When I first got out to Los Angeles - I think I was 21 years old - I had to sign my first contract ever, to write on a TV show. I'd never seen a TV contract before. It had all these paragraphs with legalistic terms and clauses about earthquakes and fire, so I asked my agent, Could we put a Bob Hope clause in there? Like, should anything happen to Bob Hope, it's not binding because the comedic world as we know it would have changed.
I don't think a lot of people in my generation saw his best work. He became this sort of institution. To most of my friends, Bob Hope is the guy in the blazer who's doing a monologue off cue cards or who's dressed as a Cabbage Patch doll and doing a sketch with Brooke Shields. Or they saw some footage from a USO show or a Texaco Christmas special. If you were a comedy fan, you always knew he was one of the faces on Mount Rushmore, but you thought it was based on that. It wasn't.If you go back and look at the movies, in the '40s and the early '50s, like "Son of Paleface" or any of the "Road" movies, you're just amazed at his talent. He was so smooth and so precise. I think he was the first guy to master the fast-talking coward, the cowardly wise guy, the one who has a lot of bravado but then the tough guy sneaks up behind him and he's suddenly saying, "Oh, you've been working out, haven't you?" Woody Allen, I think, confessed that he had learned a lot watching Bob Hope. And there are things that I do every night - I growl at women on my show. That's almost subconscious, but it's from Bob Hope.
I've actually been in his house. When I was working at "The Simpsons," we wanted Bob Hope to be a voice. It was an episode where Lisa is going to be Little Miss Springfield and she's part of a USO show. Bob Hope is, of course, standing out in front of Lisa entertaining the troops. When a fight breaks out, he and Lisa jump into a helicopter, sort of reminiscent of the fall of Saigon, and Bob Hope looks down and says, "Just drop me off at that boat show."
Somebody had to go over to Bob Hope's house in Toluca Lake on a Saturday. I've always had this sense that you don't want to be in comedy and not have met Bob Hope, so my hand shot up.
Jeff Martin, another writer, and I were shown into a wood-paneled room, and there were pictures of John F. Kennedy and Patton. I was tempted to start opening up drawers. Then he came into the room. He said, "How ya doing? How are ya? How are ya?" He shook hands with us and he sat down. He said the line a couple of times to give us a couple of different readings and then he said, "All right, fellows, take it easy," and he walked out of the room. We were there for about 45 minutes, and we'd spent 30 minutes of that waiting for Bob Hope, looking out at his backyard. He has a putting green.
But then I heard him out in the hallway, headed toward the stairs. One of the people who works with him said: "I just got a call from the veterinarian. It's time for Junior to be neutered." Bob Hope paused on the stairway, and he went, "Ah, gee, better let me tell him."