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January 21st, 2009
Great Lines
Bill Marx on Harpo

Bill Marx: The last performance of Harpo Marx occurred at the Pasadena Theatre in California.  And he shared the bill with Allan Sherman who he helped to create a career for himself as one of our great parodists of all time.  Allan did the first half of the show.  There was an intermission and then Dad did the second half of the show.  Allan comes in at intermission and notices there’s a bottle of cognac on Allan’s cot where he would lie down and relax for a while.  And a note saying, “Allan, I want you to know this is my final performance.” Well, Allan went crazy.  He couldn’t believe it.  And the opening of the act after the intermission, he came out and he says, “I want you to know that you’re having a historical moment this evening, folks.  Harpo Marx is retiring.  This is the last time you’re ever going to see him onstage as Harpo Marx.  I now introduce you to Harpo Marx.” And Dad goes and he does some stuff and people are going crazy and whatever it is and, finally, at the very end, he picks up the microphone and he launches into his Bar Mitzvah speech.  “For thirteen long years, I have toiled and labored for your happ-“ and does the whole thing.  The people are just silent as… as a church mouse.  I mean you can’t hear a pin drop.  And he comes to the end of this and he says, “And, in conclusion, I am so honored to know that you folks are, have the keenness and the perspicacity for recognizing monumental genius.  I thank you.” And walked off the stage.  Well, people must have applauded for at least a good two or three minutes. That’s a long time if you’re just counting.

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