Greetings, Manic Fans. Les here to talk about something you don’t see a whole lot of anymore:

 

The Pianist/comedian

 

Granted, there haven’t been very many of them, but 3 spring immediately to my mind: Victor Borge, Chico Marx and Liberace. They were immensely popular during their careers and both innovated entertainment in the way they plied their craft.

 

Knowing that these guys were before most of your time, I’ll liken them to a modern performer/comedian: “Weird” Al Yankovick. What he does is take popular songs and music and remakes them in ways that are cleverly funny for a modern audience.

 

I’m going to do 3 separate blogs to introduce you to them, if you weren’t familiar with them. Otherwise, we’ll reminisce together about these immensely talented entertainers.

 

For my first blog:

 

 

The “Great Dane,” Victor Borge

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Victor Borge basically did the same thing “Weird” Al did, except with classical piano music with additional material for modern pop tunes(well…modern at the time). He also did stand up comedy routines in between the songs. He was a grand showman who really knew how to play and entertain his audience with a generous helping of silliness that belied the seriousness of the “upper class” style of music he was performing.

 

For instance, he’d sit down at the piano and make a face, as if dissatisfied with something. Then, he’d get up and pull a phone book out of the bench and sit on it(the bench height wasn’t high enough, right?)…then he’d make another face. He’d get up, open the phone book and rip a single page out. He’d sit down and smile….it was finally right! He’d go on to play the piece which sounded odd….he’d play it again….then he’d give a look like the light bulb going on in his head, turn the music upside down, and play what was recognizable as the William Tell Overture! He’d actually played the piece upside down the first couple of times!

 

His hijinks were often simple…but hilarious, nonetheless….here, check out this clip of a duet he performed with pianist Leonid Hambro to perform Chopin’s “Minute” waltz….go ahead, I won’t spoil it for you….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWrqtJTEmBk

Watch him perform with Rolf on The Muppet Show

Victor Borge on The Muppet Show

Here’s 6 minutes of comedy gold as he accompanies opera singer Marilyn Mulvey

Victor Borge with Marilyn Mulvey

Here’s one of him taking “Happy Birthday to You” and playing it like several classical composers.

Victor Borge Happy Birthday Routine

Like I said, he also did stand up. Here’s Victor Borge’s Phonetic Punctuation routine.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bpIbdZhrzA

And for my last example, here’s his signature piano piece: Clair De Lune, by Claude Debussy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_evCoEVaTQE

As well as being a funny comedian, Victor Borge was a consummate classical pianist. I’ve never heard this song done better.

I was extremely fortunate to see him in concert about 3 weeks before he passed away. He had lost none of his formidable playing or comic timing. He was 91 years old….and I’ve never laughed harder or stared in absolute awe of a pianist in my whole life.

 

Did any of you know this performer?  I’d love to hear your opinions on the Late, Great Victor Borge, my friends.  Peace.

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