Did Jackie Gleason invent "Humanah-humanah"?

You know, the sound Ralph made when he was nervous/scared/worried etc. Did that exist before The Honeymooners? I’m guessing it might have been a vaudeville standard long before TV, but don’t know one way or the other.

I don’t know the answer but I always thought that expression was a reaction to seeing a beautiful woman. Or maybe I’m confusing it with “hubba Hubba” ?

I recall one account saying it was Gleason’s way to tell the stage director he had forgotten his line and needed a cue. TV was live in those days.

Yes, you’re confusing it with “hubba, hubba.” Think of the episode where Ralph is making fun of Harvey’s name in the pool hall until Harvey comes and stands over him looking down on him. And Norton egging him on into a fight. “Humanah-humanah, humanah-humanah, humanah-humanah.” Or the “Chef of the Future” episode where Ralph and Ed appear on television and Ralph gets stage fright whereas Norton keeps his cool.

How right you are!

Ahh, yes…the episode called “Better Living Through TV,” featuring some great ad-libs by both Gleason and Carney. One of the best of the classic 39!

The “homina” or however it’s spelled usually happened when Ralph was in trouble with Alice or his boss…

And if I may hijack a bit, was “hubba hubba” in reference to a hot chick used much before Steve Martin said it in Parenthood? I was a bit young when that came out, but it was the first time I heard it.

You need to watch more Warner Bros. cartoons, more Tom & Jerry, and way more vaudeville. “Hubba hubba” goes back to at least the early part of the 1900s.

Probably true, most acts had a fail-safe.

George Burns and Gracie Allen had a fail-safe in their act, whereas if one of them forgot something they would go into their well rehearsed “Gracie’s Brother Routine.”

For instance if Gracie forgot she’s simply says “George, do you want to talk about my brother?”

This worked well for their act, especially in radio and vaudeville, where the act was less like their TV show, which was sitcom like.

I have a lot of their OTR shows and you can hear it go OK and suddenly George (or Gracie) will say “You want to talk about your(or my) brother?”

I read that in radio this would happen if the actor dropped their scripts (the actors in radio read from scripts) and they need to buy time to get the pages picked up and put back correctly.

Gets me to wondering: What’s the earliest cite for Hardee har har?

I think Jackie Gleason also had a signal that if he forgot his line, he would pat his stomach and Audrey Meadows would ad-lib a fat joke.

A lot of old-time vaudevillians would smoke cigars as a memory prop. If they forgot their lines, they would take a few puffs until it or something else came to mind.

“Get rid of the skate key.”

“This is coming to you very live, not on film!”

I’m almost certain that the piece flying off the multi-tool thing was completely unscripted! Carney’s reaction and how close Gleason has to get to the camera to pick it up make it seem pretty real.

OED can’t attest to any date before 1944 (which doesn’t mean there wasn’t some usage before then).

Gleasonwas legendary for his dislike of rehearsal, even in the early days of live TV. It is well know that Gleason used to show up for a live taping after a few drinks with only moments to spare, often ad-libbing if he didn’t care for the script.

I don’t know how wide spread it was in berlesque or vaudeville, but in the '20s and '30s, Bert Lahr had it as a standard part of most of his acts. His son mentions it in his biography of his father and Josh Logan mentions in his second autobiography how upset he was when Lahr put it in Waiting for Gidot. I seem to remember some similar sounds from Lahr when he played the cowardly lion in* The Wizard of Oz*.