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Tribute to Victor Borge – the Great Dane
Tribute to Victor Borge – the Great Dane
"Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." - Victor Borge
Do you know who Victor Borge is? No? Then you are in for an unbelievable treat when you watch these hilarious videos.
Yes? Then keep reading for an extraordinary ”déjà vu” experience.
Victor Borge was an exceptional performer - a renowned classical pianist who was also an original, brilliant comedian. He was known as the Great Dane as well as The Clown Prince of Denmark. No one else has yet come along to fill his shoes.
The Washington Post once called Victor Borge “the funniest pianist on Earth.” That was no exaggeration. Take a look at this short video slide show and you will understand why.
Victor Borge Slide Show
Borge: “And now, in honor of the 150th anniversary of Beethoven's death, I would like to play ‘Clear the Saloon’, er, ‘Clair de Lune’, by Debussy. I don't play Beethoven so well, but I play Debussy very badly, and Beethoven would have liked that.”
Victor began his career at the age of 17 as a concert pianist in his native Denmark. He soon became one of the country's most popular comedians. He amazed audiences with his virtuoso piano-playing and then paralyzed them with laughter with his irreverent wit regarding classical music. He believed that the pompous conventions of classical music were intrinsically hilarious.
Borge: "Look at a symphony concert on TV and turn off the sound. If you have the slightest sense of humor, you will laugh yourself silly - the musicians look and act absolutely ridiculous."
A typical Borge performance might start, not with the opening bars of a classical composition, but with his minute inspection of the piano from all angles. (Borge inspecting the piano): “Hmmmm . . . Steinway & Sons. Didn't even know he was married.”
Pages of sheet music would get misplaced. He would inspect his hair and clothing in his reflection from the shiny black piano. He might face the audience and scold imaginary latecomers. These comic bits were executed with such style and wit that the orchestra was convulsed with laughter - and one time a female piccolo soloist laughed so hard she was unable to draw breath to play.
How did it all begin?
Victor Borge was born in Copenhagen, Denmark January 3, 1909, the son of Bernhard and Frederikke Rosenbaum. He was named Børge Rosenbaum, the youngest son in a family of five boys and his musical talent was no accident. His father was a violinist in the Royal Danish Symphony Orchestra.
His mother gave piano lessons and introduced him to the piano at the age of three. He made his concert debut in Copenhagen at the age of eight, and as a child prodigy, he studied at the Copenhagen Music Conservatory as well as in Vienna and Berlin.
Although Borge started his career as a classical pianist, his talent for making the audience laugh was soon obvious, and he started developing his unique blend of irreverent humor and music. During the 1930s he became one of Denmark's most popular cabaret performers and was best known for being a comedian.
Borge: “Pete (Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky) was born in Votkinsk, May 7, 1840. When he was a little boy he never played out in the streets of Votkinsk like the other little children of Votkinsk because when Tchaikovsky was one month old his parents moved to St. Petersburg.”
Coming to America
His lampooning of Adolf Hitler provoked the ire of Germany long before the Nazis invaded Denmark in April 1940. Fortunately, young Victor was performing in Stockholm, Sweden at the time. He stayed there and later that year traveled to the United States with his American-born wife. Borge arrived with just $20 in his pocket and unable to speak English.
Borge: “Churchill and I were the only ones who saw what was happening - He saved Europe and I saved myself.”
For the next year he spent much of his time at the movies, watching films and listening intently to the dialogue to teach himself English. He changed his name to Victor Borge. After entertaining guests at a private party, he was invited to appear on the Bing Crosby radio show in 1941 - and remained on it for 56 weeks.
In 1942, he was named "the best new radio performer of the year" by the American press, and his radio and TV shows became extremely popular. He became an American citizen in 1948, and had his own one-man show, "Comedy in Music," at The Golden Theatre, New York from 1953-56 which beat the Broadway record for a solo show - 849 performancesWith Robert Sherman he was the author of My Favorite Intermissions (1971) and My Favorite Comedies in Music (1981).
Borge: “I'm going to play a piece … by a Danish composer. Ummmmm … Mozart. Hans Christian Mozart!”
Borge toured the world for decades with his popular one-man show which mixed classical piano performances with quips, wordplay and pratfalls. His dour Scandinavian face and formal dress set the stage for the sly humor that would follow. He would comically mangle classic tunes, make faces, or simply stop at the keyboard to tell jokes. Although he first performed as a serious classical pianist, his talent for comedy overtook the music. His repertoire included pranks such as falling off his piano stool, playing music upside down or backwards,
Borge: “And now, in honor of the 150th anniversary of Beethoven's death, I would like to play "Clear the Saloon", er, "Clair de Lune", by Debussy. I don't play Beethoven so well, but I play Debussy very badly, and Beethoven would have liked that.”
During the 1960s and '70s, he was a familiar face on TV talk and variety shows, including The Dean Martin Show and TheTonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Besides musical jokes, Borge also created read-aloud gags like phonetic punctuation. He would read each comma, period and question mark as a sound. A period, for example became “phhwwttt.”
Victor Borge Phonetic Punctuation
Although Borge became known best as a comedian, he never lost his classical abilities, sometimes serving as a serious (or semi-serious) guest conductor for major orchestras, and he continued to tour the world until just before his death.
He often gave command performances for kings, queens and presidents. He was knighted by the kings of Norway, Denmark and Sweden and was twice honored by the U.S. Congress. He became one of the highest paid entertainers in the United States and kept up a busy career into his 80s. Borge also received a Kennedy Center award for his “outstanding contribution to American cultural life” from President Bill Clinton in 1999.
Victor, who sold you those pants?
His video, “The Best of Victor Borge,” sold over three million copies. At his 80th birthday concert at Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens, Borge played variations on the song, “Happy Birthday to You” in the styles of Mozart, Brahms, Wagner and Beethoven.
Borge had married American Elsie Chilton in 1933 with whom he had two children. That marriage ended in divorce and in 1953 he married his manager, Sanna Roach. They had three children. They were married until her death, three months before Borge, in 2000. Whenever his schedule and the weather permitted, Borge liked to indulge his passion for sailing. As he put it: "With me, the three Bs are: Bach, Beethoven and Boats!"
Victor Borge died at home in his sleep, December 23, 2000, after returning from a trip to Denmark. He was 91. “I don't mind growing old. I'm just not used to it.” His daughter, Frederikke stated that "it was just his time to go. He's been missing my mother terribly." Victor Borge's second wife, Sarabel (Sanna), had died just three months previous.
Much of Borge’s repertoire was developed from real concert situations, for instance, falling off a piano stool or struggling with his page turner. "Everybody who has ever tried to have a page turner knows it is terribly dangerous,” he said. “So, when I do that routine, the orchestra members just fall off their seats. They all know.”
The page turner in the video below is Victor Bernhard, Borge's son.
In spite of his skills as a musician, Borge insisted, “If I have to play something straight, without deviation, I still get very nervous.”
One famous occasion could not be replicated, when a large fly alighted on his nose while he was playing - with side-splitting consequences. When he was asked how he had arranged such a brilliant piece of comedy, Borge explained with a straight face: "Well, we know how to train flies."
Borge: “I'd like to thank my parents for making this night possible. And my children for making it necessary.”
Inflationary Language by Victor Borge
"Many years ago in Denmark we had inflation, and you are familiar with that problem. In inflation, we have numbers rising. Prices go up. Anything that has to do with money goes up … except the language. See, we have hidden numbers in words like "wonderful," "before," "create," "tenderly." All these numbers can be inflated to meet the economy, you know, by rising to the occasion.
I suggest we add one to each of these numbers to be prepared. For example. "wonderful" would be "two-derful." Before would be Be-five. Create, cre-nine. Tenderly should be eleven-derly. A Lieutenant would be a Lieut-eleven-ant. A sentence like, "I ate a tenderloin with my fork" would be "I nine an elevenderloin with my five-k." And so on and so fifth. I have a story here that I would like to read to you so that you can get an idea of Inflationary Language and how it sounds when it's being used.
“Twice upon a time, there lived in Sunny Cali-five-nia a young man named Bob. He was a third lieut-eleven-ant in the US Air Five-ces. Bob had been fond of Anna, his one-and-a-half sister, ever since she saw the light of day for the second time. And all three of them were proud of the fact that two of his five-fathers had been among the cre-nine-ders of the US Consti-three-tion.
"They were dining on the terrace. "Anna," he said as he took a bite of a marin-nine-ded herring, "You look two-derful three-night. You never looked that lovely befive." Anna did look two-derful, despite the illness from which she had not yet recuper-nine-ded. "Yes," repeated Bob, "You look two-derful three-night … but you have three of the saddest eyes I have ever seen."
"The table was tastefully décor-nine-ded with Anna's favorite flowers: three-lips. They were now talking about Anna's asi-ten husband, from whom she was separ-nine-ded. While on the radio, an Irish eleven-or sang "Tea five Three." it was midnight; A clock in the distance struck thirteen. And suddenly, there in the moonlight stood her ex-husband Don Two, a five-mer eleven-is pro obviously intoxic-nine-ded.
"Anna," he said, "Five-give me. I am only young twice and you are my two and only." Bob jumped to his feet, "Get out of here, you three-faced triple-crosser!" But Anna warned, "Watch out, Bob. He is an officer." "Yes, he is two. But I am two, three!"
"All right," said Don Two as he wiped his five-head. He then left and when he was one-and-a-halfway through the revolving door, he muttered, "I'll go back to Eleven-nessee and be double again. Farewell, Anna. Three-de-loo, three-de-loo.”
Borge: “Occasionally, a finger comes up to wipe a tear (of laughter) from the eye ... and that's my reward ... the rest goes to the government.”
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A thousand thanks to Audrey (akirchner) who provided the inspiration for this hub.
And one hundred thousand thanks for the enduring inspiration and timeless laughter provided by the one and only Great Dane - Victor Borge..
© Copyright BJ Rakow 2011, 2015. All rights reserved.