Victor Borge was considered one of the world’s great comedic geniuses. Dubbed ‘The Clown Prince of Denmark,’ he had no significant rivals in a career that spanned more than 7 years. His comic persona and stage routine was tailored to his personality quirks, musical gifts and extraordinary sense of humour.
“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people,” he would say. Victor publicly ridiculed Adolf Hitler in his native Denmark just before WWII. When the Germans invaded, he managed to escape to America, obtaining a visa due to his American-born wife. He learnt to speak English and gained an understanding of American humour by watching movies; quickly rising to prominence with The Victor Borge Show on NBC from the mid 1940s. At one time he was the highest paid entertainer in the world.
Victor’s Comedy in Music one man show on Broadway reached 849 performances – the largest solo run in the Great White Ways history. It was based on a routine that became synonymous with his style, announcing that he was going to play a piece, but seldom actually getting around to doing it because of his hilarious interaction with the audience.
Ironically, his most famous pieces aren’t musical. Phonetic Punctuation recites all of the punctuation marks as exaggerated onomatopoeic sounds. Inflationary Language uses the incremented numbers embedded in words such as “once upon a time” becoming “twice upon a time”, “wonderful” – “twoderful”; “tennis” – “elevenis” and so on.
He toured New Zealand on many occasions. I can’t recall the exact year, but I sent him this caricature and some copies at Dunedin’s Regent Theatre either in the late 1980s or the early 1990s and received these two copies back signed. He kept the original. Not sure what the inscription is all about…
Victor performed to the end. After returning to his Greenwich, Connecticut home from a December 2000 concert in Copenhagen, he died the next day aged 91.