Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lost Genuis

Among my collection of CDs (some are pretty old, like late '90s old [Gwen Stefani, anyone?] and some more recent, like The Editors) site something a little different. The cover is black, and features an older man next to a piano. The man's name is Victor Borge, and he was one of the greatest musical comedians of the Western world.

Born in 1909 and emigrated to the U.S of A at age 31, Victor was to be one of the enormous and unforgettable talents of the '50s. The CD that I have is a recording of one of his performances, which I never tire of listening to, though I can recite many of the jokes. Not content to be 'just' a musician, or 'just' a comedian, Borge combined the two and charmed audiences throughout America. His own unique brand of stand-up (and sit-down) was a rich mixture of skilled piano playing, witticisms and familial anecdotes. Borge performed with many other stars, including Dean Martin, Ed Sullivan and renowned Opera singer Marilyn Mulvey.

Borge was an absolute master of music and language – even though English was not his native tongue. He used both in his performance escapades, once using an entire orchestra for a sketch! One of his more famous 'inventions' was called Phonetic Punctuation, in which he assigned punctuation marks noises, so that we could use them in speech to 'understand each other better'! He read a short chapter from a storybook to demonstrate his idea. My CD – a recording of his 1953 performance in Boston has long been my only record of this wonderful man's existence. He died in 2000, so I was unable to see him perform. On a whim, I put his name into a YouTube search. Lo and behold! Seems I'm not the only person with internet access who appreciates Borge's seemingly neglected genius. While I haven't been able to find the clip that corresponds to the performance I have on CD, these are all exceptionally brilliant and funny excerpts.

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