Myron Cohen (comedian)

Two Jewish women who've been as close as sisters all of their lives meet each other for lunch.

First Woman: "I don't know how to tell you this... I'm having an affair!"

Second Woman: "So who's the caterer?"

One need not be Jewish, nor from New York City to appreciate the humor of Myron Cohen, but it sure helps. Cohen's unique style of humor relied on well-told stories, enhanced by accurate imitations of ethnic and regional accents.

Myron Cohen was born on July 1, 1902, in Grodno, Poland. The Cohen family emigrated to the U.S. when he was very young. The first half of his adult life was spent as a traveling salesman, in the textile industry. (Cohen's father was also involved in the garment industry.) Family, friends and customers alike prodded Cohen into taking the hysterically funny stories and imitations of Jewish dialect to the stage. And that he did.

By the 1950s, Cohen had left his job in sales and was performing at small clubs and hotels for a living. He first appeared on television in 1951 on "The Kate Smith Evening Hour." By the 1960s, he was a frequent guest on television variety and talk shows. He appeared on "Toast of the Town," "The Dean Martin Show," "The Jackie Gleason Show," and "The Ed Sullivan Show."

He appeared in New York, Las Vegas, and at popular night clubs and hotels in south Florida. His live performances were notable because they featured the telling of very long stories that nonetheless kept audiences on the edge of their seats. This was in dramatic contrast to the standard rapid-fire joke telling style of other stand up comedians.

Myron Cohen, the silk salesman who become one of our top comedians, tells all about Max Asnas, the Cornbeef Confucius, in his hilarious act at the International. He claims a customer asked Max why he didn’t have a parking lot in connection with his restaurant. Max snorted: “Jerk! If I had a parking lot, I wouldn’t need a restaurant!” He also maintains that a waiter at Max’s Stage Delicatessen was heard asking a table customer: “Which one of you ordered the clean glass?”

Strangely, Cohen made precious few appearances in the hotels and resorts of the "Borscht Belt" in the Catskill mountains, well-known for catering to a predominately Jewish clientele. But Cohen's albums were a must for many Jewish households, because of his uncanny ability to spoof Jewish life.

A Texan, visiting New York for the first time, finds himself lost, in the Lower East Side, a predominately Jewish neighborhood. He asks a resident, "Can y'all tell me where ah am?" The resident takes one look and says, "Brudder, you're not in Marlboro Country!"

By 1971, he was tapped for his first appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." Stand-up comedians consider an engagement on this show the best gig possible. Cohen aced the appearance, and appeared a total of ten times on the program.

Cohen recorded two albums of humor, "Everybody Got to Be Someplace" (RCA - 1967) and 1967's "It's Not a Question," a live album, also on RCA. There is anecdotal evidence that Cohen recorded one or more 78-rpm albums in the 1950s, but reliable sources are silent as to their existence. The following is from "It's Not a Question:"

Mrs. Goldberg: (Speaks in heavy New York-style Jewish accent) Mister painter, I vant you should paint my portrait in oils.

Painter: Why certainly, Mrs. Goldberg, I'd be glad to do that.

(Mrs. Goldberg and the painter haggle about the price and a cost is finally agreed upon.)

Mrs. Goldberg: Tell me, when you finish, will you have some oil paint left over?

Painter: (Quizzical) Yes, yes. We have plenty of oil paints. What do you need?

Mrs. Goldberg: I want you should paint me with huge rubies on my fingers, emeralds on my ears, and a hundred diamonds dripping from my neck.

Painter: Mrs. Goldberg, I can paint you wearing anything you like. But I have a question. You're not a wealthy woman. You don't own all this jewelry. Why would you like to be portrayed this way?

Mrs. Goldberg: Well, my husband Harry loves the women. Young women. And I know he's going to outlast me. I'm gonna be warm in my grave, and he'll be out picking up some little chippie. I want that when he invites her home, she should take one look at the painting, and drop dead looking for the jewelry!

Cohen appeared  in the 1985 comedy film "When Nature Calls," also known as "The Outdoorsters," directed by Charles S. Kaufman. The film is a spoof on urban flight, following a city family's move to the country in order to "get back to nature." The film includes spoofs of popular television shows and movies of the time. It includes cameo appearances by John Cameron Swayze, baseball star Willie Mays and G. Gordon Liddy.

Cohen died on March 10, 1986.


  • "Who's Who in Comedy," New York: Facts on File, 1992.

Dr. Myron Cohen

Dr. Cohen’s research focuses on transmission and prevention of transmission of STD pathogens, including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). He and his research group has studied the effects of classical STDS on the quantity and phenotype of HIV shed in both the male and female genital tract, and on the effects of antiviral treatment on HIV excretion.

A respected figure in AIDS research circles. Dr. Cohen is Director of the Center for Infectious diseases at the University of North Carolina, where he is also a full professor. Dr. Cohen has also participated in research and discussion of the explosion of AIDS cases in China. Dr. Cohen is not related to Myron Cohen, the comedian.



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