The "Not So Lonesome"
“Lonesome” George Gobel began his career as a gentle, guitar-plucking country singer on a small radio station in Chicago. Gifted with a unique and friendly charm and a wife he referred to as “spooky ol’ Alice,” he worked his way up to his own network variety show and later captivated a new generation of viewers as a regular on Hollywood Squares.
Since he was quick with an ad-lib and had an ear for comic dialog, we figured he’d be perfect in the role of interpreter for a non-English speaking place kicker — and one of the most accurate in NFL history — Garo Youpremian:
HOPE: I never knew you spoke a foreign language, George. Are you fluent?
GEORGE: Well, a little, but I’ll hold onto something and maybe no one will notice.
George was not averse to tossing back a distilled spirit or two before tackling an important assignment. Asked once why he felt this little ritual was necessary, he replied, “You don’t think I’d go out there alone, do you?”
HOPE: Ask him why he decided to become a football player.
GEORGE: A devisa acque footbol? (Garo answers) He says because he always wanted to have big shoulders.
HOPE: Makes sense. Ask him why all the best place-kickers these days seem to be foreigners.
GEORGE: Jabba lad borgamo foreinski? (Garo answers) He says because none of them were born in this country.
This style of humor provided Burns and Allen with long, lucrative careers. Labeled in vaudeville a “dumb act,” it requires carefully worded questions that the person answering — here Garo, a male Gracie — can interpret literally. Since the answers are silly, this type of writing looks easy, but it’s not. Try coming up with a few yourself and you’ll see.
Since I know not a word of Polish, while writing the dialog, I came up with what I thought sounded like passable phrases. George, being the consummate pro he was, didn’t make up his own gibberish but memorized mine! That’s the ultimate example of an actor’s faithfulness to the written word. Would that they were all like that.
HOPE: When did he realize that he had a talented foot?
GEORGE: Mika sen dorgondo el toesa? (Garo answers) As soon as he was born. When the doctor slapped him, he kicked the doctor seventy-five yards.
HOPE: That’s remarkable. (Garo responds)
GEORGE: He says not really. The play was called back because his mother was offsides.
HOPE: Ask him what was his longest kick.
GEORGE: Meta linquoro keek distenso? (Garo answers) About an hour and a half. The ball hit the Goodyear blimp and stuck there.
HOPE: George, tell him I thank him for being on the show.
GARO: My pleasure, Mr. Hope. I really enjoyed doing it.
GEORGE: He says --
HOPE: I got it, George, I got it. Garo Youpremian, ladies and gentlemen.
With Garo as a guest, we had an added bonus. We noticed in the biographical material provided by his PR firm that he was an accomplished amateur singer, something the NFL hadn’t publicized. So we followed up the comedy routine with a duet with Hope. Another example of Hope’s practice of taking advantage of every performing skill a guest had to offer.
Excerpted from THE LAUGH MAKERS: A Behind-the-Scenes Tribute to Bob Hope's Incredible Gag Writers (c) 2009 by Robert L. Mills and published by Bear Manor Media: . The book was chosen by Leonard Maltin as a “Top 20 Year-End Pick“ for 2009. Order online at: