A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 24, 2012
“Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings”

Duffy’s Tavern was a radio show from 1941 to 1951. Ed Gardner (1901-1963, and born in Astoria, NY) created the comedy series and spoke many of its most memorable lines. A newspaper review of Duffy’s Tavern in November 1947 cited one of Gardner’s lines:

“What’s opera? It’s suffering set to music. In opera when a guy gets stabbed in the back, instead of bleeding, he sings.”

A November 1948 newspaper article also credited Duffy’s Tavern with the line. American comedienne Judy Canova (1913-1983) was credited with the line in 1950 and 1952, playwright George S. Kaufman (1889-1961) was credited in 1958, and humorist Robert Benchley (1889=1945) was credited in 2011. Canova had a radio program and probably also used the line, but there’s no evidence that she used it before Duffy’s Tavern.


Wikiquote: Opera
Unsourced
Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings.
. Ed Gardner

Wikiquote: Ed Gardner
Edward Francis ‘Ed’ Gardner (June 29, 1901 – August 17, 1963) was an American comic actor, writer and director, best remembered as the creator and star of the radio’s popular Duffy’s Tavern comedy series.

Born in Astoria, New York, Gardner was a representative for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency before going into show business. He began producing for the stage in the early 1930s. He produced the drama play Coastwise on Broadway (1931) and wrote and directed the Broadway comedy After Such Pleasures (1934).
(...)
Quotes
Some of Gardner’s once-famous malaprops as Archie on Duffy’s Tavern include:

. “Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding, he sings.”

28 November 1947, Canton (OH) Repository, “Radio in Review: The Man Who Isn’t There” by John Crosby, pg. 12, col. 2:
He can define anything if not accurately, at least self-confidently. “What’s opera? It’s suffering set to music. In opera when a guy gets stabbed in the back, instead of bleeding, he sings.”
(A review of Duffy’s Tavern, an NBC radio program. “He” refers to Archie, the character played by Ed Gardner—ed.)

4 November 1948, The Evening Independent (Massillon, OH), “Hollywood” by Harrison Carroll, pg. 4, col. 4:
Big business in prospect for the new opera season here. No disrespect but I always remember Ed (Archie) Gardner’s definition of opera:

‘Where a guy gets stabbed and, instead of bleeding, he sings.”

19 March 1950, Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, NE), pg. 8F, col. 5:
Opera
Wall Street Journal.
Judy Canova, radio comedian, recently described opera thus: “That’s where a man is stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding he sings.”

Google News Archive
28 August 1952, Meriden (CT) , ‘New Haven Pops Concert Evaluated By Southwick” by L. F. Southwick, pg. 2, col. 3:
As Judy Canova is reported to have said, (and I hope I won’t be sued for making an unauthorized quotation), speaking of opera, ‘What kind of a show is it when a man gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings an aria?”

Google Books
Strictly for Laughs
By Joey Adams
New York, NY: F. Fell
1955
Pg. 22:
Youngman. O is for Opera. Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding he sings.

Google News Archive
3 September 1955, Milwaukee (WI) Journal, “Gilda’s Act Is More Talkie Than Shaky” by Buck Herzog, pt. 1, pg. 10, col. 5:
One of the Crew Cuts was explaining opera to Patti Page. Said he: “You can always recognize opera because when someone gets stabbed, he doesn’t bleed, he sings!”

Google Books
December 1955, Boys’ Life, “Think and Grin,” pg. 86, col. 4:
Daffynition: Grand opera — A place where a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding, he sings. — David Longwell, Beaver Falls, Pa.

Google News Archive
21 October 1958, Wilmington (NC) Morning Star, “Try And Stop Me” by Bennett Cerf, pg. 6, col. 4:
George S. Kaufman’s definition of grand opera: “First, the tenor sings, then he gets stabbed. Whereupon, instead of bleeding, he sings a half hour more.”

Google Books
It Takes One to Know One:
The Joey Adams Do-It-Yourself Laugh Kit

By Joey Adams
New York, NY: Putnam
1959
Pg. 217:
To Joey, opera’s Italian vaudeville. He says it’s where a man gets stabbed and instead of bleeding he sings.

Google Books
The Little Book of Humorous Quotes
Edited by Malcolm Kushner
AKA Associates
2011
Pg. 68:
Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings. ~Robert Benchley

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film • (1) Comments • Monday, September 24, 2012 • Permalink


This site never fails to make me laugh. I’m happy I keep on coming back for updates. Thank you so much.

Posted by rat bait  on  09/25  at  07:23 AM

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