|(Stages of Laughter)|
The older Henny Youngman got, the more religious he became. This resulted in his being bar mitzvahed for the very first time while in his 70s.
Youngman characteristically gave an ironic explanation for the long delay. Leslie Katz of Jweekly.com explains that 66 years before Youngman's Atlantic City bar mitzvah, his original one had been scheduled. However, his "cousin, a young girl" died at that time. He therefore once said, "And who wants to have a bar mitzvah when something like that happens?"
Nevertheless, Youngman had long been known for his expert brand of "Jewish humor." One such joke (lengthy by typical
Youngman standards) goes like this: A guy says to a Rabbi, 'You have such a small congregation. How much do you make a week?' The Rabbi says, 'Six dollars a week.' He says, 'How can you live on that?' The Rabbi says, 'If I weren't a very religious man, and didn't fast three days a week, I'd starve to death!'
Having been born to Russian Jewish immigrants Yonkel Yungman and Olga Chetkin in 1906, Youngman came by his style of humor naturally. The family first settled in London, but later moved to Brooklyn, New York. He remained a New Yorker for most of his life.
Shortly before his death at age 92, Youngman was still performing his famous one-liners for adoring crowds.
He told this one to a San Francisco audience during one of his last gigs: I was in San Francisco once and
opened up my hotel drawer to get some underwear and found Tony Bennett's heart.
Copyright August 5, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke All Rights Reserved