The Round Table
Throughout the sixties and seventies, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme were frequent guests, favorites of Hope because he could use them both as singers and comic actors. Steve and Eydie had met while appearing as regulars on The Garry Moore Show where they learned the art (and it’s definitely an art) of sketch comedy.
In a 1978 special entitled Bob Hope’s Tribute to the Palace Theater, we took advantage of their musical comedy talents by casting them in a sketch playing Sir Lancelot and Lady Guinevere opposite Hope’s King Arthur in a parody we called “Squares at the Round Table.”
(Trumpeters beside the entrance to the castle sound a fanfare. Eydie, in a flowing purple gown, enters strumming a small harp)
EYDIE: (sings) I’m Guinevere... good King Arthur’s wife... and I swore to be true to him... all my life... But alas and alack... now I love him not... because I’m hot to trot... with Sir Lancelot!
Note that in just eight lines, Eydie has set up the premise of the entire sketch. With only ten minutes to work with, we had no time to dillydally.
EYDIE: (cups ear) Hark! I think I hear my handsome knight coming now!
(Steve Lawrence enters dressed in a suit of mail and dragging a suit of armor behind him)
STEVE: Sorry I’m, late, but I had to pick up my suit from Earl Scheib.
(Steve and Eydie rush together and embrace. We hear the clank of metal,)
STEVE: (sings Trolley Song) Clang, clang, clang goes my armor... Boom, boom, boom goes my lust...I would love you forever... but I think I’m beginning to rust!
EYDIE: Oh, Lancy, I’m so antsy for you!
STEVE: (pulls away) No! I can’t go on like this, dallying with my best friend’s wife! I’m a knight, I’m English, I’m sworn to the code of honor. Let’s do the decent thing!
EYDIE: What’s that?
STEVE: Kill him!
EYDIE: You’re sweet, you big lug. (cups ear) Gadzooks, I think I hear my pain-in-the-armor husband coming now!
(Trumpeters sound fanfare. Hope enters as King Arthur. He dismounts from an armored hobby horse,)
HOPE: (to trumpeters) Thanks, Dizzy. Thanks, Miles. (to horse) Whoa, Seattle Slew. (to camera) Lose one race and look where you end up. (horse falls to floor) That’s what I call Jockey Shorts. (to audience) I am the great and good King Arthur... I rule a land that is a magic spot... I even have a place to park my camel --
HOPE: (sings) A camel lot.
This was typical of the late entrance that Hope preferred — delayed while the others set up the premise. Note that it’s packed with multiple jokes, both spoken and visual. So far, he’s gotten six laughs and he hasn’t greeted his co-stars yet!
HOPE: I had a great day. I slew three dragons, repelled a Saxon invasion, and fought a duel with a weird Viking, “Eric the Pink.” And on the way home, I saved a damsel in distress.
STEVE: How did you do that?
HOPE: I changed my mind.
EYDIE: We’ll celebrate your safe return. Let us withdraw to the round table and partake of a goblet of drinkie-poo.
HOPE: I could use a little drinkie. My poo is parched.
HOPE: (raises goblet) Let’s drink to loyalty and love.
EYDIE: Wait! Before we drink, let me demonstrate my devotion. (embraces Hope) (whispers over Hope’s shoulder to Steve) While I’m showing him some devotion, you slip some potion in his lotion!
STEVE: Wait a minute. While you’re showing your devotion, where do I find the lotion for his potion?
EYDIE: In the ocean!
This rhyming routine was a takeoff on a classic exchange in The Court Jester starring Danny Kaye. (“The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle. The chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!”)
(While Hope and Eydie kiss, Steve slips poison into Hope’s drink which emits a billow of smoke)
STEVE: A toast to Gwen and Artie — a fun couple!
HOPE: (re smoke): Oh, oh. While she’s giving me a hickey, he’s slipping me a mickey. (distracts Steve) Look! It’s Lady Godiva and she’s still horsing around!
(When Steve looks, Hope exchanges their goblets)
STEVE: (notices smoke in his goblet) Man, oh, man! My Manischewitz is on fire here! (distracts Hope as he again spins the table) At last, we drink! (both take a sip)
HOPE: (slumps in a chair) I think my life just got canceled! This is one heartburn even Liquid Plumber can’t fix! (he expires after a long groan and final gasp)
EYDIE: (embracing Steve) At last we can be together!
HOPE: (revives) But before I go, I want you both to know that I forgive you (expires again, then revives). And another thing, Guinevere, I want you to subdivide the castle into condominiums. They’ll be very big someday. And municipal bonds are nice, too --
STEVE: (shoves him back into chair) Will you go already!
STEVE: Now we can begin our new lives together, my love.
EYDIE: I can’t wait! Monday nights, it’s dinner at my mother’s --
STEVE: Your mo-mo-mother’s?
EYDIE: And on Tuesday nights, she comes here --
STEVE: Tu-Tu-Tuesdays she comes here?
EYDIE: Every Tuesday without fail.
STEVE: Well at least we’ll spend Wednesday nights alone.
HOPE: (revives) On Wednesday nights, she gets a violent headache.
STEVE: How do I get out of this?
HOPE: (hands him his goblet) It’s Miller time! (Steve drinks from Hope’s goblet and expires next to him)
EYDIE: I thought he’d never leave. (looks offstage) you can come in now, Sir Carsolot!
(Johnny Carson in knight’s garb and a blonde pageboy wig enters and takes Eydie in his arms)
JOHNNY: (to audience) Well, there goes one of my nights off!
Prevailing upon Johnny Carson to provide our blackout was fortuitous, to say the least. We were in the midst of the dress-rehearsal late in the afternoon in a studio that adjoined Johnny’s Tonight Show set. Hope, Steve and Eydie were having so much fun in their Camelot costumes, someone came up with the bright idea of having them walk onto Johnny’s show while it was in progress. Johnny was notoriously shy and seldom appeared as a guest on anyone’s show. If Hope had asked him in advance, he’d have declined, but how could he turn down a request by the beloved Bob Hope right in front of his own audience? Hope knew he couldn’t, and we had our perfect blackout.
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: