Gracie’s Collection

George Burns and Gracie Allen, 1952

When two young, moderately successful vaudeville performers teamed up for a comedy act in 1923, it didn’t take long to realize that they had found the right fit — both personally and professionally — and that their future success would be far beyond moderate. Together, George Burns and Gracie Allen, who married in 1926, formed one of the most popular and enduring comic duos in entertainment history.

Burns was largely responsible for creating the characters the couple played throughout their long career, which spanned vaudeville, movies, radio and television. He performed the straight man role in the routine to understated perfection, and always credited Gracie for the team’s popularity (although he deserved at least as much himself). Allen’s character was fashioned after what was known in vaudeville as a “Dumb Dora” act (named for the zany female protagonist in an early motion picture), but everyone, including the audience, knew it was just that: an act.

Although Burns and Allen stopped performing together with Gracie’s retirement in 1958 their smart and affectionate humor caught my attention some 20 years later, and I’ve been a fan ever since. This is my homage to them, an original radio skit set in the late 1940s, during the period when their weekly show was called “Maxwell House Coffee Time” after the sponsor.

Here, then, is “Gracie’s Collection.”


Gracie Allen, a seemingly scatterbrained woman who is, in fact, keenly intelligent and witty.

GEORGE: George Burns, husband of Gracie Allen and straight man to her “comedic” character.

* * *


ANNOUNCER: Gracie will be heading out soon to a meeting of her women’s club, but wants to show her husband something before she departs…


GRACIE: George, look at this and tell me what you think.

GEORGE: I think I don’t know what I’m looking at.

GRACIE: It’s my new collection, silly. I’m going to enter it in the county fair next week.

GEORGE: This isn’t a collection, sweetheart, it’s just an odd assortment of items.

GRACIE: Yes, that’s right. My collections are known for their eclecticity.

GEORGE: Ah…eclecticity? Are you sure you don’t mean eccentricity?

GRACIE: George! Now you’re calling my collection peculiar!

GEORGE: No, I just meant that eclecticity isn’t a real word. Since you mentioned it, though, I’m not sure how a thimble, a bottle opener, a partly filled book of S&H Green Stamps, an old tobacco pipe, a necktie and an empty Maxwell House coffee tin can be considered a collection. A collection has to have a theme, a common bond.

GRACIE: It does! These are all items that were missing, but turned up while I was doing the spring cleaning.

GEORGE: I see. And what are you calling this collection?

GRACIE: Amazing Grace.

GEORGE: Do you mean to say you named it after yourself?

GRACIE: Oh no, it’s named after the hymn. You know, “I once was lost, but now am found…”

GEORGE: So the theme is found objects. But what do you have to say about the fact that eclecticity is not a proper word?

GRACIE: Well, if it isn’t, it ought to be…just like the other “-icity” words.

GEORGE: [Pauses] Come again?

GRACIE: It’s simple. The Electrolux is powered by…

GEORGE: Electricity.

GRACIE: Howard Hughes is in the news for his…

GEORGE: Eccentricity.

GRACIE: And my collection is known for its…

GEORGE: [Resignedly] Eclecticity… But Gracie, you can’t go around inventing words.

GRACIE: Who’s to say I can’t? Writers have made up words all through history. Chaucer did it, and Shakespeare did too.

GEORGE: Now, kid, I don’t mean to cause offense, but you’re no Chaucer or Shakespeare.

GRACIE: Well, I’d say they’re no Mrs. George Burns, either.

GEORGE: [Chuckles] That’s true. You’re incomparable.

GRACIE: Indubiously.

GEORGE: Indubi… Oh, never mind. Say goodnight, Gracie.

GRACIE: Goodnight!

GEORGE: Goodnight, folks.


ANNOUNCER: Thanks for joining us, and until next time, remember — Maxwell House coffee is always good…to the last drop.


* * *
© 2015 by M.P. Witwer • All rights reserved

A Writer’s Lament

My muse has gone missing!
She just up and left.
Abandoned, alone…
I’m confused and bereft.

I’ve looked high and low,
But she’s not to be found.
Dagnabit! Why, oh why, did she
Have to go underground?

The world slows to a crawl
When my muse isn’t here.
Plainly, she is the one
Who shifts me out of low gear.

Without her, ’tis true
I’m at a sad loss.
For in most facets of life,
My muse is the boss.

What’s for dinner?
Who knows—I’m uninspired.
Want to go for a hike?
No thanks—I’m lethargic and tired.

The house is a shambles,
My hair is unkempt.
Everything’s wrong;
I’m utterly verklempt!

And writing’s the endeavor
Where my muse is most missed.
My creativity, it seems,
Has obliged to cease and desist.

I’ll struggle along,
Toiling but stumbling,
My efforts subpar,
Lackluster and bumbling.

Until her return,
Whenever that may be,
A frightening truth remains:
It’s all up to me.

Well, look who’s come back,
Having been “out for a stroll.”
Immune to my displeasure,
She thinks herself quite droll.

My irritation is growing;
I’m increasingly vexed.
Her amusement quelled,
She is genuinely perplexed.

It’s always been me, she explains:
I was the one running the show.
While she may have scattered some ducks,
It was left to me to put them all in a row.

I ponder this revelation—
It’s something I should have known.
My muse is a great help and mentor,
But I do all right on my own.

* * *
© 2014 by M.P. Witwer • All rights reserved


Better Than You

It’s inevitable, it seems, to encounter someone like this along life’s journey…

Hello, I’m new here.
I am better than you.
I’m smarter and kindlier
— Cleverer too!

You’re stupid – you’re snooty –
You’re unworthy of my precious time.
As for me, it’s plain to see:
I’m magnificent and sublime!

While I am Secretariat,
Or perhaps Seattle Slew,
The rest of you, a sorry lot,
Are destined to become glue.

This may seem rather blunt,
But that’s just how I am.
If my directness hurts you,
Well, I don’t give a damn.

Please do not advise me
To better communicate.
I’m quite capable in that regard;
My intent is to berate.

Indeed, what I am doing
Should be welcomed by you all.
In pointing out your shortcomings,
I’m cushioning the fall.

By laying out the facts,
I don’t mean to be unkind.
My superiority, once accepted,
Is a comfort, you will find.

Alas, a point of verity:
No one else is very bright.
It’s best to just acknowledge
That I am always right!

I’ll explain it again
(Since you’re all somewhat slow):
What I speak is the truth,
Because I say so.

My logic is impeccable,
My thought processes grand.
Differing with me is clear proof
That you don’t understand.

Your views would be of value
If they jelled with my opinions.
Though challenges don’t suit me,
I always welcome minions.

Yet by small-minded drudges,
I’ve been taunted and eschewed,
For showing the stupendousness
With which I am imbued.

I simply cannot fathom
Why so many do not like me.
I told you that I’m fabulous —
Could anyone disagree?

You’re all too far beneath me;
I need a brief reprieve.
Climbing back aboard my high horse,
I’ll take my humble leave.

* * *
© 2013 by M.P. Witwer. All rights reserved.