Opinion: Recalling Victor Borge


Commentary by Ward Degler

When Jeanne and I got married, a friend of hers gave us two tickets to a Victor Borge concert. Up till that time, I had heard Victor Borge maybe once or twice but didn’t know much about him.

That concert changed all that. He was billed as a comedy musician, and he performed both extremely well. In fact, if asked who my favorite comedian was, I would have to say Victor Borge. If asked who my favorite pianist was, again I would have to say Victor Borge. And no one in memory has ever combined the two talents as superbly as Victor Borge.

My mother was a pianist, so I gained a deep understanding of piano music from an early age. Liszt, Bach, Brahms, they all contributed to my appreciation of good music. First, my mother and then Victor Borge. The difference was my mother wasn’t a comedian. Oh, she was funny – sometimes without knowing it — but not the way Victor was.

Victor Borge could turn anything, I think, into a comedy routine. His grandfather’s watch, for example. “My grandfather gave me his watch when he was on his deathbed … for 20 bucks.”

He would announce a piece of music he was going to play only to get distracted for long, hilarious minutes. In one such bit, he announced that he would play a Mozart piece in the key of C. He sat down on the piano bench and then asked, “Where the heck is C?” For a couple of minutes, he rummaged through the bench and then announced, “This explains why you Americans are so fond of saying, Llong time, no C.’”

Borge was from Denmark, and he learned English by watching movies and by listening to language tapes. He said he became quite fond of learning languages that way, by putting the tape recorder under his pillow when he went to bed at night.

Slowly, he said, you hear the recording over and over until you know the language. “Of course, I could only speak it when I was asleep,” he added.

Victor Borge was born Borge Rosenkamp in 1909. He died in 2000 at the age of 91. A long life, but for me, not nearly long enough.