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November 11: Brother Theodore

November 11, 2015

maxresdefaultComedian, monologuist, and chess sharp Theodore Gottlieb, who made his mark as “Brother Theodore” in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, was born in Dusseldorf, Germany on this date in 1906. The Nazis imprisoned him in Dachau until he signed over his family’s wealth (his father was a fashion-magazine mogul), and Albert Einstein, a family friend (and possibly his mother’s lover), helped him make his way to the U.S. Gottlieb’s parents and grandmother, among other family members, perished in the Holocaust. In America, he worked as a janitor at Stanford (where he once beat 30 professors at chess simultaneously) and as a dockworker in San Francisco. His career as a darkly funny and repellent monologuist (he called his routines “stand-up tragedy”) began in the late 1940s and reached a national audience through The Merv Griffin Show and various late-night talk shows, including Dick Cavett’s and Johnny Carson’s. In the 1980s, he made several appearances with David Letterman (including one that you can see below). Brother Theodore also performed on a weekly basis at Greenwich Village’s 13th Street Theater for seventeen years. He died at 94.

“The only thing that keeps me alive is the hope of dying young.” —Brother Theodore