12 Most Hilarious Borscht Belt Comedians

12 Most Hilarious Borscht Belt Comedians

 
 
When I was a little kid, I used to beg my mom to stay up for Johnny Carson because he had all the funniest comedians. Most of them were Jewish, and you could bet that they had worked the Borscht Belt in the Catskill Mountains, aka the Jewish Alps.

Here are some of their best lines.

1. Don Rickles

Show business is my life. When I was a kid I sold insurance, but nobody laughed.

2. Groucho Marx

I don’t have a photograph, but you can have my footprints. They’re upstairs in my socks.

3. Rodney Dangerfield

It’s been a rough day. I got up this morning, put a shirt on and a button fell off. I picked up my briefcase and the handle came off. I’m afraid to go to the bathroom.

4. George Burns

I love to sing, and I love to drink scotch. Most people would rather hear me drink scotch.

5. Joan Rivers

I hate housework. You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.

6. Sid Caesar

The guy who invented the first wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented the other three, he was a genius.

7. Henny Youngman

Getting on a plane, I told the ticket lady, “Send one of my bags to New York, send one to L.A., and send one to Miami.” She said, “We can’t do that.” I told her, “But you did it last week.”

8. Red Buttons

Ninety isn’t old. You’re old when your doctor doesn’t X-ray you anymore. He just holds you up to the light.

9. Shecky Greene

Frank Sinatra saved my life once. Five guys were beating me up outside a hotel in Vegas. Frank walked by and said, “That’ll be enough, boys.”

10. Alan King

Marriage is nature’s way of keeping us from fighting with strangers.

11. Milton Berle

A man is hit by a car while crossing a Beverly Hills street. A woman rushes to him and cradles his head in her lap, asking, “Are you comfortable?” The man answers, “I make a nice living.”

12. Buddy Hackett

I met this beautiful young girl, and my doctor said to me, ‘You better be careful. If you have sex with her for 30 days in a row, it could be fatal.’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve been going with her for almost 30 days. Little does she know, she dies tomorrow.

That’s the cleanest joke Hackett ever told. Playing the hotels in the Catskills, the comedians couldn’t “work blue.” In the clubs in Vegas, or later on cable television, they could say what they liked and Hackett was the most off-color — and the funniest. When asked about his act, Hackett said, “If it’s funny, it’s not dirty; and if it’s dirty, it’s not funny.”

In the episode, “Yada Yada,” Seinfeld suspects that his dentist converted to Judaism for the jokes. Maybe I did, too. All I know is that just about every Jewish comic — and many who are not Jewish — working today will tell you they studied under the Borscht Belt comedians. Hard work, impeccable timing, self-deprecating wit and an affinity for the underdog made it possible for us to be entertained and for many others to have careers in comedy.

Who’s your favorite Jewish comic, then or now?

Featured image courtesy of laverrue licensed via Creative Commons.


Kim Phillips

http://www.getlucid.net/blog/

Kim Phillips is the founder of Lucid Marketing and author of the Lucid at Random blog.  With over 30 years of experience in corporate advertising for a major financial institution, sales and marketing, Kim provides clients with marketing communication strategies, branding, content management and creative services.  She is a teacher and speaker, and she finds time for musings and the occasional rant on her personal blog. 

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14 comments
Bruce Waldman
Bruce Waldman

Brings back great memories. Back in the 60's my parents owned coffee shops in 2 NJ hotels. Goldman's in West Orange and Saltz in Mt Freedom. I was at the age of 10 the stage manager at Saltz. I ran the lights, pulled the curtain, got drinks and food, etc. Well one Saturday night we had Totie Fields. She was a short, heavy set woman that everyone loved. Totie asked me to get her a 7up as she always drank one prior to going on stage. So I go get Miss Fields her beverage and then knock on her dressing room door. Totie yells "Come on in" . So I go in the dressing room and there is Totie stark naked. She (smiling) doesn't miss a beat and says. Listen, you know what I got now and I know what you got. Classic.

ElaineKehoe
ElaineKehoe

Anyone remember Jackie Vernon? He was completely deadpan. His signature line was "To look at me now you'd never believe I used to be a dull guy." He was hilarious.

sueyoungmedia
sueyoungmedia

Great post, Kim. Anyone remember Totie Fields? She was always in the Catskills and on the Mike Douglas Show!  Some of my family's best memories are going up to the Catskills (From Jersey) with our synagogue group every President's Day weekend in February. Places like Kutshers,  the  Concord, and the Raleigh.   LOL

dbvickery
dbvickery

I loved several of these, Kim. Rickles, Dangerfield, Burns, Buttons and Hackett were hilarious. Rivers was fun for awhile.

 

The quotes from Dangerfield, Rivers and Youngman were outstanding choices!

Kim Phillips
Kim Phillips

Kissed by Buddy Hackett?!  I'm so envious. Rickles is still at it, at eighty-something. We just watched an HBO (?) special and he was on Letterman recently... wet my pants laughing. Still, nobody seems to get the same stuff out of these guys like Carson used to. (I know I'm a geezer but I liked it when I was seven.)

sharongreenthal
sharongreenthal

What a great list, Kim. 

True story - Buddy Hackett gave me a kiss on my 15th birthday. We were at a restaurant in Beverly Hills and he was there. Boy was he ugly!!! And I can't count how many times my grandfather quoted Henny Youngman - "Take my wife...please."

 

There is no one who has ever made me laugh harder at a live show than Don Rickles. The night we saw him in Las Vegas, Steve Wynn was sitting behind us and Rickles went to town on him...so funny! Thanks for bringing a big smile to my face with these names...

Kim Phillips
Kim Phillips

Oh, gosh yes! Mason cracks me up. He almost made this list but there were so many...

BruceSallan
BruceSallan

Great list Kim...sure wish we could see some of these people still...and especially in their prime.

 

One other who I've seen several times, including one in which I literally pee'd in my pants, is Jackie Mason!

BradShorr
BradShorr

We saw Rodney Dangerfield in Vegas many years ago and I never laughed so hard in my life. About 3/4 of his act was responding to hecklers, and he crushed every one of them. Long before that, I saw Jack Benny perform, and he was hilarious as well. But what I wish I could have seen was Woody Allen live in the Borscht Belt -- that must have been incredible.

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