Quote of the Day : Groucho Marx

“Well, art is art, isn’t it? Still, on the
other hand, water is water! And east
is east and west is west and if you
take cranberries and stew them like
applesauce they taste much more
like prunes than rhubarb does. Now,
uh… now you tell me what you
know.”

Groucho Marx

The Origins of the Quote

The epic lines are delivered by Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding, endearing fictional character from the Broadway musical Animal Crackers and the film, by the same name. He was famously played by one of America’s most beloved comic genius’ – Groucho Marx, one of the Marx Brothers. Spaulding as a character, was given to being extremely absurd. And he was mostly unaware of it. Thereby causing much riotous laughter by his unexpected behaviour. He was purported to be courageous and turned out quite a coward. Often by his own revelatory statements sending the crowds into peals of laughter.  

A master of quick wit, Groucho Marx was incredible at repartees and a master spinner of words. He is widely remembered as one of America’s greatest comedians.

Tell-tale bushy-browed, a cigar-smoking wise-cracker; the unmistakable tell-tale painted-on moustache and crouching walk, he was the leader of The Marx Brothers. His one-liners angled towards double entendres. It is true that Groucho never cursed in any of his performances and said he “never wanted to be known as a dirty comic.” He had a great love of music and singing. Though his career started with singing, the lure of social messaging through the medium of humour, and the glamour of the public platform both beckoned this genius.

Getting to Know the Man behind the Characters

A provocative biography argues, that Marx who was the ‘central intelligence’ of the Marx Brothers, the nerve centre of the comic writing – actually indulged in nihilistic truth-telling. Why? The biographer purposrts it might be to masked his insecurities. Perhaps a gift of a troubled childhood.

In 1967 Marx made an appearance on the conservative pundit William F Buckley’s TV show Firing Line. As a member of the Marx Brothers, as per his comic stance, he delivered comic non-sequiturs like (“One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got in my pyjamas I don’t know”, yet another Captain Spaulding statement). It is rumoured, when he sat down to debate with Buckley, the greasepaint moustache and bushy eyebrows were wiped off, though he retained his trademark cigar. He continued to answer questions quite seriously, and it turned out that Groucho didn’t think the world was funny after all. Consistent with the long line of comics before and after him – the adage of the clown crying behind his mask, was sadly true.

Some Final Thoughts

The talented and sparklingly bright team of Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo were loved as a team as well as individually. They were quirky and quick and had the knack of picking up on the pulse of the people. Their humour was never crass but they literally said the unthinkable. The inventive attacks on society are reminiscent of vintage Alexander Pope and his phenomenal ‘Rape of the Lock’. Their style of social commentary continues to have the ability to make an impact. As it is so ridiculously relatable, modern even.

It has the ability to get under the skin of the audience with immediacy and it stays there. Instigating questions and thoughts that we never had before. The Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the burlesque stage to the silver screen.

On August 19th, 1977 the world lost this comedic revolutionary. It was at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles that Groucho Marx lost his battle with pneumonia.


Check out our Quote of the Day archive where we bring you quotes hand picked by me, Divvya Nirula. Sharing the stories, people, moments behind the inspiration and thought provoking words.