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"A smile is the shortest distance between two people."
Victor Borge was a man who combined two very distinctive forms of entertainment--classical piano music and Stand Up Comedy--into one amazing whole. He himself was an exceptionally talented pianist, but rolled along with general comedy and making fun of his own craft. He had his own show in the 50's and 60's, The Victor Borge Show, that was largely a musical showcase but also demonstrate his deft comedic tone.
Among his most famous routines include "Phonetic Punctuation," his battle with a soprano soloist (where he was very particular about her not touching his piano), working Happy Birthday into other works, and entire sections where he would turn familiar jingles on their head.
He was born in Denmark and kept a thick accent his entire life, he became an American citizen just before WWII as his wife was American (he also once publically denounced Hitler and it was simply safer for him and his family on the other side of the world). He remained active in performing his entire life, including many shows in his home country of Denmark. He passed away in 2000 at the age of 91, but people are still rediscovering his routines today. You should too.
Borge and his work provide examples of:
- Fan Nickname: "The Clown Prince of Denmark", "The Great Dane"
- Genre Busting
- Malaproper: He introduced the 'Cara nome' aria from Rigoletto as "the 'Cacamame' aria from Rigor Mortis, by Guisseppe Verdi. Joe Green to you."
- Martial Arts and Crafts: The only way to explain his rendition of Hungarian Rhapsody #2 with a fellow pianist. This was faithfully recreated on The Muppet Show where he did the same thing with Rowlf, which is difficult enough with two humans.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: He often pretended that he didn't know how to play piano at the beginning of his concerts, and would complain that the stagehand didn't mark the Middle C key on his keyboard. But he was in fact a virtuoso pianist.
- Piano Key Wave: He had a comedy bit where his piano sounds wrong... so he takes the row of keys out, flips them, and it sounds perfect.
- Running Gag: sneaking "Happy Birthday" into various songs. Once did this as a full routine where he played it in the style of various composers.
- Sesame Street Cred: He advocated buckling your seat-belts when on the show... because you never know when you'll slide off your piano bench.
- He also performed Phonetic Punctuation on The Electric Company to illustrate punctuation marks.
- Special Guest: Victor Borge has interacted with many performers, including a Musical Phonetic Punctuation piece with Dean Martin.
- Super OCD: In one bit he was trying to play "Camptown Races" but felt something was wrong with the piano. He got up from his bench and moved the entire piano about a foot and started playing the song correctly in a lower octave.
- Throw It In: During one performance, a friend and Violinist asked Borge to perform a piece together on the spot. Borge was familiar with the the piece but had never played it. He ended up improvising his part and his friend went along with it, ending up with this.