Monthly Archives: June 2004

Sibling ribaldry

The Marx Brothers have long been acclaimed as the most inspired and anarchic of screen comics. Their anti-authoritarian clowning is as influential as ever, says Stephen Merchant, co-writer of The Office

When the movie work began to dry up, Groucho Marx found a new lease of life as the host of a radio quiz show, You Bet Your Life. On one edition he had to make chitchat with a woman who had 10 children. She explained that the reason she had so many kids was that she loved her husband. “I love my cigar,” quipped Groucho, “but I take it out of my mouth once in a while.”

The line was deemed too smutty and never made it on to the air, but it captures the very essence of Groucho. On any other show a mother of 10 would receive a round of applause. With Groucho, she gets a slap in the face. For him, she’s not a shining example of the beauty and nobility of motherhood; she’s just some bird who’s at it all the time.

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