Marx Brothers (Chico and Groucho) meretricious wordplay in 1930 or 1933

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 13 18:18:21 UTC 2012

In the 1930s Groucho and Chico Marx were featured in a radio program
called "Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel". The scripts were reprinted
in 1988. Here is a segment of dialog that contained wordplay from
Chico Marx based on the adjective "meretricious":

[Begin excerpt]
JUDGE: Please, Mr. Flywheel, you'll get your chance later . . . Ladies
and gentlemen, my candidacy is being fought by a group of men who are
dishonest, grafting and meretricious!
CHICO: Tank you, judge, and I wish you da same.
JUDGE: You wish me what?
CHICO: A meretricious. A meretricious and a happy new year!
[End excerpt]

Conflicting information was given about the date of the radio
broadcast of this script in "Cassell's Humorous Quotations" (2001) and
"Brewer’s Famous Quotations" (2006). The more recent reference
asserted that the joke was told in a 1930 broadcast, but I think the
correct year was 1933.

Cite: 2001, Cassell's Humorous Quotations, Compiled by Nigel Rees,
Section: Meretricious, Page 281, [Cassell, London], Sterling Pub. Co.,
New York. (Verified on paper)
[Begin excerpt]
It was also delivered by Chico Marx on the NBC Radio series Flywheel,
Shyster and Flywheel (13 March 1933).
[End excerpt]

Cite: 2006, Brewer’s Famous Quotations by Nigel Rees, Section: Gore
Vidal, Page 478, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London. (Verified on paper)
[Begin excerpt]
Ken Austin points out that in an episode of the Marx Brothers' NBC
radio show Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel (broadcast on 13 March 1930,
the following exchange took place between Chico and an exasperated
judge who is fighting for re-election: …
[End excerpt]

A broadcast date of March 13, 1933 was given in the 1988 book of
reprinted scripts from Pantheon Books. This appears to be the most
authoritative source for the proper date.

Cite: 1988, Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel: The Marx Brothers' Lost
Radio Show, Edited by Michael Barson, [Five Start Theater Presents:
Episode Number 16, March 13, 1933] Start Page 193, Quote Page 199,
Pantheon Books, New York. (Verified on paper)

In previous research the earliest cite I located for this wordplay was
a 1930 column by Walter Winchell.


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