Quotes & Jokes by Robert Klein


I have a feeling for obscure, historical characters like James Abram Garfield, who was the 20th President of the U. S. He was a pretty hones Congressman and Senator from Ohio. Elected eight times. Tremendous integrity. Only, the most famous thing he's remembered for is having been shot. And they always say the same thing for who shot him: “a disappointed office seeker.” And sure enough, you look at a child's milk-container collection of the Presidents, you'll see: “George Washington, Father of our Country; Thomas Jefferson, purchased Louisiana; Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation; James Garfield, shot by a disappointed office seeker.” Look in an encyclopedia under Garfield, James Abram. It says, see Office Seeker, Disappointed. The office seeker got all the fame!

I remember they used to give us a speech in the 1950's. “Children, take these dog tags home, make sure the names and addresses are correct in case of a nuclear holocaust. And if there is a nuclear holocaust there'll be no talking during the holocaust!”

She's stirring the Yankee Bean Soup – which will cause many absences in the afternoon. It's government surplus, stuff that India rejected, and sent back. Powdered eggs, khaki fish – forget it.

I had very tough kids when I was a substitute teacher. I never had the kids we see in the ads - “Good golly, Mrs. Dobson, can I mow your lawn, and earn money for that catcher's mitt I've been wanting?” - a refugee from a Norman Rockwell painting. No. I had large, formidable – I had murderers in my class. I had one child in the ninth grade who had to take six months off from school for National Guard duty. He was going to junior hight on the GI Bill.

In the fifties I had dreams about touching a naked woman and she would turn to bronze or the dream about hot dogs chasing donuts through the Lincoln Tunnel.

I'd walk into the school, smell that institutional smell of the tomato soup, peanut butter, disinfectant, and boys room. Pass the lunchroom, see the familiar lunchroom lady with the white dress and net on her hair. At the end of 50 years of distinguished service the Board of Education gives her a bronze net – with her name on it. It stems from the Board of Education rule to keep her hair out of the food.

I was in the De Witt Clinton Hight School marching band. One of the worst bands ever formed. When we played the national anthem, people from every country stood – except Americans.

Nor did anyone censor any of my book. It is the most creative freedom you can have, in this, the 21st century, I can assure you.

And the only studies were - Rodney Dangerfield was my mentor and he was my Yale drama school for comedy.

So it took me five years because in the interim I have been doing a lot of personal appearances and movies and some television series that went into the plumbing and I stopped writing for a while.

I was a lifeguard once in the Catskills. Saved a little boy's life. He was a real brat, 9 or 10 years old. His idea of fun was playing catch with farina, tripping the bellhops. The staff couldn't stand him. Then one day against my orders he went to the deep end of the pool. I anticipated it and pulled him out. His parents tipped me $5. Now, what I can't figure out is how did they come up with the figure? How do you tip somebody who saved your son's life? What's the conversation like? The father says: “I don't know, we'll give him $15.” Wife says, “$15, we're not made of money.” “Well,” says the father, “how long have we had the boy? We'll give him $5.” I could have gotten $15 from the staff to let the kid drown!

I do have to fly a lot. It's difficult for me, but I'm not angry about it. But I did see on the menu in Logan Airport, Boston, “Potato salad in season.”

One of the gigantic lobsters has demolished our last camera with a single swipe of its horrible claw! Now it's moving toward me! It's fifteen feet away. Ten! I can see the long, quivering antennae! The slimy legs! Its snout and claws, glistening with human bloo...

The `50s were terrifying with nuclear bomb stuff but boring in a social way and then the `60s were happening, and remember, there was no AIDS.

But I think the other is a little more like bullfighting, a little more daring and although I appreciate good acting and I liked being versatile my whole career, it kept me working.