Joe E. Brown's "Arrest Me"

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Sat Jan 15 22:34:30 UTC 2000


    The Chicago Historical Society still hasn't responded to me about Joe E. Lewis.  Again, it's a new millennium--maybe I should give the town another thousand years.
    By a sort-of accident, I read comedian Joe E. BROWN's autobiography, LAUGHTER IS A WONDERFUL THING (1956).  George Thompson has suggested here that the phrase "can't get arrested" comes from a Julia Lee song in 1948.  This is from Joe E. Brown, page 163:

    Comedy comes from every source.  My skit, _Arrest Me_, which I used later, was adapted from O. Henry's _The Cop and the Anthem_.  O. Henry wrote his story to leave a sombre taste, and for all that the skit is a merry one throughout, it too ends on a serious note.  But the vaudeville version is even more emphatically ironic than the story, because the contrast is more vivid and sharp.
    The plot, if you remember, is typically O. Henry.  It is the story of a down-and-out bum who figures the best place for him is in jail.  It is cold on the park bench and a news item he happens to read describes the Christmas dinner being prepared for the prisoners.  The attempts he makes to get arrested are all good comedy and finally, when he has given up, he suddenly comes into an inheritance.  Then, when he doesn't want to be jugged, he is picked up and thrown into jail.
   (Continued on pg. 165, desscribing the year 1924--ed.)
   I got together a full cast for the _Arrest Me_ sketch and we played the Orpheum circuit vaudeville houses for the rest of the season.
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