delanceyplace.com 1/11/08 - groucho and the critics
In today's excerpt - Groucho Marx writes in 1959 about the state of the theatre and his not-very-flattering opinion of theatre critics:
"I'm not going to defend critics. The fact is, I don't know what purpose they serve. But, whatever it is, they have the right to serve it in any man's theatre, however disastrous the consequences. ...
"Somerset Maugham in The Summing Up was asked why he quit writing for the theatre. He said it was too difficult to please both the scullery maid sitting in the third balcony and the critic for the London Times. 'I believe I can write for either one', he declared, 'but I can't please both. Their tastes are too dissimilar.' ...
"Hokum and roughhouse laughter have virtually disappeared from the stage. There are scores of plays about miscegenation ... the beat generation dypsomaniacs and hopheads, but there is very little fun left on the stage. I believe the absence of robust laughter is partially responsible for the present condition of the theatre. Most of the gaiety has been taken out of it, and it has been removed by the critics.
"One prominent reviewer recently wrote about a play called 'Make A Million' starring Sam Levene. This is what he wrote: 'This is not so much a review as a confession. I spent a good part of last evening laughing at a very bad play.'
"There you have it. This critic laughed all evening' but finally decided it was 'a very bad play.' All it was supposed to do was make people laugh and it succeeded. They didn't announce that they were bringing in 'King Lear' or 'Death of a Salesman'. All they promised to deliver was a funny comedy, but that wasn't good enough for this critic."