He has been dubbed the “king of the ocean liner” who doesn’t need elaborate jokes to make the audience laugh. Comedian and violinist Henny Youngman derives his alias from famed columnist Walter Winchell. Henny was a distinguished comedian who popularized one-line at a time when long tales were the norm in the comedy world. Known for the simplicity of his jokes, he always went straight to the punch line, reducing his audience to a state of hysterical laughter in no time.
He will always be remembered as a dedicated comedian with his record of over 200 annual appearances at nightclubs across Vegas, New York, Montreal, Louisiana and Chicago. Henny Youngman was also known for his performances at cruises, meetings, receptions, banquets and colleges. He was naturally prolific and was always looking for job opportunities. The witty comedian came from the days when living off entertainment was like drawing water from a rock and he was always seen with his violin which he intermittently leans on to spice up his work. Together with Rocky Graziano, he hosted The Henny and Rocky Show and made an appearance on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. His wife, Sadie, was often the butt of many jokes. The most popular of these was “Take my wife, please”, which was his signature.
Henny Youngman: his life
A career spanning more than seventy years of cheeky one-liners has given Henny Youngman pride of place at the top of most popular showman lists. He was born on March 16, 1906 in London but moved to America while still in childbirth. His first job was in a small shop as a printer. Naturally funny, he joined Swanee Syncopaters – a music group where he blacklisted.
One fateful night it happened that the regular comedian didn’t show up and since he was known to tickle the audience with his catchy jokes, Henny was chosen to fill the void. By chance, Milton Berle, an already established comedian, stumbled across Henny’s store and was very impressed with his comedy cards which consist of a number of one-line gigs that he printed and sold in his store. It was the start of a lifelong relationship that was instrumental in bringing Henny into the limelight.
Although the majority of his jokes were directed at his wife Sally, the couple had a long and happy union that only ended with Sally’s death. She put her weight behind her husband during his difficult years and the witty comedian wasted no time in making it known how grateful and devoted he was to his partner. Henny’s role became a reality when he came on the 1937 Kate Smith radio show. Never really a huge success in the cinema but his career in nightclubs was flourishing. He was put in a class of his own by his popular rapid-fire one-liners paired with a hand fiddle that became his trademark. The comic reached a new level of popularity in the 1960s when he joined Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In in 1967.
Other facts about the comedian
The personal life of Henny Youngman
Henny enjoyed a very long known life with his only wife until her death on March 19, 1988. He married Sally Cohen on May 4, 1928 with their union lasting almost six decades. Although most of his one-liners centered around his wife, they were very close, and his wife accompanied him on most of his tours.
Sally died of a long illness and to show support for his ailing wife during her illness, Henny set up an intensive care unit in their room so that Sally, terrified of hospitals, could stay home. Their union has been blessed with two children, a son and a daughter – their son Gary works in the entertainment industry in various capacities including as a director and screenwriter. He is popular for his movie Rush It released in 1976. Youngman’s daughter is named Marilyn.
Details regarding his general body stats were never released during his lifetime, but Henny Youngman was known to be a very tall man, standing at a height of 6 feet 3 inches, or around 1.91m.
According to reports, except for the week following his wife’s death and the month he was hospitalized before he died, the prolific comedian worked almost daily for over 70 years without taking any breaks or vacations. He also published an autobiography titled “Take My Wife, Please”.
Just three weeks before his 92nd birthday, the comedy legend died of pneumonia. His death was on February 24, 1998, and his burial was in Mount Carmel Cemetery in Glendale, New York. Henny’s final resting place was next to his beloved Sally.