How often can a musician make you laugh out loud?
"To people who take music seriously, I'm a musician.
To people who don't take music seriously, I'm a comedian.
To people who don't take anything seriously, I'm a clown."
- Victor Borge
Victor was born Borge Rosenbaum in Copenhagen, Denmark. His father was a violist with the Royal Danish Orchestra and his mother an accomplished pianist. Young Victor began taking piano lessons at three and was soon recognized as a prodigy. His musical humor came to light early also. His parents would call on him to play when they entertained at dinner parties and he would announce that he would play a work of Beethoven or Bach, but would actually play one of his own compositions in the style of Beethoven or Bach. Then he would secretly delight when the guest would exclaim "that’s my favorite Beethoven piece! I’ve never heard that piece played so well!"
Borge received a full scholarship to the Royal Danish Academy of Music. He worked as a concert pianist for a time then turned to comedy full time, combining his piano playing with jokes. He married American Elsie Chilton in 1933 and toured Europe extensively. He took delight in making fun of the Nazi’s ("What is the difference between a Nazi and a dog? The dog raises his leg...") Between his humor and his Jewishness Borge was on the top of the German hit-list when they invaded Denmark in 1940. Fortunately Borge was playing a concert in Sweden at the time, and he escaped with his wife and Scottish Terrier to Finland where they boarded the USS American Legion, which had been sent to evacuate Crown Princess Martha of Norway. The American Legion was the last neutral ship to leave Northern Europe.
Borge spoke no English when he arrived on these shores, but quickly learned enough to make his jokes understood by "studying" in movie theaters. Rudy Vallee gave him an opportunity on his radio show, and he soon became part of Bing Crosby’s Kraft Music Hall. In addition to his own show he was in great demand to guest on Command Performance, Fibber McGee and Molly, Jubilee, Mail Call and Command Performance. This collection also contains rare broadcast of his appearance on Listen to A Love Song.
Some of Borge’s best routines were visual and worked better live or on television. He would begin playing a piece on the piano which was unrecognizable. In confusion he would stop, look closely at his sheet music, then turn the piece which was upside down in the music stand, and continue to play the familiar music. Other times he would become so engrossed in his playing that he would slide off the piano bench. After this happened a few times he would stand, open the lid to the bench to reveal a seat belt, buckle himself in, and finish the number. When he stood to take his bows he had 'forgotten' the seat belt, and the piano bench would still be strapped to his backside!
In a non-entertainment related business endeavor he began raising and popularized Rock-Cornish Hens during the 50s. When he appeared on What’s My Line he listed his occupation as "Poultry Farmer."
Victor Borge continued to tour and perform through out his life. He was making up to 60 appearances a year at the age of 90.