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 October 10, 2015
“The bartender asked me, ‘What’ll you have?’ I said, ‘Surprise me‘“ (joke)

New York-based comedian Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004) often told a self-deprecating joke about going into a bar:

“The bartender asked me, ‘What’ll you have?’ I said, ‘Surprise me.’ He showed me a naked picture of my wife.”

The joke was part of Dangerfield’s routine by at least the 1980s, and it’s been reprinted in several joke books.


Wikipedia: Rodney Dangerfield
Rodney Dangerfield (born Jacob Rodney Cohen, November 22, 1921 – October 5, 2004) was an American comedian and actor, known for the catchphrase “I don’t get no respect!” and his monologues on that theme. He is also remembered for his 1980s film roles, especially in Easy Money, Caddyshack, and Back to School.

Google Books
Comedy on Record:
The Complete Critical Discography

By Ronald L. Smith
New York, NY: Garland Publishing, Inc.
1988
Pg. 182:
“I went over to the bartender and said ‘Surprise me.’ He showed me a naked picture of my wife.”

4 September 1992, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana), CA), “Stars come out for Kinison tribute” by Jeff Rubio, pg. B3, col. 4:
Dangerfield was his familiar bug-eyed, shrug-shouldered self. And, of course, he shared the grim details of his marital life: “I told the bartender to surprise me. He showed me a naked picture of my wife.”

Google Books
It’s a Man’s World:
800 Jokes from the Guy’s (Warped) Point of View

By Judy Brown
New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books
2005
Pg. 22:
l went to the bar to have a few drinks. The bartender asked me, “What’ll you have?” l said, “Surprise me.” He showed me a naked picture of my wife. — Rodney Dangerfield

Google Books
Laid to Rest in California:
A Guide to the Cemeteries and Grave Sites of the Rich and Famous

By Patricia Brooks and Jonathan Brooks
Guilford, CT: Insiders’ Guide/Globe Pequot Press
2006
Pg. 20:
“l told my bartender to surprise me—he showed me a naked picture of my wife!”
(Attributed to Rodney Dangerfield.—ed.)

Google Books
Man Walks into a Bar:
Over 6,000 of the Most Hilarious Jokes, Funniest Insults, and Gut-Busting One-Liners

By Stephen Arnott and Mike Haskins
Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press
2007
Pg. 115:
“I was tired one night and I went to the bar to have a few drinks. The bartender asked me, ‘What’ll you have?’ I said, ‘Surprise me.’ He showed me a naked picture of my wife.” Rodney Dangerfield

Twitter
Jewish Comedians
‏@JewishComedians
Rodney Dangerfield: The bartender asked me, “What’ll you have?” I said, “Surprise me.” He showed me a naked picture of my wife.
2:53 AM - 11 Oct 2015

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityRestaurants/Bars/Bakeries/Food Stores • Saturday, October 10, 2015 • Permalink