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    24 Facts About Stand-Up Comedians That'll Give You A Glimpse Into What It's Like To Be Professionally Funny

    Jerry Seinfeld got banned from the restaurant that inspired Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" episode.

    1. In 2001, Robin Williams visited the gorilla Koko, who was famous for having learned American Sign Language to communicate. Williams called their experience together "mind-altering," and said that they "shared something extraordinary: laughter." Robin even managed to get Koko to smile, something her trainer, Dr. Penny Patterson, said she hadn't done since the death of her gorilla companion Michael over six months prior.

    Robin Williams goes down a slide at a movie premiere
    Kevin Winter / Getty Images

    In 2014, over 10 years after Williams's visit, Koko overheard Dr. Patterson talking about his death. Koko became "very somber" when Dr. Patterson confirmed the news, then signed "woman" and "crying." 

    Here's the video of Williams and Koko's day together:

    View this video on YouTube

    Jan Turner / Via youtube.com

    2. When Williams appeared on a 2001 episode of Inside the Actors Studio, he made one audience member laugh so hard that they developed a hernia and had to be "taken away in an ambulance" at the end of the show.

    Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire
    20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Williams riffed for the audience for over five hours, resulting in the series first-ever two-hour episode, since host James Lipton and his production team "simply couldn't bear" to edit it any shorter. 

    3. Dave Chappelle played Prince in the 2004 Chappelle's Show sketch “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories — Prince," and Prince apparently thought it was hilarious. He liked it so much, in fact, that he used a photo of Chappelle dressed up as him as the album cover for his single "Breakfast Can Wait."

    Chappelle talking about Prince using him in his album cover
    NBC / youtube.com

    Chappelle talked about the incident during an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He apparently asked Prince to be in the sketch himself, but Prince turned him down. 

    4. Midway through the third season of Chappelle's Show, Dave Chappelle went missing. (It was later discovered he'd gone to South Africa to "hide out from press coverage.") None other than John Mulaney was temping as an assistant for the head of development at Comedy Central when he got the call that Chappelle had disappeared. He told the executives, who brushed him off at first, because Chappelle was regularly late to tapings. But when Mulaney stressed that this time was different, they almost flew him to Los Angeles that day to collect the physical tapes of the third season of Chappelle's Show so that they couldn't be destroyed.

    John Mulaney doing stand-up at an event
    Sylvain Gaboury / Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

    5. Stephen Colbert donates all the money he makes from sales of his Ben & Jerry's flavor Americone Dream to The Stephen Colbert Americone Dream Fund, which uses its funds for "food and medical assistance for disadvantaged children, helping veterans and their families, and environmental causes."

    Ben and Jerry pose with Colbert next to a giant fake pint of Americone dream
    Scott Wintrow / Getty Images

    6. Wanda Sykes used to work for the National Security Agency. She was a contracting specialist who bought "anything from radar equipment to surveillance equipment to furniture." Naturally, she had a top-secret security clearance.

    Wanda Sykes tells Colbert that of course he's being listened to by the NSA
    CBS / youtube.com

    During an interview on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Colbert showed Sykes a novelty pen holder he'd been sent by the NSA 13 years previously, following his routine at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner. He asked if she thought it was bugged, and the answer was an emphatic "yes." 

    7. Patton Oswalt stood silent, motionless, and expressionless for almost three full minutes in the background of a King of Queens scene as a prank. He apparently forgot about it, but when the scene resurfaced, he called it "EERIE."

    Patton Oswalt being totally motionless in three different screengrabs of the same scene
    CBS / youtube.com

    Here's the full scene:

    View this video on YouTube

    CBS / Via youtube.com

    8. Jerry Seinfeld was banned from the restaurant that inspired "The Soup Nazi." The iconic Seinfeld episode was based on a real person, Al Yeganeh, who hated the nickname and the sitcom's take on his strict ordering rules. Yeganeh referred to Jerry Seinfeld as a "clown," and the president of Original SoupMan told NPR, "Jerry has come to his store a couple of times when he opened, and he wouldn't let him in."

    Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza
    Columbia Tristar / Courtesy Everett Collection

    9. In the 1980s, Ricky Gervais was a pop singer and one half of the duo Seona Dancing. Their single "More to Lose" was released when Gervais was 22, and it became a "teen anthem in the Philippines." The group split up in 1984 after releasing only two singles (their second was called "Bitter Heart"). But "More to Lose" is apparently still a "cultural landmark" in the Philippines. About his pop-star past, Gervais told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, "I am almost glad it didn’t quite work out. I would be dead now."

    Ricky Gervais in Seona Dancing
    Getty / Fin Costello / Redferns

    10. When Richard Pryor hosted Saturday Night Live, NBC executives were nervous that the comedian was "too dangerous" for live television, so they insisted that the broadcast be aired with a five-second delay. This set the standard for live television broadcasts, most of which use a five-to-seven-second delay to this day.

    Richard Pryor performing in the early 80s
    Columbia / Courtesy Everett Collection

    11. Jon Stewart proposed to his girlfriend with a personalized crossword made with the help of Will Shortz, the New York Times crossword puzzle editor.

    Jon Stewart smiling on set of the Daily Show
    Brad Barket / Getty Images for Comedy Central

    12. Trevor Noah is fluent in six languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, and Tsonga. He is also conversational in German, though he doesn't yet "claim" it as his official seventh language, and he is planning on learning Spanish.

    Trevor Noah performs
    Jeff Schear / Getty Images for Comedy Central

    13. Ali Wong, who graduated with a degree in Asian American studies from the University of California, Los Angeles, was a Fulbright Scholar in Vietnam, where she studied language. She tried stand-up for the first time shortly after returning home, at the age of 23.

    Ali Wong on the red carpet
    Getty / Axelle / FilmMagic

    14. In 2016, Eddie Izzard ran 27 marathons in 27 days for the charity Sport Relief, and raised more than £1.35 million. Izzard ran over 707 miles in South Africa, and even completed two full marathons in one day to make up for a schedule interruption earlier in the challenge. The number 27 was chosen to "reflect the 27 years [Nelson] Mandela had spent in prison before becoming South Africa's first Black president."

    Eddie Izzard speaks on stage during a political event
    Rich Polk / Getty Images for Politicon

    15. At the beginning of his career in the 1980s, Chris Rock made Eddie Murphy laugh during a set at the Comic Strip. Rock had a deal with the club's manager that if he stacked chairs, he could perform late at night. One night, Murphy asked Rock when he was performing; Rock, stacking chairs, replied that he wasn't scheduled for that night. So Murphy told the manager to put Rock on next, and during his set, Rock could hear Murphy's trademark laugh.

    Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy together
    NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

    Here's a clip of Chris Rock talking about the moment:

    View this video on YouTube

    Bravo / Via youtube.com

    16. Don Rickles brushed off Frank Sinatra on purpose to impress a woman he was on a date with. When Rickles' date spotted Sinatra in the hotel lounge, she excitedly asked if Rickles knew him. The pair were actually friends, but Rickles talked up their relationship, telling his date that they were like brothers. Then, Rickles privately asked Sinatra to come up to their table and greet him. Sinatra did it, and when he asked how Rickles was, Rickles replied, "Not now, Frank. Can’t you see I’m with somebody?”

    Don Rickles posing
    Mark Mainz / Getty Images for AFI

    17. John Oliver met his wife at the 2008 Republican National Convention. He was there as a correspondent for The Daily Show, and when security tried to kick him and his crew out of a restricted area, he realized that since he was on a work visa, he was at risk of deportation if he got arrested. So a group of veterans, Oliver's future wife (and US combat medic) Kate Norley included, helped to hide the group. Two years later, Oliver proposed.

    John Oliver performing
    Mike Coppola / Getty Images for The Bob Woodruff Foundation

    18. Hannibal Buress hired a double to attend the premiere of Spider-Man: Homecoming in his place. Buress, who played Coach Wilson in the film, recruited for the gig through social media, noting that he was offering $500 for a "lookalike with solid comedic timing." The imposter, Joe Carroll, didn't look much like Buress, but he took pictures with fans and answered interview questions about the movie regardless.

    Buress performing
    Mike Jordan / Getty Images for SXSW / Via instagram.com

    19. Vaughn Meader was a comedian best known for his impressions of President John F. Kennedy. The first time fellow comic Lenny Bruce performed following JFK's assassination, he started his set by saying, "Man, is Vaughn Meader fucked!"

    Lenny Bruce getting searched by a police officer after being arrested
    Getty / Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

    Meader found out about the assassination in a uniquely awkward way: A cab driver asked him if he'd heard about Kennedy in Dallas, and Meader, assuming that he was a fan trying out a joke, replied, "No, how does it go?" 

    20. Jim Gaffigan performed stand-up comedy for the pope. When Pope Francis visited Philadelphia in 2015, Gaffigan was the only comedian tapped to perform for the "Festival of Families" attended by the pope. Right before he performed, Gaffigan joked that he was waiting for an organizer to apologize to him and explain that they got him mixed up with Stephen Colbert (another famous comedic Catholic).

    Jim Gaffigan performing
    Getty / Kevin Mazur

    The Archbishop of Philadelphia specifically requested that they try to book Gaffigan. 

    Here's a clip of Gaffigan talking about the experience, plus some footage from the Festival of Families:

    View this video on YouTube

    Jim Gaffigan / Via youtube.com

    21. In 2007, Steve Martin got married to his girlfriend, Anne Stringfield, in a surprise ceremony. The 75 or so guests, including Diane Keaton, Tom Hanks, and Eugene Levy, were all told that it was just a normal party. Lorne Michaels, the creator of Saturday Night Live, was Martin's best man.

    Steve Martin at the Oscars
    Kevin Winter / Getty Images

    22. Kumail Nanjiani adores The X-Files, and when he made an appearance on the show's revival, the props guy let him keep the actual X-File from his episode. Nanjiani told Esquire, "Maybe I’ll get buried with it."

    Kumail Nanjiani on an episode of Watch What Happens Live
    Bravo / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

    23. Before Trevor Noah got the job, Amy Schumer was asked to take over hosting The Daily Show following Jon Stewart's departure. She told the Daily Beast that she was "honored to be asked," but ultimately turned it down because she likes not knowing what she's going to do next.

    Amy Schumer performing
    Robin Marchant / Getty

    24. And finally: Mindy Kaling, whose full name is Vera Mindy Chokalingam, was named in part after Mork & Mindy, a sitcom starring Robin Williams that her parents watched while living in Nigeria.

    Mindy Kaling and Robin Williams
    Getty / Kevin Mazur / Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

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