Borge was a one-man genre: the impressive classically-trained pianist who told a lot of jokes. He preferred to tell jokes, in fact, and his failure to stop joking and start playing was one of the running gags of his 60-year comedy career.
Victor Borge was called “the funniest pianist on Earth” by The Washington Post. He was a child prodigy at the Danish Royal Academy of Music, but discovered a taste for comedy as a young man before fleeing Denmark for the United States at the start of World War II.
Borge spoke no English, but learned in a hurry. By 1941 he was appearing on Bing Crosby‘s radio show, and in 1953 he began a three-year run on Broadway with his own one-man show, Comedy in Music. Borge’s dour Scandinavian face and formal dress set the stage for the sly hijinks to come: he would comically mangle classic tunes, make faces, and simply stop at the keyboard to tell jokes. The show ran for 849 performances and became a hit record (above) as well.
Borge is not so well remembered now — a hazard of being a one-man genre — but he was a big star in his day. He kept touring and joking right up until his death in 2000.
See our complete Victor Borge biography »