‘I Love Lucy’ Icon Lucille Ball Was Asked to Compare Stage Work to Television: ‘Stage is the Greatest’

by Madison Miller
Photo by: John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

Through and through, Lucille Ball from “I Love Lucy” was an entertainer. In order to be an entertainer, you need people to entertain.

For Ball, live audiences were an indescribable thrill and a constant learning environment.

Lucille Ball Prefers Stage Work

Despite being one of the most influential figures in television history, it was the stage work she did that was her all-time favorite.

“First of all, I think stage is the greatest, invaluable. I take any chance to perform in front of an audience, whether it be your church, your school, or even on radio as far as that goes. In front of an audience you’re exposed, you’re bare, and it all comes out, good or bad, but you learn from it. Get all the stage experience you can,” Lucille Ball said in an “America Alive!” event in 1978 at UCLA.

After her time on “I Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball ventured into some more stage-forward projects. One of which was “Wildcat,” a Broadway show in 1960. Although television and sitcoms became her life, Broadway and the stage was once her dream. According to The New York Times, “At 17 she’d left her upstate New York high school for Broadway, only to be told: ‘You just don’t have it. Why don’t you go home?’”

However, many people are critical of “Wildcat.” Namely, they criticize her dancing and singing during the performance. Ball reportedly had a hard time with the show and was even checked into a hospital for exhaustion. She also had a hard time remembering the script. The show had a total of 171 performances and gave Ball the chance to live out a dream.

When she was first starting out, she had several small roles in movies as well as in theatre. When she was 15 she had convinced her mother to allow her to attend the New York City drama school. However, she didn’t draw much attention at the time.

‘I Love Lucy’ Live Studio Audience

“I love the stage. That’s why I always did my show with an audience,” Ball said at “America Alive!”

While “I Love Lucy” wasn’t stage work, she made it as similar as she could. The show was filmed in front of a live studio audience, which means those laughs you hear are 100% real and unadulterated. According to Mental Floss, the show had one laugh, in particular, that was so long it had to be partially edited out.

During season six of the show in the episode “Lucy Does the Tango,” Lucy gets into a tricky situation (as per usual.) She has fresh eggs hidden in her shirt when Ricky comes home and asks to practice the tango. Lucy tries to scurry away or leave enough room for a whole other person between them. Eventually, the two really dance, and Lucy is left with a runny and gooey mess. The scene was partially improv because, although the scene was practiced before, it was never done with real eggs before.

It made for an authentic and hilarious scene. The audience seemed to think so as well. In fact, they laughed for over 65 seconds. It’s considered one of the longest authentic laughs recorded in television history.