Henry “Henny” Youngman (original Yiddish surname ‘Yungman’ ) –16/03/1906—24/02/1998, was a British-born American Comedian and Violinist, famous for his ONE-LINERS, short simple jokes, delivered RAPID-FIRE. His best known one-liner was, “Take my wife ………….please”.
In a time, when many comedians told elaborate anecdotes, Youngman’s routine consisted of telling simple one-liner jokes, occasionally, with interludes of violin-playing. These depicted simple, cartoon-like situations, eliminating lengthy build-ups, and going straight to the PUNCH-LINE. He was known as the “KING OF ONE-LINERS”, a title given him by columnist –Walter Winchell. A stage performance by Youngman lasted only 15-20mins, but it contained dozens of jokes, delivered one after another.
He was born to a Jewish family in Liverpool. e grew up in New York City, and began as a comedian, after he had worked, for years, at a print shop, where he wrote COMEDY CARDS, containing ONE-LINE GAGS. These cards were discovered by up-and-coming comedian, Milton Berle, who encouraged Youngman, and formed a close friendship with him.. Berle said, about him, “The only thing funnier than Henry’s j jokes, is his violin-playing”.
Youngman began his SHOW-BUSINESS, as a musician. He led a small jazz band, called the “SWANEE SYNCOPATERS”, and during their performances, he often told jokes. His inoffensive, friendly style of comedy, kept is audiences laughing for decades. He played in clubs and speakeasies, but is break came on the Kate Smith Radio Show in 1937. Like many comedians, he treated his profession as a working-job, one, where it is difficult to make a living, and getting paid for the work is ALL-IMPORTANT. Youngman’s advice to other entertainers was to NEM DI GELT (Yiddish for ‘take the money’ ). When the New York Telephone Company started its DIAL-A-JOKE, in 1974, over 3 million called in 1 month to hear 30 secs of Youngman’s material —the most ever for a comedian. Youngman never retired, and he performed his stage-acts, in venues worldwide, until his final days.
His published biography is entitled —TAKE MY LIFE, PLEASE. With the exception of a week, following his wife’s death, and the month he was in his final hospital stay, Henry was renowned for having worked, almost every day, for over 70 years, without vacation or other breaks.