Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny

Free Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny by Marlo Thomas

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Authors: Marlo Thomas
told me that he was so funny, he was barred from family funerals. (Years later, Uncle Tony would be personified as Uncle Tonoose on Dad’s TV show, Make Room for Daddy .)

    Dad and Aunt Julia, his “second mom.”

    Uncle Tony—the real Uncle Tonoose.
    Uncle Tony and Aunt Julia not only gave my father a roof over his head and a lot of love and warmth, Uncle Tony also gave Dad the gift of laughter—a flair for the comedic in everything he did, including his parenting.
    Dad’s sense of drama, he must have picked up on his own. When I was in high school, I was supposed to be home at midnight on date nights. And my father was strict. When he said midnight, that meant 12:00 A.M. , not 12:05. When we were teenagers, most of our dates took us to the movies. Afterward, we’d all go to Webb’s, a drive-in restaurant on Linden and Wilshire, for a hamburger and fries. Everyone else was carefree, but I was constantly looking at the clock. The car radio was always tuned to our favorite show, which at midnight played “Goodnight, Sweetheart.” That was a song I really didn’t want to hear when I was still at Webb’s, because that would mean I was past my curfew.
    One night, we were all munching burgers, laughing and having a grand old teenage time. My date was so cute—tall, blond, all-American. He’d been voted Best Looking Boy at Beverly Hills High, and his name was all-American, too—Johnnie Anderson.
    Suddenly the first strains of “Goodnight, Sweetheart” began to play on the radio.
    “Oh, my God!” I screeched. “I’ve gotta go!”
    Johnnie and I raced up to my house on the corner of Elm and Elevado. It was now 12:15, and my father was standing out in our driveway, wearing a black coat and a black hat—with a big black cigar in his mouth and a shotgun in his hand. Oh, the drama. We used to call him “Orson” (as in Welles) because he reveled in the dramatic.
    Johnnie Anderson was a real WASP. He wasn’t used to the histrionics of Middle Eastern fathers. We got out of the car. Orson just stood there, shotgun in hand.
    “Young man, what time were you supposed to bring my daughter home?” Orson asked.
    “Midnight, sir,” Johnnie said quietly, terrified.
    “And what time is it, young man?”
    “12:15, sir.”
    “Well, then you’re late, aren’t you?” Orson said.
    You could barely hear Johnnie’s “yes” as he ran back to his car and drove off.
    I was furious. “God, Daddy, how embarrassing,” I said. “No one will ever ask me out if you keep acting like this.”
    “Wow, I really scared him,” Dad said, then he burst out laughing. So did I. I could have killed him, but it was funny.
    Orson’s drama also had a musical side to it. One night I was with my boyfriend and it was late. We were in the den on the comfy sofa, doing what teenagers do—lights low, music softly playing. Suddenly a John Philip Sousa march blasted through the speakers. Nothing kills the mood like Sousa. Orson’s message to my date was clear: “March!”
    As if my father’s late-night deejaying wasn’t anecdotal enough for my date, my lunatic family had one more surprise. When we turned on the lights, there was Terre, crouched, hiding under the pool table with our cocker spaniel, Muggins, spying on us to see what the big kids do.
    “Who’s she?” my date asked, as he frantically looked for his jacket.
    “I’m her sister,” Terre snapped, “and you have no idea how hard it is to lie there keeping this dog quiet, with his awful dog breath in my face!”
    Another boy who never called me again.

Chapter 14
Testifying with Chris Rock
    With all the breakthroughs in television, seven words are still verboten on the networks—and Chris Rock says most of them in his cable specials. My dad’s generation called this “working blue,” and Chris has clearly made that his color palette. Although I had seen all of his specials, I decided to watch them again, back to back, before sitting down to talk with him. The one thing that

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