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S FOR THE mr4ttoarir
REE DECADES, DETROIT-RAISED MORT LACHMAN
PED BRING LAUGHTER TO AMERICANAUDIENCES
AS BOB HOPE'S HEAD COMEDY WRITER.
Special to the Jewish News
ehind every non-Jewish master of
comedy, there is usually a Jewish
master comedy writer. In Bob
Hope's case, it was Mort Lachman.
As Hope turns 100 years old on May 29, the
subject of honors, praise, television specials
and glowing magazine and newspaper articles,
Mort Lachman sits in semi-retirement at his
West Los Angeles, Calif., home, reminiscing
about his three decades as Hope's head comedy
writer, cue card arranger, producer, director,
worldwide travel companion, book ghost-
writer, golf partner and all-around confidant.
In his heyday, Hope was a comic genius, a
master of timing who had an enormous impact
on how America laughed. Known as "ski nose,"
because of his prominent profile, he made "I
wanna tell ya" an enduring comic catch phrase.
The American comic icon starred in vaude-
ville, on radio, in movies, on television and on
Broadway, ranking with Al Jolson, Frank
Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Elvis Presley as
one of the most important entertainment fig-
ures of the 20th century.
Comedy historian Ben Schwartz credits Hope
with developing the very formula of modern
standup comedy. "He shifted it from being the-
atrical to being personal," says Schwartz.
Hope's career spans 80 years. He spent 60 years
in radio and television under contract to NBC,
where he made 286 TV specials. He appeared in
more than 50 movies. He entertained some 10
million troops over five decades — from appear-
ances during World War II through a USO tour
during the Persian Gulf conflict of 1990-'91 on
the eve of Operation Desert Storm. He per-
formed for 11 presidents, and earned 58 hon-
orary degrees as part of more than 2,000 honors
received from some 1,500 organizations.
But an Academy Award for his acting roles elud-
ed him. "Oscar time at my house is referred to as
Passover," he quipped during one of his many
stints as host of the Academy Awards telecast.
He also drew his share of criticism over the
years — by becoming a symbol of establish-
ment values in the late 1960s and early 1970s
as a result of his outspoken support of the
Vietnam War and the Nixon administration
and for never chancrin n , his act and time-tested
JoKEs on page 70
Mort Lachman and
Bob Hope work in
a tent during one of
their USO tours.