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re: Elaine Stritch - 'As the prostitute once said...'

Pgenre Profile Photo
Pgenre
Broadway Legend
joined:5/3/05
I watched ELAINE STRITCH: AT LIBERTY (with the bonus CD track story of THE WOMEN during intermission) last night for the umpteenth time. It never gets old, it really doesn't.

Elaine Stritch opens AT LIBERTY with a proverb handed down to her from her father, "As the prostitute once said, 'It's not the work that gets you, it's the stairs". Of course, a hilarious joke in its own right. But, I just realized "stairs" could also be "stares" adding yet another level of humor to the joke..

Anyway, I want more! So I went searching and came up with some stuff some people out there might enjoy...

...a series of clips (totaling about 45 mins) from a lecture at DeSales University has been posted at the (wait-for-it) memoirs of a gaysian's website (how can you not love that title?) and also at youtube. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4U9XYAgcMSs&feature=related)

Her "Fifty-Percent" in particular is magnificent and definative. (sorry but... Dorothy who? Bea who?) Check those out.

When-oh-when is the Carlyle show going to be recorded? AT LIBERTY is simply not enough... and why no commentary track? She recorded one for ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM: COMPANY and its even better than I had hoped (tho Hal Prince does some of the track as well).

So, in searching for some more Stritch, I came across a fantastic interview with Liz Smith that is about 75 mins long and covers a lot of new (to me) ground at gaycenter.org/out (not a site I frequent, but they also have up an AMAZING interview with Edward Albee, a great talk with Michael Cunningham (author of THE HOURS, A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD, etc) and a complete staged reading of THE LISBON TRIVIATA, which I have yet to listen to). That is availible for download, and about 9 mins of it is on Youtube. The podcast version is MUCH better and, as I said, an hour longer.

Is there anything else out there as exhaustive as these two? I haven't watched the HBO documentary since it was aired, but I feel like it should be twice as long as it is (and why not?), but once again HBO drops the ball on another barebones DVD. At least they recorded it at all!

So, I have included the only link I am allowed (1 per post, right?) and the title speaks for itself.

Enjoy and any recollections about the show or the woman would be wonderful.

A friend has never seen SEPTEMBER so we are having a double feature of Woody Allen/Elaine Stritch films with that and SMALL TIME CROOKS (in which she plays a small, but pivitol, role). I guess I should get that Resnais film she did to fill out my Stritch-ography. I hope she does another Allen film, too... or CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM. Imagine her and Larry David together! Don't forget, Bea Arthur played his mother on CURB... maybe Aunt Elaine? I don't know if I could handle Larry, Wanda and Elaine together onscreen... too TOO funny.

A Good Nightmare Comes So Rarely,
P genre


Dean Martin, Ernest Borgnine and Elaine Stritch
Yankeefan007
Broadway Legend
joined:3/20/04
And I believe it's "As the one-legged prostitute said..."
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CATSNYrevival
Broadway Legend
joined:3/1/04
You realize, of course, that is the joke. That it could mean either or both. It's not another layer. That's the joke.
That's right! Underscore mother-fu@#ers!
Pgenre Profile Photo
Pgenre
Broadway Legend
joined:5/3/05
First of all, I would never be foolish enough to DECLARE the indisputable meaning of a joke, as you just did Catsnyrevival, because comedy is completely subjective and relative, thus the most delicate art and dependant wholly upon the intended audience.

Second of all, the most obvious part of the joke for me is that the act of climbing the stairs is more arduous than the actual job that the prostitute performs (sex) which I would claim is the first layer of the joke. The stair/stare pun is secondary.

I adore it when someone sticks their head so far up themselves that they somehow manage to catch a glimpse of themselves on the other side.

And, were the joke about a one-legged prostitute, it would only bolster my reading of it.

A Good Nightmare Comes So Rarely,
P genre
Updated On: 5/30/09 at 09:27 PM
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jrb_actor
Broadway Legend
joined:5/16/03
"Stairs" is definitely the first intention. I had always thought it was "stares" but she hates having a dressing room anywhere but stage level. And that's precisely how I learned this! LOL
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CATSNYrevival
Broadway Legend
joined:3/1/04
I realize that comedy is subjective, but in this case I believe the double entendre to be the sole punchline which is why you rarely see it written down as it is a joke that needs to be told verbally. Otherwise you run into the dilemma of having to choose either "stairs" or "stares" as you did in the original post which forces a so called layer that I believe to have been intended when the joke was originally told verbally. Obviously, this could be argued, but I think most people laugh at that joke because the word has two different spellings and two different meanings and not just because a hooker is having to climb a lot of stairs.
That's right! Underscore mother-fu@#ers!
Updated On: 5/30/09 at 09:45 PM
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KJisgroovy
Broadway Star
joined:1/30/04
"I think most people laugh at that joke because the word has two different spellings and two different meanings and not just because a hooker is having to climb a lot of stairs."

I think you think too much.

I also think you're wrong.
Jesus saves. I spend.
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KJisgroovy
Broadway Star
joined:1/30/04
The fact that difficult part of being a prostitute is having to climb a ton of stairs each night (rather than having a ton of sex with crude strangers)... is much funnier to me than any of that other stuff. Of course people stare at prostitutes. What's funny about that? There's nothing unexpected there. And it's kind of sad... it's not really funny. But a prostitute who doesn't mind the meaningless, illegal sex but does not like hauling herself up a lot of stairs... well... that's comedy to me.


kmc
Jesus saves. I spend.
Pgenre Profile Photo
Pgenre
Broadway Legend
joined:5/3/05
Dude(s)... if you just listen to the interview I linked to she explains the joke (like jrb_actor alludes). It's not a question.

The Woody Allen joke at the beginning is WAY too funny. The interview is absolutely fantastic, it really is. Her Sondheim stories are always the best.

I was being nice by even suggesting the joke COULD mean "stares/stairs". That's the last time I try to be nice... err, second last:

A Good Nightmare Comes So Rarely,
P genre

P.S. In that same player is an OUTRAGEOUS interview with Edward Albee where he attacks the interviewer pretty relentlessly (and, I gotta say, somewhat justifiably) for his stupidity and then proceeds to be extremely kind to the audience questioners and answering them very long-windedly to the interviewer's irritation. AND he makes an incredibly uncomfortable remark about Native Americans (again, rightfully... but wow!)!


THE DIRECT LINK TO THE STRITCH INTERVIEW
Updated On: 6/1/09 at 06:07 PM
HorseTears Profile Photo
HorseTears
Broadway Legend
joined:3/25/05
Does anyone have a valid link to this interview Pgenre refers to? The only thing I've seen is a brief video clip on YouTube with Liz Smith and Stritch. Would love to see/hear the full thing.
Wilmingtom
Broadway Legend
joined:7/18/11
I've never heard the "one-legged" bit when she's used that quote. But I've alwys thought the joke, as applied to a life in the theater, was that the work is easy, it's getting to the point where you're allowed to do the work that's hard. I don't buy the double entenre thing with "stares." If you strive to be on the stage and actually get there, you're going to want people out there staring at you.
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
"If you strive to be on the stage and actually get there, you're going to want people out there staring at you."

Perhaps she means when she's not on stage? The stares she gets on the street?
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
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HorseTears
Broadway Legend
joined:3/25/05
Yes, yes, yes. Clearly, CATSNYrevival had no idea what s/he was talking about. But that's not why I bumped a five year old thread.
Wilmingtom
Broadway Legend
joined:7/18/11
@ Goth: It's not the work, it's people staring at you on the street. Where's the joke?
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madbrian
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joined:6/1/06
I've always thought of this joke as a spin on the saying, "It's not the years, it's the mileage."
"It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg." -- Thomas Jefferson
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
"@ Goth: It's not the work, it's people staring at you on the street. Where's the joke?"

The joke is in the irony. A person works in a job where they get up in front of people and are "stared" at but are unnerved when they walk down the street and people stare.
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
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HorseTears
Broadway Legend
joined:3/25/05
God. You ****ing mouth breathers.
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GavestonPS
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joined:6/10/12
How can comedy be "completely subjective and relative"? Why do houses full of spectators laugh at the same lines?

I'm not arguing there is no subjectivity; comedy certainly does not always translate from one culture to another. Or even one time to another. But there is a reason most comedy is performed for groups and is, in fact, more enjoyable in a group setting.
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lovebwy
Broadway Legend
joined:4/22/12
I don't think there is any question what Elaine was talking about when she made that joke. As others have said here, the work is easy, its what you have to do to get there that can be hard.

But if people was to interpret it another way, I say sure. After all, authorial intent is often the least interesting thing to analyze.
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madbrian
Broadway Legend
joined:6/1/06
"As others have said here, the work is easy, its what you have to do to get there that can be hard."

I agree with this comment, and I believe it's her equivalent of an opening number, because that's really what she conveys through her anecdotes and songs.
"It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg." -- Thomas Jefferson
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HorseTears
Broadway Legend
joined:3/25/05
Jesus Christ. Yeah, the double entendre that appears when one says the joke outloud is cute, but that's not the meat of the joke. It can't be that difficult to comprehend this. Wait. I wonder if Elaine Stritch herself ever decided to explain this line to an audience? Hmmm....

(Skip to 3:43 if you want to get straight to the explanation, though why anyone would skip ahead in an Elaine Stritch interview is beyond me.)



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FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
Gaveston's right. I think we should really hash this out. Process it.
'First the Bastille than the butt plug.' -- M ______
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Luscious
Broadway Legend
joined:10/20/05
The joke has nothing whatsoever to do with "stares", as Elaine tells it. She never refers to the prostitute as one-legged. It's all about the "stairs". End of story.
"One Man's Turd is Another Man's Treasure" Blocked: suestorm, Liza's Headband
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Someone in a Tree2
Broadway Star
joined:10/9/12
Besides, everyone seems to be forgetting-- the BEST word in the whole the joke is the FIRST one--

"WELL!" She could have said anything after that first "well", and we would have laughed.
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FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
It's important to explicate the word "well" and to look at its multiple meanings and symbolic interactions not only in the joke but also in the mytho-poetic collective unconscious. Elaine Stritch's "WELL!" takes on meanings unattainable by, for example, Jack Benny's "Well!". The way in which Stritch genders "WELL!" is in profound ways unattainable by a penised person such as Benny. A legendarily penised person such as Benny at that, with all the social privilege that implies, which is redoubled exponentially with his Caucasian-ness, his Hetero:sex-uality. This is some ways mitigated by his Jew:Ish-ness, which provides him something of an outsider status, but that is a topic for another paper.

With Stritch, the "WELL!" is both an epiphanic expression of the working class realizing the way in which its fortunes are yoked to the wealthy, the "john" in the example of the sex worker. But a "well" is also a source of water, the basic life force on Earth. Stritch's "WELL!" becomes declaration of woman-hood, an invocation of the womb from which all life emanates. "WELL!", Stritch announces with the authority of the mythical Eve, I am your mother, I am your guide to survival, I will show you how it is done. And how it is done well.

Simultaneous to this interpretive level is the fact that a "well" has, in the history of Western literature, been a symbolic holding place of human emotions. We have heard of "wells of loneliness," of "sad:ness" or, in the worst of all possibilities, of "empty-ness." It is this last notion that Stritch interrogates and undermines throughout "At Liberty" by clearly demonstrating that a post-menopausal woman is as capable of birthing greatness perhaps even more striking than that of women still capable of fecundity.
'First the Bastille than the butt plug.' -- M ______
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Someone in a Tree2
Broadway Star
joined:10/9/12
No-one can expostulate like Namo can expostulate.

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