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Tribute to Victor Borge – the Great Dane

Victor Borge - the Great Dane 1909 - 2000

Victor Borge - the Great Dane 1909 - 2000

Tribute to Victor Borge – the Great Dane

"Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." - Victor Borge

Do you know who Victor Borge is? No? Then you are in for an unbelievable treat when you watch these hilarious videos.

Yes? Then keep reading for an extraordinary ”déjà vu” experience.

Victor Borge was an exceptional performer - a renowned classical pianist who was also an original, brilliant comedian. He was known as the Great Dane as well as The Clown Prince of Denmark. No one else has yet come along to fill his shoes.

The Washington Post once called Victor Borge “the funniest pianist on Earth.” That was no exaggeration. Take a look at this short video slide show and you will understand why.

Victor Borge Slide Show

Borge: “And now, in honor of the 150th anniversary of Beethoven's death, I would like to play ‘Clear the Saloon’, er, ‘Clair de Lune’, by Debussy. I don't play Beethoven so well, but I play Debussy very badly, and Beethoven would have liked that.”

Victor began his career at the age of 17 as a concert pianist in his native Denmark. He soon became one of the country's most popular comedians. He amazed audiences with his virtuoso piano-playing and then paralyzed them with laughter with his irreverent wit regarding classical music. He believed that the pompous conventions of classical music were intrinsically hilarious.

Borge: "Look at a symphony concert on TV and turn off the sound. If you have the slightest sense of humor, you will laugh yourself silly - the musicians look and act absolutely ridiculous."

A typical Borge performance might start, not with the opening bars of a classical composition, but with his minute inspection of the piano from all angles. (Borge inspecting the piano): “Hmmmm . . . Steinway & Sons. Didn't even know he was married.”

Pages of sheet music would get misplaced. He would inspect his hair and clothing in his reflection from the shiny black piano. He might face the audience and scold imaginary latecomers. These comic bits were executed with such style and wit that the orchestra was convulsed with laughter - and one time a female piccolo soloist laughed so hard she was unable to draw breath to play.

How did it all begin?

Victor Borge was born in Copenhagen, Denmark January 3, 1909, the son of Bernhard and Frederikke Rosenbaum. He was named Børge Rosenbaum, the youngest son in a family of five boys and his musical talent was no accident. His father was a violinist in the Royal Danish Symphony Orchestra.

His mother gave piano lessons and introduced him to the piano at the age of three. He made his concert debut in Copenhagen at the age of eight, and as a child prodigy, he studied at the Copenhagen Music Conservatory as well as in Vienna and Berlin.

Although Borge started his career as a classical pianist, his talent for making the audience laugh was soon obvious, and he started developing his unique blend of irreverent humor and music. During the 1930s he became one of Denmark's most popular cabaret performers and was best known for being a comedian.

Borge: “Pete (Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky) was born in Votkinsk, May 7, 1840. When he was a little boy he never played out in the streets of Votkinsk like the other little children of Votkinsk because when Tchaikovsky was one month old his parents moved to St. Petersburg.”

Victor Borge book

Coming to America

His lampooning of Adolf Hitler provoked the ire of Germany long before the Nazis invaded Denmark in April 1940. Fortunately, young Victor was performing in Stockholm, Sweden at the time. He stayed there and later that year traveled to the United States with his American-born wife. Borge arrived with just $20 in his pocket and unable to speak English.

Borge: “Churchill and I were the only ones who saw what was happening - He saved Europe and I saved myself.”

For the next year he spent much of his time at the movies, watching films and listening intently to the dialogue to teach himself English. He changed his name to Victor Borge. After entertaining guests at a private party, he was invited to appear on the Bing Crosby radio show in 1941 - and remained on it for 56 weeks.

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In 1942, he was named "the best new radio performer of the year" by the American press, and his radio and TV shows became extremely popular.  He became an American citizen in 1948, and had his own one-man show, "Comedy in Music," at The Golden Theatre, New York from 1953-56 which beat the Broadway record for a solo show - 849 performances

With Robert Sherman he was the author of My Favorite Intermissions (1971) and My Favorite Comedies in Music (1981).  

Borge: “I'm going to play a piece … by a Danish composer. Ummmmm … Mozart.  Hans Christian Mozart!”

Borge toured the world for decades with his popular one-man show which mixed classical piano performances with quips, wordplay and pratfalls. His dour Scandinavian face and formal dress set the stage for the sly humor that would follow. He would comically mangle classic tunes, make faces, or simply stop at the keyboard to tell jokes. Although he first performed as a serious classical pianist, his talent for comedy overtook the music. His repertoire included pranks such as falling off his piano stool, playing music upside down or backwards,

Borge: “And now, in honor of the 150th anniversary of Beethoven's death, I would like to play "Clear the Saloon", er, "Clair de Lune", by Debussy. I don't play Beethoven so well, but I play Debussy very badly, and Beethoven would have liked that.”

During the 1960s and '70s, he was a familiar face on TV talk and variety shows, including The Dean Martin Show and TheTonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Besides musical jokes, Borge also created read-aloud gags like phonetic punctuation. He would read each comma, period and question mark as a sound. A period, for example became “phhwwttt.”

Victor Borge Phonetic Punctuation

Victor Borge and Sean Connery receive awards, Kennedy Center 1999

Victor Borge and Sean Connery receive awards, Kennedy Center 1999

Although Borge became known best as a comedian, he never lost his classical abilities, sometimes serving as a serious (or semi-serious) guest conductor for major orchestras, and he continued to tour the world until just before his death.

He often gave command performances for kings, queens and presidents. He was knighted by the kings of Norway, Denmark and Sweden and was twice honored by the U.S. Congress. He became one of the highest paid entertainers in the United States and kept up a busy career into his 80s. Borge also received a Kennedy Center award for his “outstanding contribution to American cultural life” from President Bill Clinton in 1999.

Victor, who sold you those pants?

The Best of Victor Borge Video

His video, “The Best of Victor Borge,” sold over three million copies. At his 80th birthday concert at Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens, Borge played variations on the song, “Happy Birthday to You” in the styles of Mozart, Brahms, Wagner and Beethoven.

Borge had married American Elsie Chilton in 1933 with whom he had two children. That marriage ended in divorce and in 1953 he married his manager, Sanna Roach. They had three children. They were married until her death, three months before Borge, in 2000. Whenever his schedule and the weather permitted, Borge liked to indulge his passion for sailing. As he put it: "With me, the three Bs are: Bach, Beethoven and Boats!"

Victor Borge died at home in his sleep, December 23, 2000, after returning from a trip to Denmark. He was 91. “I don't mind growing old. I'm just not used to it.” His daughter, Frederikke stated that "it was just his time to go. He's been missing my mother terribly." Victor Borge's second wife, Sarabel (Sanna), had died just three months previous.

Much of Borge’s repertoire was developed from real concert situations, for instance, falling off a piano stool or struggling with his page turner. "Everybody who has ever tried to have a page turner knows it is terribly dangerous,” he said. “So, when I do that routine, the orchestra members just fall off their seats. They all know.”

The page turner in the video below is Victor Bernhard, Borge's son.

In spite of his skills as a musician, Borge insisted, “If I have to play something straight, without deviation, I still get very nervous.”

One famous occasion could not be replicated, when a large fly alighted on his nose while he was playing - with side-splitting consequences. When he was asked how he had arranged such a brilliant piece of comedy, Borge explained with a straight face: "Well, we know how to train flies."

Borge: “I'd like to thank my parents for making this night possible. And my children for making it necessary.”

Inflationary Language by Victor Borge

"Many years ago in Denmark we had inflation, and you are familiar with that problem. In inflation, we have numbers rising. Prices go up. Anything that has to do with money goes up … except the language. See, we have hidden numbers in words like "wonderful," "before," "create," "tenderly." All these numbers can be inflated to meet the economy, you know, by rising to the occasion.

I suggest we add one to each of these numbers to be prepared. For example. "wonderful" would be "two-derful." Before would be Be-five. Create, cre-nine. Tenderly should be eleven-derly. A Lieutenant would be a Lieut-eleven-ant. A sentence like, "I ate a tenderloin with my fork" would be "I nine an elevenderloin with my five-k." And so on and so fifth. I have a story here that I would like to read to you so that you can get an idea of Inflationary Language and how it sounds when it's being used.

Twice upon a time, there lived in Sunny Cali-five-nia a young man named Bob. He was a third lieut-eleven-ant in the US Air Five-ces. Bob had been fond of Anna, his one-and-a-half sister, ever since she saw the light of day for the second time. And all three of them were proud of the fact that two of his five-fathers had been among the cre-nine-ders of the US Consti-three-tion.

"They were dining on the terrace. "Anna," he said as he took a bite of a marin-nine-ded herring, "You look two-derful three-night. You never looked that lovely befive." Anna did look two-derful, despite the illness from which she had not yet recuper-nine-ded. "Yes," repeated Bob, "You look two-derful three-night … but you have three of the saddest eyes I have ever seen."

"The table was tastefully décor-nine-ded with Anna's favorite flowers: three-lips. They were now talking about Anna's asi-ten husband, from whom she was separ-nine-ded. While on the radio, an Irish eleven-or sang "Tea five Three." it was midnight; A clock in the distance struck thirteen. And suddenly, there in the moonlight stood her ex-husband Don Two, a five-mer eleven-is pro obviously intoxic-nine-ded.

"Anna," he said, "Five-give me. I am only young twice and you are my two and only." Bob jumped to his feet, "Get out of here, you three-faced triple-crosser!" But Anna warned, "Watch out, Bob. He is an officer." "Yes, he is two. But I am two, three!"

"All right," said Don Two as he wiped his five-head. He then left and when he was one-and-a-halfway through the revolving door, he muttered, "I'll go back to Eleven-nessee and be double again. Farewell, Anna. Three-de-loo, three-de-loo.”

Borge: “Occasionally, a finger comes up to wipe a tear (of laughter) from the eye ... and that's my reward ... the rest goes to the government.”

If you enjoy Tributes take a look at these ...

A thousand thanks to Audrey (akirchner) who provided the inspiration for this hub.

And one hundred thousand thanks for the enduring inspiration and timeless laughter provided by the one and only Great Dane - Victor Borge..

© Copyright BJ Rakow 2011, 2015. All rights reserved.

Comments for Tribute to Victor Borge - the Great Dane

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on November 13, 2014:

So nice to meet you, askformore lm. Delighted you enjoyed Borge as much as I did. Love your 'Small Dane' comment. Victor would have loved it, too.

askformore lm on November 13, 2014:

Thank you for a great hub about Victor Borge. He was great fun!

Compared to him I am a Small Dane :)

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on January 11, 2013:

Oh, Mike, you are so right. Thanks for including that very funny Borge joke which I had completely forgotten. He was a very classy, talented entertainer, and greatly missed.

Mike on January 11, 2013:

My most favorite Victor Borge joke is this one, "My daughter married a South American Fireman, and they had twin boys. They named one Jose and the other Hose B." it looses a little of the punch in text , but it is still funny. Palace Theater south carolina 1999 performance. such a classy man! he knows funny!

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on August 18, 2010:

Hello, saddlerider, so nice to see you here. Victor was one of my favorite entertainers - a gifted talented musician and a very funny, original comedian. I tried not to miss any TV show on which he appeared.

It was my pleasure to provide the memories and the fabulous videos. Thank you for your visit and your appreciative comments.

saddlerider1 on August 18, 2010:

I remember as a boy my parents loving Victor Borge and he grew on me as well. He used to be on the Ed Sullivan Show and his straight face humor and pianist antics were brilliant. To me he could be as funny as Red Skelton.

I remember laughing out loud in our parlor the times I watched him perform. I wish I had seen him perform live. Thank you for the memories, great videos you added here, I howled a few times.

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on July 30, 2010:

Thank you for visiting, Lynda - just knew you were a Borge fan, too. And thanks for that great quote. You know I will find a way to use it somewhere.

It was my pleasure to provide the deja vu.

lmmartin from Alberta and Florida on July 29, 2010:

I loved Victor Borge and remember watching him on the Ed Sullivan show. I remember most his command performance for J.F. Kennedy who, Borge said, "Called me a great Dane, so I bit him." Thanks for bringing him back to mind. Lynda

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on July 17, 2010:

So glad, Alexandra, that you enjoyed viewing Victor Borge again. His humor is timeless and his comic timing is humorous. I love Victor and the Soprano, too. Thanks for stopping by - you are always welcome.

SilverGenes on July 17, 2010:

Thank you for this tribute to Victor Borge - the videos were great! I saw him on television when I was very small and he made me laugh then but I completely missed the inflation of language at the time. That's just plain brilliant! Victor Borge and the Soprano had me in stitches!

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on July 13, 2010:

Thank you, WE, for the congrats and the gracious comments. They are even more meaningful to me coming from a connoisseur (and Great Dane (?) like yourself. Always a pleasure to have you stop by.

Website Examiner on July 12, 2010:

Drbj, congratulations on an impressive tribute to Victor Borge. He is as popular in Denmark as elsewhere, and as of now you should rest assured that there are genuine Danes reading your article. Best wishes, W.E.

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on July 02, 2010:

wrenfrost - I'm delighted that I was able to introduce you to Victor Borge. Now you can enjoy his inimitable wit and class act on videos just as I did when I saw him perform in person or on TV.

Thank you so much for the cool comments. You're cool, too.

wrenfrost56 from U.K. on July 02, 2010:

I have to admit, I did not know who Victor Borge was until reading this and I am so glad I did. What a charicter! I loved what he said about inflation and numbers being hidden in words, a brilliant observation. A classical pianist and a comedian, two things not often if ever asociated with each other. Great hub drbj, a really enjoyable read about a very cool guy. :)

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on July 01, 2010:

Hi, Mike. So glad you enjoyed the videos.

Victor's presentations were always the kind of entertainment that you could view again and again and never get enough. Thanks for the kind comments.

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on July 01, 2010:

Oh, epi - you are so good for my ego - never stop.

Thank you for coming by and being so gracious. And you are absolutely right. Victor was charismatic, charming, witty, and an exceptional talent. Delighted that you enjoyed the videos as much as I did.

Mike Lickteig from Lawrence KS USA on June 30, 2010:

A nice tribute to a wonderfully entertaining fellow. This man's talent and charm and wit were truly exceptional. I enjoyed the video clips a great deal.


epigramman on June 30, 2010:

yes he was a master of impeccable timing and wit - and they don't make them like that anymore - then again - someone should pay tribute to your hubs (I guess I just did) because they don't make them like that anymore!

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 30, 2010:

Ellen - It's definitely my pleasure to acquaint you with Victor Borge. No apology is needed. You are much too young to have viewed him earlier, and Rolf is a talented canine.

I'm delighted to be able to share this hub and the 9 videos with someone who will be seeing and listening to Victor for the first time. Please let me know what you think. And thanks for the visit.

EllenGraeger from Madrid on June 30, 2010:

I never heard of Victor Borge but I definitely remember Rolf the piano playing dog of the Muppet show. Always glad to learn something new. Thank you, drbj.

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 30, 2010:

Thank you so much, Dolores, for your visit and "wonderful homage" comment. That's a superlative. I agree, Victor was unusually talented and a classical musician and an inspired comic all rolled up into one.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on June 30, 2010:

I remember Victor Borge. Even as a child who sometimes did not understand his humor,I could relate to his silly charm and delivery. He was such a talented man. Wonderful homage to a classic entertainer.

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 29, 2010:

Hi, tracykarl, good to see you. That TV appearance with Dean Martin received some of the highest ratings ever. No wonder, Borge was always really funny. And he was an exceptional pianist. You hit the nail on he head.

Delighted you liked this - the pleasure is mine.

Tracy from San Francisco on June 29, 2010:

This was really funny. I'll bet it was great to see him with Dean Martin. The jokes seem to almost apologize for the exceptional talent at the piano keys. I liked this - thank you, drbj!

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 29, 2010:

Hi, Don, how nice to have you visit. You are spot on. Talent like Victor's is rare. I loved listening to his renditions of classical music when he played it "straight." And I loved it just as much when he played it funny with his pratfalls, expressions and creative wit. Thanks for stopping by.

Don Simkovich from Pasadena, CA on June 29, 2010:

Glad to see a Hub on Victor Borge. He was rare in his ability to make people laugh by using his wit and musical talents.

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 29, 2010:

Darlene, m'dear, how nice to hear from you and "awesome, funny, rated up and fantastic" are some of my most favorite compliments. Thank you.

One of the things I love about Victor Borge is whenever you need a great laugh, just play one of his videos. Hope all is well in your world.

Darlene Sabella from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ... on June 29, 2010:

What a fantastic and fun hub, I love Dean Martin and they was really a great laugh, you are my prince, my dear friend. What an awesome, funny, hub and rate up

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 29, 2010:

Hello, de Greek and your beautiful wife, thanks for the visit and for adoring someone I adored.

Isn't it two-derful to be able to laugh so heartily at sometwo who is funny without being profane, ethnic or racist? And also cre-nine-ive.

What a treat it must have been to discover that funny musician in Odessa. Just proves again the power of humor in any language - even when the language itself is not understood.

You are welcome, welcome, welcome. :)

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 29, 2010:

Thank you, bpop, we are united in our adulation of Borge and disenchantment with whatshisname you know who in the WH.

Thanks, my true-patriotic friend, for the visit and the rating.

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 29, 2010:

Hi, Sampsonveteran. Give my regards to Gus! Yes, you're absolutely right.

Maybe I should put a cautionary label at the beginning of this hub and proclaim, "Proceed at your own risk; laughing too hard may be dangerous to your health!" But great for your state of mind.

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 29, 2010:

Audrey - it was my pleasure to resurrect one of the two famous Danes I know. The other one, still living, thank goodness, isn't as famous yet but fame is in the eye of the beholder, right? And she is only part Danish but still qualifies

Thanks for the twoderful comment (phffwwtt). Maybe we could start a new trend.

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 29, 2010:

Hi, suny - I sympathize with your having a slow mobile connection although I can remember the days - not too long ago - when we had no mobile connection to the internet. Isn't progress great?

Thanks for taking the time to visit and see one of the Borge videos. Let me know what you think of the other 7 when you get back to a faster connection. :)

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 29, 2010:

Thank you, carolina muscle, for enjoying this funny, witty man and saying so.

Did you drag any new trucks today?

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 29, 2010:

Hi, Rochelle. What an appropriate phrase you used: "special humorous legacy." That so aptly sums it all up.

I watch those PBS specials occasionally, too, and they are always entertaining and suitable for the entire family. So many programs on TV today are not.

Thanks for stopping by - your erudite comments are always welcome.

De Greek from UK on June 29, 2010:

THANK YOU, THANK YOU THANK YOU is all I can say. My wife and I laughed with our hearts to this. Wonderful tribute to a twoful man.


there is hope for a replacement. I went to a concert in Odessa, Ukraine and this young pianist came on and had the whole theatre in stitches with his playing and only occasional commenting, and I for one do not speak one word of Ukrainian.

breakfastpop on June 29, 2010:

I have always adored Victor Borge. Just thinking about him, puts a smile on my face. Excellent hub. Great job, i'm voting it up!

SampsonVeteran from SAFBVA Member, Box 1741,Bellaire,TX 77402 on June 29, 2010:

drbj - Borge plus the muppets would cause dangerous laughter.

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on June 29, 2010:

BJ - I have to come back later today when I need another good laugh and watch all of these! LOVELY!!

When you posted on my Danish cuisine one about Victor, I went back and added the punctuation one and the page turner to mine as well....I sat her laughing for an hour watching and rewatching his stuff on glad you gave credit to one of my favorite Great Danes of all time!

suny51 on June 29, 2010:

Drbj,I have seen just one of the videos till now as I am on a very slow mobile connection and out of town,but I will see them all.My promise.

carolina muscle from Charlotte, North Carolina on June 28, 2010:

Yes, he was a very funny , witty man, and this is a great hub!

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on June 28, 2010:

Yes-- a big fan from a long way back.

A true musical artist and comic genius. I always enjoy the PBS retrospectives. As a writer, "Punctuation" and "Infationary Language" never gets old.

What a special, humorous legacy he left!

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 28, 2010:

What a lovely picture you just provided, Ivorwen, of your 4-year-old son so inspired by Victor that he went to play the piano. Do you think you may have a child prodigy in the making? Encourage him and you can retire earlier!

You're most welcome and I agree with you, side-splitting laughter is the perfect description for Victor Borge.

Ivorwen from Hither and Yonder on June 28, 2010:

I absolutely love Victor Borge! These videos you found were delightful. My 4yo son sat on my lap laughing as we watched several, then went to play the piano himself! Thanks for the inspiration and the side splitting laughter.

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 28, 2010:

Hi, Shari. Has anyone ever told you what a sweetie you are? Your lovely remarks, rating, and tweeting are much appreciated. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. No, wait, not just the bottom but my WHOLE heart! :)

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 28, 2010:

habee - you have two Great Danes? Are we talking dogs or Danish relatives?

Thanks for stopping by and agreeing with me about Victor's amazing talent.

Shari from New York, NY on June 28, 2010:

drbj- you weren't kiding at the beginning of this Hub when you said ., if you dont know who VB is you are in for a real treat. . well honestly I knew who he was. . and this Hub sure was a treat! As you always deliver the best researched Hubs ever. . your talent with words doesn't hurt either:) Rated up and awesome:)))

Going now to share some TwitterLove with this one!

Holle Abee from Georgia on June 28, 2010:

Great Dane?? I have two!

Seriously, great job on an amazing talent!

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 28, 2010:

Pamela - you are right on the mark. What a difference it makes when you can watch and listen to someone like Victor with that exceptional talent both as a pianist and a very creative comedian. They don't make 'em like that any more.

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 28, 2010:

I remember Borge's inflationary language when I first heard it in the Mesozoic era and was exceptionally delighted to discover it again.

"Twoderful" doesn't even begin to describe it. As Borge would tell us, go "fifth" and enjoy it.

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 28, 2010:

Thank you, Nellieanna, for taking the time to comment before running out to do your errands. You are definitely a princess. I'm delighted that you are delighted. Drive safely.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 28, 2010:

drbj, I always loved this man. So much talent! What a wonderful hub on someone with real talent.

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on June 28, 2010:

I'm really pleased that your write-up included the bit about his "inflated language"! I've tried describe that to people, and it's not easy to describe! LOL - I loved that routine when he used to do it!

drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on June 28, 2010:

Hi, hello. Thank you for stopping by and for commenting. I had a feeling there were a lot of folks out there who remember Victor as I do, and would like to see some of his funny stuff again. He was definitely one of a kind.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on June 28, 2010:

Thank you for writing such a wonderful tribute to a great entertainer.

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on June 28, 2010:

OHHHHHHH - drbg - I just love this man!! I even have a couple of DVDs of his performances. I am about to go out the door and was just checking before I do - so will read more thoroughly! I'm delighted to see you've written about him!

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