I’ll tell you honestly I am not into insults. Anybody can be nasty. Takes nothing except a big mouth and a bad attitude.
Maybe that’s why I love it when somebody takes a mouth full of smart-aleck comments, chews on them for a minute, and spits them back in the face of someone who genuinely deserves it.
Which brings me to one of my favorites.
Why is it one of my favorites? Because the smart-aleck remark comes from one of my least favorite people, and the comeback comes from one of my most favorite people.
Ever heard of George Bernard Shaw? You know? Wrote a lot of plays and stuff?
Apparently success convinced Shaw he knew the answers to how the world should run. He believed, among other things, that the USSR was perfection, there should be no private ownership of property, poverty should be eliminated by giving equal pay to everyone regardless of how hard he or she worked, that smallpox vaccination was “a particularly filthy piece of witchcraft,” and that Earth would someday be ruled by long-living supermen, of which he was no doubt convinced he was the prototype.
OK, Johnny. Now that you hate him as much as I do, enjoy this little exchange of words.
Shaw’s telegram to Churchill: “Am reserving two tickets for you for my premiere. Come and bring a friend — if you have one.”
Churchill’s reply: “Impossible to be present for the first performance. Will attend second — if there is one.”
In the 1900s, there was a nasty theater critic named Rudolph Lewis. I never read his review of the play mentioned in this comeback, but I like what Max Reger, the author of of the play, had to say in a letter to Lewis.
“I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it shall be behind me.”
You aren’t human if you aren’t smiling right now.
Here’s a quickie for you.
One evening at a party, Clare Luce Booth stood aside to let Dorothy Parker go first. “Age before beauty,” she said.
Dorothy Parker never missed a stride. “Pearls before swine.”
I couldn’t think that fast if my pants were on fire.
One day Jean Harlow, the American actress, was over in Merrie Olde Englande and was presented to Prime Minister H. H. Asquith and his wife, Lady Margot Asquith. Harlow may have been a bit tipsy because she committed a pair of social errors which would probably have gotten the American ambassador booted back home. She not only addressed the wife of the Prime Minister by her first name, but she kept on pronouncing the “t” in Margot.
Lady Asquith was exactly that, a lady, but after two hours of it she had evidently had enough. She smiled and said, “My dear, the ‘t’ is silent, as in Harlo.”
That’s a giggle, isn’t it?
Ready for another Churchill?
One day Winston Churchill ran across Nancy Astor, a political pest who was not one of his favorite people, and who immediately began a long tirade while Churchill just sat there looking wise and Churchillian.
Astor, angry that her words were having no effect, frowned mightily and said, “Winston, if I were married to you I’d put poison in your coffee.”
Churchill looked up and smiled, “Nancy, if you were my wife, I’d drink it.”
Remember Voltaire, the Frenchman so famous because his ideas affected the important thinkers of both the American and French Revolutions? Voltaire took a back seat to no one in comebacks.
As a believer in basic rights Voltaire was ahead of his time where religious freedom was concerned. In 1763 he wrote an essay saying, “It does not require great art...to prove that Christians should tolerate each other. I, however, am going further: I say that we should regard all men as our brothers. Are we not all children of the same father, and creatures of the same God?”
When Voltaire was dying, his priest, well aware of Voltaire’s attitude concerning religious tolerance, and perhaps more than a little miffed by it, may have thought this would be a good time for a put-down when he asked Voltaire to renounce Satan.
You’re going to love this, Johnny!
“Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.”
Reminds me of what Machiavelli said when he realized that he was dying. “I want to go to hell, not heaven. In hell I will enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes.”
Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt — not favorite friends — met one day. “Do you mind if I smoke?” asked Wilde.
“I don’t care if you burn,” Bernhardt told him.
Ready for another Churchill? It may be his best....
One of Churchill’s political opponents was a woman called Bessie Braddock.
One day she came across Churchill during one of his rare moments of relaxation, sipping from a glass and looking contented.
Eying him closely, she said, “Winston, you are drunk!”
He looked up at her and replied, “Bessie you are ugly. And in the morning I’ll be sober.”
As I said earlier, I am not into insults, but I’ll close these thoughts with a few comments that are so well put no one who is still able to draw breath can read them without laughing.
Here’s one from Barry Goldwater, who was talking, they say, about “William Scott,” but who William Scott was I don’t know.
“If he were any dumber,” Barry said, “he’d be a tree.”
And one day during “The Beverly Hillbillies,” Jed Clampett came close to killing me when he said, “If brains was lard, Jethro couldn’t grease a pan.”
And my favorite, though I can’t remember who said it.
“Is that a beard, or are you eating a muskrat?”
That picture has been stuck in my head for 45 years.