The Late Movies: Victor Borge, the Clown Prince of Denmark

Ransom Riggs

My grandmother thought Victor Borge was just about the funniest person alive. He used to have his own specials on PBS, and whenever they came on, she'd shush everyone in the room and proceed to laugh like a maniac. (To be fair, I thought he was funny, too -- and still do.) He was a Danish comedian, conductor, and pianist -- a triple-threat of immense talent and wit who passed away in 2000. After WWII, in which he escaped from Nazi-occupied Denmark to America, he quickly taught himself English and began a career in radio, television and films, and his one-man show, Comedy in Music, was the longest-running in the history of Broadway when it closed in 1956. He toured until the end of his life, performing 60 times a year or more up to the age of ninety.

Here he is doing his famous "Phonetic Punctuation" routine with Dean Martin, who, true to form, seems a bit soused.

This is what happens when Victor sits on the wrong side of the piano from his playing partner.

Aww, he's no good at the piano. Just kidding!

Borge, being honored at the Kennedy Center, shows an old clip called "The Piano Tuner."

Short but sweet: