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Victor Borge: Happy 101st Birthday to ‘the Funniest Pianist on Earth’

Piano comedian Victor Borge was born on this day in 1909 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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.

Victor Borge on The Muppet Show in 1979.  Clockwise from top center: Victor Borge, Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog, Animal, Fozzy Bear.

See our complete Victor Borge biography »

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