A few days ago, I made a pun that was not received with uniform enthusiasm notwithstanding the fact that it’s a classic: Groucho makes it in the Old Barn scene in Monkey Business. I was searching YouTube to look for that1, when I ran across something much better.

As you probably know2, the Marx Brothers started out in vaudeville as a completely forgettable musical act, transitioned into comedy, and in what at the time was a bold career move, in 1924 did their first Broadway stage show, a revue called I’ll Say She Is!3, followed by the musical comedies Coconuts and Animal Crackers. The last two of these were later made into films, but the first is known only from what people said and wrote about it.4

But, it turns out, they filmed a version of its first sketch as a promotion for Monkey Business. It starts out as a recognizable comedy routine, as the brothers enter one by one and do the same imitation5, each in his own style, and descends from there into complete mayhem. Which from everything I’ve read, is exactly what they were like on stage, far too inventive, driven, and disrespectful of anyone who wasn’t their brother to stick to someone else’s script.

And here it is:

Image by twm1340 Serendipity!

  1. Nope, not there []
  2. Or would know, if the schools did a better job of teaching the important stuff []
  3. Whose most famous sketch features Groucho as Napoleon about to leave for the front, with Josephine’s numerous lovers popping out from under the beds every time he leaves and jumping back under them every time he’s forgotten something and comes back. Its most famous joke comes when he hears the national anthem: “The Mayonnaise! The army must be dressing.” []
  4. Much of that is “The funniest thing they ever did”, but who know how much of that is nostalgia? []
  5. Yes, the same one that ended up in Monkey Business []

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Mike has been a software engineer far longer than he would like to admit. He has strong opinions on baseball, software, science fiction, comedy, contract bridge, and European history, any of which he's willing to share with almost no prompting whatsoever. ...more →

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