“Heifer cow is better than none, but this is no time for puns.” – Groucho Marx

Or maybe this is a good time for puns. With all the stuff going on around us right now, this might just be the perfect time, in fact, for a little distraction in the form of wordplay and puns. And who better to provide us with that material than those who were among the best at it, the Marx brothers: Groucho, Chico, Harpo (even though he never spoke) and Zeppo.

“These are my principles, and if you don’t like them . . . well I have others,” Groucho once told an associate (the quote has also been attributed to several politicians). Regardless of who actually said it, that’s a good way to approach this piece; if you don’t like some of the jokes, don’t worry, there are plenty of others.

One of the brothers’ favorite subjects was women – although sometimes it’s difficult to tell just how they felt about them. (It’s also interesting to see just how much political correctness has evolved in the 90 or so years that have passed since most of this material was written.)

When Groucho told a woman that she was the most beautiful woman in the world, she asked him, “Really?” He replied, “No, but I don’t mind lying if it gets me somewhere.” On another occasion, he reminded his troops, “Remember men, we’re fighting for this woman’s honor; which is probably more than she ever did.”

When things didn’t work out, he told one date, Mrs. Teasdale (a wealthy widow played by Margaret Dumont) in “Duck Soup,” “You can leave in a taxi. If you can’t get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that’s too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff.”


And when insults weren’t enough, Groucho could always rely on the good old double entendre: “We took some pictures of the native girls, but they weren’t developed. But we’re going back again in a couple of weeks.”

Another time he was wooing a young blonde in a tippy canoe and remarked, “I was gonna get a flat bottom, but the girl at the boathouse didn’t have one.”

Besides annoying the women he met, Groucho Marx had another hobby – he also loved to read. “I love to read,” he said. “My education is self-inflicted.” He once observed, “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

He even revealed, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read.”

For someone who spent much of his later career hosting the television show “You Bet Your Life,” Groucho seemed to harbor a lot of disdain for the medium. “Television is where you watch people in your living room that you would not want near your house.”

One person Groucho seemed to not want near his house was his brother Chico, at least in their movies. I’ve stitched together some quotes from several of their films to come up with this imaginary conversation between the quick-tongued Groucho and the equally deft Chico, who always affected a New York Italian-Jewish accent.


Groucho (explaining) – “That’s in every contract, that’s what you call a sanity clause.”

Chico – “You can’t fool me, there ain’t no sanity clause.”

Groucho – “You know, I’d buy you a parachute if I knew it wouldn’t open.”

Chico – “Haha, you’re crazy, I’ve already got a pair a shoes.” (He kicks Groucho.)

Groucho – “I’ll teach you to kick me . . .”

Chico – “You don’t need to teach me, I already know how.”


Groucho – “Get outta here before I get arrested.”

Chico – “Nah, I’d like to stay and see that.”

Groucho – “I’ve got a good mind to go out and join a club and beat you over the head with it.”

I hope you enjoyed this look at some of the Marx brothers’ humor. If you didn’t, keep in mind that Groucho himself once admitted, “Well, all the jokes can’t be good. You’ve got to expect that once in a while.”

Jim Witherell of Lewiston is a writer and lover of words whose work includes “L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company” and “Ed Muskie: Made in Maine.” He can be reached at jlwitherell19@gmail.com.

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