The One, The Only…Groucho!

Published 9:08 am Wednesday, July 1, 2015

by Dr. Don Newbury

YouTube preserves much–some of it worthwhile–about what has been said. It proves yet again that when everything is said and done, usually more is said than done.
This day, the spotlight is on responses of game show contestants, who simply become “clabber-headed,” casting nervous glances toward microphones, cameras and spotlights. They wilt, fearing questions posed by experienced hosts may elicit responses that make them the stock of laughter.
Radio personalities come to mind. Among the very best was the late Groucho Marx, one of a precious few “merry-makers” who not only survived–but indeed thrived–on stage, screen, radio and TV.
Few can match his wit–it was faster than any gun in the west. His best work often sprang from his fertile comedic mind, without benefit of assistance from skilled writers who are basic to most TV shows today.
Even fewer could hope to succeed in “being good” at everything attempted. His expressions, ever-present cigar and engaging personality were classic. Art Linkletter may have been better at putting folks “at ease,” but it was Groucho whose guiding comments led to belly laughs.
Remember his show, “You Bet Your Life”? It was popular on radio, and later on TV. Contestants back then battled for comparative peanuts, but even the “losers” didn’t go home empty-handed, despite “bone-headed” answers to “slam dunk” questions.
One contestant flopped miserably, bungling one of Groucho’s slow-pitch questions: “What do you mix with water to get soap suds?”
“Lye,” responded the shrinking bumpkin from way back in the sticks. (Lye soap was all the guy had ever known, back there.)
“That’s a lie,” Groucho fired back, eyebrows and cigar twitching, his eyes dancing behind the big horn-rimmed glasses he popularized—the ones still hot items on store’s “gag gift” shelves today. Anyway, he gave the poor guy a case of something—maybe it was soap.
Oh, blunders still occur on both radio and TV–particularly during violent weather. Sometimes, hamlets whose names haven’t been mentioned often by broadcast media in years are “front and center.” News personalities, sadly, often are “to the rear and way off center.”
A recent such vignette involved Rio Vista, a small community in the Metroplex. Some called it “Reee-O Vista.” Others tagged it “Ryyyy-O Vista,” and to further complicate, there was indecision on whether to call it “Vista” or “Veesta.” A first-time visitor to Texas wanted to know: “Is it ‘Hee-co’ or ‘Hico,’ or ‘Chee-co’ or ‘Chico?’”
‘Tis a puzzlement. Seems to me radio and TV stations should get copies of the late Dr. George Stokes’ book, A Guide to the Pronunciation of Texas Towns (1977, check Amazon.) It remains the definitive “bible” for proper pronunciation of more than 2,300 Texas towns.
Think of the late wrestler dubbed “Gorgeous George.” He said he didn’t think he was the world’s most talented athlete, skilled wrestler or brightest human being. “But what’s my opinion against millions of others?” the wrestler with the first flowing locks asked. Finally, a guy explaining that he and his wife were childless. “She’s impregnable,” he said. “I mean she’s unbearable, uh, would you believe inconceivable?”.

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: Web site: Archived at, newbury blog.