends who
admired him and he was very excited about new media, even though he
couldn't see to use a computer. He made it onto YouTube and received
thousands of hits during the 2007 WGA strike because of one of those
friends, Nell Scovell, a writer I knew from SPY Magazine who went on
to create “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” – Nell came up with a
hilarious idea and wrote the
video where Irv
ranted against the producers and studios and raved about his