Mike Hall: A few excellent comebacks

Contact Mike Hall at mhall19@cox.net.

As a collector of quotations, I often try to find the origin of a quote.

 

In one book of quotations was an excerpt of a longer humorous essay that had been published originally in Playboy magazine. The date of issue was listed, so I was determined to find a copy.

I found that Dean’s Used Book Store had a great collection of back issues.

As I was leaving the store, I was hit by the weird realization that I had just bought a Playboy magazine to read an article. (As I recall, I also read the cartoons and peeked at the impressive photography.)

That incident came to mind as I was looking through a folder of clippings from various books and periodicals. I found the Playboy article that was at the center of the story above, but I also found another one I enjoyed.

It was written by John Blumenthal and was titled “Great Comeback Lines.” Here are some of my favorites:

— While delivering a speech, Abraham Lincoln was rudely interrupted by a heck­ler, who said, “Do I have to pay a dollar to see the ugliest man in the country?”

“I’m afraid, sir,” replied Lincoln, “that you were charged a dollar for that privi­lege – but I have it for nothing.”

— A particularly long-winded speaker was delivering a rather boring speech on the floor of the House of Commons when he noticed that Winston Churchill was dozing. “Must you fall asleep while I’m speaking?” the orator demanded.

“No,” replied Churchill, keeping his eyes shut. “It’s purely voluntary.”

— Heywood Broun (American journalist) despised ghostwritten political speeches. He once attended a press function featuring President Warren G. Hard­ing as the keynote speaker. Harding delivered a speech that was so out of character that, once the applause had died down, Broun leaped to his feet, shouting, “Author! Author!”

— Professor Robert Tyrrell of Trinity College in Dublin (who taught Oscar Wilde), while holding forth one day, was interrupted by a rude fellow who, in the midst of a sentence, asked, “Where’s the lavatory?”

To which Tyrrell replied, “First door on the right marked GENTLEMEN, but don’t let that deter you.”

— The actress Jean Harlow had a habit of pronounc­ing Noel Coward’s first name Noel, with the accent on the second syllable. When Coward could stand it no longer, he said to her, “Miss Harlow, the E in Noel is as silent as the T in Harlow.”

— Dorothy Parker was told over drinks that Clare Boothe Luce had a habit of being kind to her inferiors.

Replied Miss Parker, “Oh? And where does she find them?”

— During an operatic recital at the White House, while the nervous soprano was doing her best to please the First Family, one of the guests turned to President Calvin Coolidge and asked, “What do you think of the singer’s execution?”

“I’m all for it,” Coolidge replied.

— The politician Al Smith was delivering a campaign speech when a heckler in the audience yelled, “Tell them all you know, Al, it won’t take long.”

“I’ll tell them all we both know,” said Smith, “and it won’t take any longer.”

Contact Mike Hall at mhall19@cox.net.

 

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