Harpo Marx on Spike Jones


I went to a Halloween party as Harpo, not sure anyone would even know who I was. I stayed in character all night and it was a huge hit with the ladies.


Kudos to the dancer at about 22:00 for figuring out time travel and bringing breakdancing back to the Fifties.

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My kind of Marxism.


There is something wonderfully sinister about Spike Jones’ intense, gum chewing masculinity. He would have made a great Joker.


Its the big horn… chicks dig a big horn…

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The reason the Marx brothers movies worked so well was that their routines were finely honed in Vaudeville before live audiences. Note how the films are structured like a vaudeville show with a series of sketches and musical numbers showcasing their musical talents, including the 4th brother Zeppo singing romantic songs.

“Harpo Speaks” is his autobiography. Harpo also took an interest in oil painting and hired lots of nude models who he said were very knowledgable about painting and told him what he was doing wrong. Harpo said that if he was negotiating a legal agreement, he would invite the other party over, and Harpo would have a nude model lounging about to throw them off their game.


Alan Sherman (the Weird Al Yankovic of his generation) had Harpo Marx as a neighbor. I remember reading an article Sherman wrote about their friendship for Reader’s Digest, and how he talked Harpo into a last public performance, at a benefit for a local school. After a wordless, wonderful performance by Harpo, Sherman came on stage to announce that it had been Harpo’s final appearance and broke down in tears. Harpo came back on stage, gently moved Sherman aside, and said “As I started to say, before being interrupted sixty years ago…” There followed another twenty minutes where the audience got to see Harpo was as brilliant a vocal comic as a silent one. I wish I’d been there.


They would ad lib a lot in their live shows - so much that hardly two shows were ever the same. These guys were really, really good.

There was a 5th brother, Gummo, but he didn’t went into show business.

Wikipedia says they were legends at improvisation on stage, and they would do variations on the same act dozens of time on stage to find out what jokes worked and what didn’t, because even they couldn’t predict what got the biggest laughs. By the time they got to doing a film version, those acts were razor sharp.

Compare that to the usual cinematic turd sandwich from former SNL members who think they can improvise during filming - even the Marx Brothers didn’t try that! That’s why comedians often do better in animated movies that have actual scripts. Also “The Jerk” spent a looong time in development with top notch writers who fleshed out Steve Martin’s basic script.


Was the gum chewing part of Spike Jones’s shtick? Obviously he’s chewing in the cartoon in the opening credits.

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He appears to be masticating throughout that performance.

I’d not seen him in action before and was rather taken by his air of manic danger.

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Q: What’s the difference between life and a SNL sketch?
A: Life doesn’t go on forever.

I read ‘Hello, I must be going’ a while ago but I can still remember bits of it, it was really enjoyable and amazing.

Yeah, Marx Bros film festival on boxing day, I’d say.

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I enjoyed reading this here a few years ago:


Harpo? pure awesomeness. kind, brilliant, funny, animal lover, musician, kid adopter, just? all around? aweseome http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiatjttPdwE

I can’t remember where I heard this, but there’s a story that explains Harpo’s silence. The Marx Brothers’ first manager cheated them out of most of their earnings, and Harpo said to him, “I hope you go down in flames!” The next day the manager’s house burned down. The other brothers decided it would be a good thing if Harpo didn’t talk anymore.

That was my favorite Harpo story until I read yours.

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