To those that knew him, Kaufman was a fussy
eater, a hypochondriac
, an insomniac
, surreptitiously generous (he personally acted as a fiscal
sponsor for scores of Jewish refugees from Hitler's Germany), great in bed (according to Mary Astor
's diaries), and though shy
, a "conversational guerilla
fighter" who fit right in at Alexander Woolcott
's Algonquin Round Table
-- waiting for just the right moment to deliver a witty and usually devastating remark
Source: Winokur, Jon. The Portable Curmudgeon. New York: New American Library, 1987.
You're a birdbrain, and I mean that as an insult to birds.
Madam, don't you have any unexpressed thoughts?
I understand your play is full of single entendre.
Interrupting the Marx brothers at a rehearsal for Animal Crackers: "Excuse me for interrupting, but I thought for a minute I actually heard something I wrote."
To a theatre producer who had not paid royalties on producing a Kaufman play with the excuse, "After all, it's only a small, insignificant theater." Kaufman: "Then you'll go to a small, insignificant jail."
In the 1950's, George S. Kaufman was a panelist on the
American television show, "This is Show Business." Guest celebrities would perform on the show, and then ask the panelists for advice. When pop singer Eddie Fisher appeared on the show, his complaint was that girls refused to date him because of his age (he was in his twenties, while his fans were teenage girls). He asked advice from the panel, and Kaufman replied:
Mr. Fisher, on Mount Wilson there is a telescope that can magnify the most distant stars up to twenty-four times the magnification of any telescope. This remarkable instrument was unsurpassed in the world of astronomy until the construction of the Mount Palomar telescope, an even more remarkable instrument of magnification. Owing to advances and improvements in optical technology, it is capable of magnifying the stars to four times the magnification of the Mount Wilson telescope. Mr. Fisher, if you could somehow put the Mount Wilson telescope inside the Mount Palomar telescope, you still wouldn't be able to detect my interest in your problem.