The Bob Hope Story

This has to have been almost 20 years ago now, it was a whole career ago for me and I was still driving a delivery van for the St. Cloud Times so I'd have to put it in the early 90s, I got a call from a friend of mine asking if I wanted to play a "pick up" gig in Montevideo, MN backing up Bob Hope. Who wouldn't say yes to that?

A whole bunch of us from St. Cloud piled into a van and drove there for an afternoon rehearsal led by Mr. Hope's musical director named Jeff. We only saw Mr. hope for a few moments at the end of the rehearsal to run a gag he'd do during the song Buttons and Bows.

As Music Director Jeff explained it, the gag went like this: the band would kick into Buttons & Bows and vamp the first four measures while Bob would talk to the audience, Bob would then cut off the band, tell a joke and count the band off again. This would happen as many times as Bob saw fit, and then he'd continue with the song. Near the end of the song there was another vamp which Bob would cut off, he'd tell one last joke and we'd finish out the song.

As I explained before, this was almost 20 years ago which would put Mr. Hope one side or the other of 90 years old, and he'd recently gone through some health problems that kept him off stage for a while. The Montevideo show was his first in quite a while, which would explain what happened that night.

The show is going along just fine, Mr. Hope is charming, Delores Hope, his very lovely wife, sang beautifully and the audience was thrilled -- as was most of the band -- to spend an evening with a true comic legend. It comes time for Buttons & Bows, the band starts playing, Bob talks to the audience about where the song came from (the movie The Pale Face) and comes to the point when it's time to cut off the band and tell a joke. He cuts off the band and -- he goes blank.

He looks over at the Music Director and says, "Jeff, give me a joke."

Jeff suggests, "The one about the [insert joke subject]."

Bob tells the joke, the audience laughs uproariously, the band starts again, Bob talks some more. He cuts off the band a second time and -- he goes blank.

"Jeff, give me a joke."

"The one about the [insert joke subject]."

And it happens again. And again! He must have stopped the band six times or more with the same result. I was on stage as a true comic legend was "going up on two wheels!"

Finally he sings the song until the moment when the last gag is coming up. He cuts off the band, looks at Jeff, Jeff shrugs -- he's out of jokes! But Mr. Hope, the consummate professional just continues the song to the end.

[Joke subject:]

A guy goes to the doctor for a checkup, the doctor says, "You've got to stop having sex. In your condition, if you have sex again you'll die."

So the guy goes home and explains the situation to his wife, "Just to be on the safe side, I'd better sleep downstairs on the couch."

Halfway through the night he's getting so hot and frustrated thinking about how much he'd like to be making love to his wife. Finally, he can't stand it anymore and starts to climb the stairs to the bedroom, halfway up he's met by his wife.

"I was just coming upstairs to commit suicide." He said.

"Really?" she replied, "I was just coming downstairs to kill you."

And so it went... each joke had a similar theme, a guy going to a doctor and the result having some impact on his marriage, but that's the only one I remember. I'm sure Mr. Hope told it much better than I wrote it.

The rest of the show went just fine, the audience was thrilled, I got to add a line to my resume and apart from getting a speeding ticket, we made it home safely that night -- just before I went to work. It was an experience I'll never forget.


Anonymous said…
Great story! I like your stories--glad I found your blog. You've got lots of them, it looks like!

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