Some people may not know, but John Wayne was once a comedian.
At least, he was for one appearance on Don Rickle’s TV special in 1975.
Rickles came out on stage and told everyone that there was a famous celebrity here. The twist was they wanted desperately to be a comedian. The problem was, he joked, they just aren’t funny.
The “agreement” was that the jokes would be written on big cards for the celebrity to read out loud. So, John Wayne walked on stage in his disguise as “one of the greatest comedy minds,” Mr. Dynamite.
His disguise was really just a black mask that covered only his eyes. Meanwhile, he was wearing his very Wayne getup that included his cowboy hat, vest, and bandana.
He told a few of the corniest jokes that, in many ways, makes people laugh just by how ridiculous they are.
One of them was, “I said doc, I have a sore foot. He said, ‘Don’t worry I’ll have you walking in an hour.’ He did, he stole my car.”
Rickles made Wayne repeat this joke to the audience claiming that Wayne was, “hot and they didn’t get it.” He also joked with the audience that this man had won an Academy Award before. Wayne won his only Academy Award just a few years before in 1969 for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
The two had an entertaining banter that made the little “comedy” sketch that much more entertaining. At the end of the appearance, Rickles announced to the crowd Wayne’s new movie. The film was “Brannigan,” which would soon be showing all over the country.
John Wayne Comedy
The movie Wayne was promoting was “Brannigan.” This film was an action thriller that he starred in alongside Richard Attenborough. The film tells the story of a Chicago detective who was sent to Britain in order to extract an American mobster.
He struggles with the British way of policing and instead uses his own form of law enforcement to take in the criminals.
The film had mixed reviews. However, as renowned film critic Roger Ebert put it, “‘Brannigan isn’t great, but it’s a wellcrafted [sic] action movie and, besides, it’s got John Wayne in it.”
Wayne was known for films like “Brannigan.” That is action or Western movies that became branded very much by his image.
However, even though Rickles jokes about it, Wayne could be funny when he wanted to.
Notably his film “North to Alaska” had some pretty romantic comedy-esque characteristics to it. The action segments have really strange audio effects that sound like Bugs Bunny at many times.
There are also elements of romance in that Wayne’s character is searching for a bride for his friend George.
Another movie with elements of comedy is “McLintock.” This 1963 film is a silly movie that gets along with the help of Wayne’s charm. The climax of the film features Wayne’s character giving Maureen O’Hara’s a spanking in the middle of town as everyone cheers.
While the movies he was in would never quite be classified as comedies, there were hidden elements of fun and charm that led to laughs from the audience. Especially with an actor like John Wayne who had become a golden figure on the screen that audiences had grown close with over the years.