The Henny Youngman I Met

by Ron Orendi

As I sat in the audience, I looked around. There were older people, thirty-somethings, and people in their 20's all laughing and enjoying the man on stage.

The comic was a master at his craft. He conducted his act with violin and bow in hand.

He played the audience like a classical piece of music. Henny Youngman had yet another audience eating out of the palm of his hand.

Following the show, I had the opportunity to talk with Henny Youngman. There I was a young comic, with not much road experience, chatting with one of the icons in the field of laughter.

Many of the big names in the business don't want to be bothered with "budding" talent picking their brains for information and comedic wisdom.

1990 Promo Flyer for Henny Youngman show in Pittsburgh PA, one week before his 84th birthday

But not Henny, he took his time and patiently offered his philosophy on the craft as well as personal experiences and encouraging advice. At one point, I asked, "With the club pay so low, how long did it take you to earn a solid income?"

The "King of One Liners" avoided the natural tendency to fire a funny line from his act. Instead, he paused, took a breath and said, "Ya know kid, I lived off my wife for 20 years, before I made any real money."

"You keep at it. Be patient. It'll happen."

This maestro of comedy spent the best part of an hour talking to several Pittsburgh area comics. He wasn't sarcastic. He wasn't condescending. No, true to his professionalism, Henny Youngman treated all of us as though we were his comedy children by giving us fatherly advice.

That's the Henny Youngman I got to meet. That's the Henny Youngman I knew. When I heard of his death, I was extremely saddened. I had always heard that angels played harps. Well, I guess Henny Youngman will change that and play his violin...but not until he looks at the Father and says, "Take my life, please!"

Tribute to Henny Main Page

Henny's Best 20 Jokes and Insults
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Take Henny...No, Please Don't!