Bob Hope Jokes about Bob Hope

In this 1954 article by Bob Hope as told to Pete Martin, Bob riffed on Al Capone, the King of England, and life on the road.

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Adapted from a series by Pete Martin that ran in 9 parts from February 13, 1954 through  April 10, 1954 in The Saturday Evening Post.

This article and other features about the stars of Tinseltown can be found in the Post’s Special Collector’s Edition, The Golden Age of Hollywood. This edition can be ordered here. 

One of my writers, Larry Klein, looked at me one day and said, “You know, if you had your life to live all over again, you wouldn’t have time to do it.” The truth is I wouldn’t want to live it over again. It’s been pretty exciting up to now. The encore might not be as much fun.

By his crack, Larry meant, among other things, that I travel a lot. Hoofers, comedians and singers used to place ads in Variety that read: “Have Tuxedo, will travel.” This meant that they were ready to go anyplace any time; that they were available for a variety of engagements, and that they would be dressed classy when they showed up. I’ve been traveling ever since I can remember, and I’ve been available since I did my first Charlie Chaplin imitation when I was 9 or 10. But I haven’t always had a tux. I bought my first one out of my savings when I was 19. Although it was real sharp, it was secondhand and a tight fit. But what there was of it was all mine. It cost me 14 bucks at Richman’s in Cleveland. It would cost more than that now just to have it let out enough at the seams.

And I’m still traveling. My wife, Dolores, complains that I’m always taking off without giving her warning. I’ll say this for Dolores: No one can handle being married to a traveling-salesman type better than she. She’s very sweet about my absences. In fact, the towels in our bathroom are marked HERS and WELCOME TRAVELER. But when she gets a certain look in her eye, I take her on my next trip.

Last year the Friars threw a testimonial dinner for me in New York. During the evening several tributes were paid to me as a show-business pro. It was nice to hear all that flattery. I was glad Dolores was there to hear it too. Up to then, she’d thought I was a pilot for United Air Lines.

Another memory that floats into my head involves Joe E. Lewis, the nightclub genius. Once when I was in Chicago, I dropped in at a night spot, the Chez Paree, to catch Joe’s last show. I was too late for that, but I saw Dottie Lamour sitting at a table, and I sat beside her. A woman walked over to the table, took my chin in her hand and turned my face toward another woman she’d left back at her table.

“This is it, Julie,” she said, handling my head as if it were a cabbage. Dottie and I laughed so hard we almost fell under the table. The woman didn’t say, “Pardon me.” She just walked over and used me for demonstration purposes. She’d probably said to her friend, “There’s Bob Hope over there,” and her friend said, “I don’t believe it.” So she walked over, took my head and twirled it around to prove her point.

When I’d pulled myself together, I asked her, “Where do you get your material, honey? It’s great.”

“I listen to you every Monday night,” she said. I stopped laughing. I’d been on Tuesdays for four years.

Taking the memories as they pop into my mind brings up one of my first bookings for the William Morris office at the Chicago Palace. Because of a joke I did with Louise Troxell, I had a little trouble there. She walked on and said, “You’re very attractive,” and I said, “Yes, I come from a very brave family. My brother slapped Al Capone in the face.” This was during the time when Capone reigned as the czar of Cicero, a Chicago suburb.

Louise said, “Your brother slapped A1 Capone in the face?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I’d like to shake his hand,” she said.

“We’re not going to dig him up just for that,” I said. I did it during my first show, and it got a laugh.

But the manager, Frank Smith, came up to me afterward and said, “If you’re wise, you’ll take that joke out.”

“Why?” I asked.

“The boys come down here from Cicero on Saturday nights,” he said. “They’re liable not to like it. And if they don’t like it, I feel sorry for you.”

“Oh, I don’t think they’ll mind,” I said. So I kept it in that Saturday night. I was living at the Bismarck Hotel, and on Sunday morning the phone rang.

A low, gruff-type voice asked, “Is this Bob Hope?”

I said, “Yes.” This voice—its the only voice I’ve ever heard with a flat nose— asked, “Are you the one who’s doing that joke about Al Capone?”

“Yes,” I said. “Why?”

“Do us a favor,” the voice said. “Take it out.”

“Who’s this?” I asked.

“Just one of the boys,” the voice said. “Take it out. We’ll be around to thank you for it.”

“Yes, sir,” I said. “It’ll be out.” I never found out who’d called me, but to reach the Palace stage entrance I had to walk through a long, dark alleyway. A couple of actors had been held up in that alley, and it was a lonely place, especially if you were having a difference of opinion with the mob. I didn’t want to make that walk with that on my mind, so I replaced Al Capone with Jack Dempsey—“Slap Jack Dempsey in the face … we’re not going to dig him up just for that”—and it scored just as well.


Now here’s a story that fits into the “high points of my life” department.

In 1947, Dolores and I were invited to London to attend the showing of the annual command- performance film for King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth. For me the high point of the expedition was the chance to kick the conversational gong around with the King.

Norman Siegel, who was then head of West Coast publicity at Paramount, chaperoned the tour. When Dolores and I boarded the plane in California, Jean Hersholt came to the airport and gave me a book to present to Princess Elizabeth, the gracious and high-hearted lady who’s now Queen of England. The book contained autographed photographs of every important Hollywood movie star. But when I arrived in England, Princess Elizabeth was in Scotland on her honeymoon, so the whole deal was temporarily lost sight of.

After the command performance, we visitors went into a room just off the foyer in the Odeon Theater to pay our respects to their majesties. Just then Norman Siegel came in and asked, “Where’s that book of autographed photographs? They’re waiting for it.”

After a frantic search, it was found in the manager’s office. I ran upstairs with it, handed it to Princess Margaret, said, “I think you’ll enjoy this,” and began to show her the photos.

The King watched me leaf through it; then slipped me the royal needle. “Look at him,” he said; “rushing to get to his own picture.”

I said, “Why not? It’s the prettiest.”

He grinned; then asked, “Is Bing’s autograph there too?”

“Yes,” I said. “ But he doesn’t write. He just made three X’s.”

“Three X’s?” the King asked.

“He has a middle name,” I said.

We kidded back and forth, and the next day headlines in the DAILY EXPRESS said: THE KING AD LIBS WITH BOB HOPE. That’s the only time I ever had a king work as straight man for me.

Still other great memories come from my family. Dolores has a wise and loving touch with our children. I’m lost in admiration of the job she has done with them, and with the job she’s done keeping me in line. A lot of children whose fathers are in show business grow up too precocious, too wise, too fresh, too unfunny. That’s not true of our four. Dolores sees to that. She also sees to it that they’re having a devout rearing. One day our neighbor, Mrs. Dailey, overheard our littlest one, Kelly, ask our next youngest, Nora, “Is everybody in the world Catholic?”

“Yes,” Nora said, “everybody but daddy. He’s a comedian.”

I was both surprised and pleased when I heard that. I have no trouble convincing them that I’m their daddy, but sometimes I have trouble convincing them that I’m a comedian.



Click to read the original article, “This is On Me,” a nine-part series on Bob Hope by Pete Martin, published in the Post in 1954. 

Hollywood SIPThis article and other features about the stars of Tinseltown can be found in the Post’s Special Collector’s Edition, The Golden Age of Hollywood. This edition can be ordered here.

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