Friday, June 22, 2012

Tailor-made James Thurber Humor

In the late summer of 1934, Althea Thurber filed for divorce from James Thurber. In response to this, Thurber decided he needed a change of scene to think things over. He drove to Columbus from New York with his friend Robert Coates. In a sportive mood (one can just imagine the bachelor meanderings), Thurber stopped at a phone booth outside Columbus and called up his family, who were unaware he was coming to town. Summoning his best Jewish accent, Thurber asked for his brother William, who he knew was in Columbus at the time. “This is Abe Schlotzheimer, man’s tailor,” said Thurber into the phone, and launched into a story of how he had measured and fitted William for an English broadcloth suit months prior, but William hadn’t come by to pick it up. William was taken in and irately accused “Abe” of extortion. Thurber / Schlotzheimer threatened to take William to court unless he paid up. Finally William put his mother on the phone. Mame Thurber said, “If you’re so smart, what does my son look like?” Thurber/Schlotzheimer shouted, “A great mother! A great mother vot don’t know what her own son looks like!” Mame hung up, and she was still mad even after Thurber called back and told her the joke. The divorce eventually happened, and immediately after that, Thurber married Helen Wismer. Christine Hayes

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