Origins of a great comedy bit–courtesy of Ian Finkel!

This is a column I wrote a while ago about a piece of legendary comedy and the story behind it, as told by the equally legendary Ian Finkel. Ian is the World’s Greatest Xylophone Player and if you don’t believe me then check out the clip! 

p903550068-3I am typing this column somewhere between the Caribbean and Tenerife and hope it gets out of this Internet Black Hole and onto your computers! I am in the middle of a very extensive tour designed to give me lots of sea days to finish work on the book detailing my Linking Finger Ring book.

Thank you to the surprising amount of you who expressed interest and wanted to pre-purchase this very limited and dear to my heart routine. I am delighted at how many of those people really liked my ideas about how to keep this routine exclusive and not flood any one market. You will NEVER see this book at your local magic shop.

I love writing this column and really do try to impart some knowledge in it. You can’t please everyone though (thank God) and I recently wrote a column with some excellent advice about how to raise both your personal and magic’s standing in the outside entertainment world. It included a strong recommendation that some ideas have served their purpose and need to be replaced.

I made a special mention of cheap shot methods of getting standing ovations for your show. First of all, yes, I KNOW THEY 5060ad854d12bc21cfe606d91ce935ec_400x400WORK. I have probably done them all at one point in my career! That wasn’t what I was saying, it is just that some of them have worked for too long and incite serious lack of respect for magicians in general.

I happened to have the opportunity to learn the true origin of the greatest of these bits today. The piece I am talking about is the recitation that ends up with the request for a standing ovation: not for me but for ——my child, my mother, my grandfather etc. etc. The person varies but never the punch line. It always goes, “it’s not for me, it’s for little XXXXXXXXX!” Followed by a standing O regardless of what the act was like!

This piece has been credited to many people but I heard the definitive truth of its origin from Ian (pronounced Ion) Finkel the World’s greatest Xylophone player and superb academic student of comedy and showbiz history. Ian and his brother Elliot are the two seriously talented sons of the legendary Jewish comedian and character actor Fyvush Finkel who was one of the kingpin performers in the Catskill resorts in New York during their heyday.

ianThis particular ‘bit’ began in the 40’s in the Catskill resorts and like so many other unique pieces was rather more collaborative than anyone claiming it’s creation would like to remember. That never happens in magic does it! However for your entertainment and education here is the piece as it was first performed.

At the end of his act the performer tells his audience that just prior to coming down to his show he was talking with the hotel chambermaid who was cleaning his room. She was telling him how much she enjoyed his show. As they were talking the hotel manager walked by and began to berate the performer telling him that if his show didn’t get a better reception that night then he will be fired.

Rosalina (the maid) tells the manager that she is so sure that he will get a great reaction that she is willing to make a bet with him. She has managed to save up 25 dollars to her name and will risk it all on a wager with the hotel manager that the performer will get a standing ovation that night! He accepted the bet immediately. The performer then tells the audience “ It’s not for me, it’s for Rosalina!” This was of course always followed by a standing ovation.

This version answers a lot of little questions that had previously lingered in my mind. It is absent of the inclusion of a family fyvush-finkel-cbs-620member in the storyline, which would have been a little emotionally tacky for the comedians of that time in those venues. It is certainly easy to see how it crept in later though. Winning a bet for a financially challenged chambermaid would have appealed a lot more to a comedian and more to the point the Catskills Resort audiences he was playing to.

I know this may be a rather specialized story for a worldwide publication like Magic New Zealand but I just had to share it! Let me furthermore add that the world divides into two groups, those that know Ian Finkel and those that don’t. If you fall into the second group, I can only say that you are missing out on one of the greatest characters ever to be a part of an industry famous for great characters.

A world-class musician, director and cigar smoker, If you want a little taste of Ian and his great stories I would highly recommend his book ‘You’re not supposed to be here!’ which is available on Kindle or through Amazon. It is the Philosopher’s Stone of great stories about some of his experiences working on cruise ships.

Since I wrote this article Ian has written a magnificent novel about the Vaudeville era that is a MUST READ for any performer interested in this fascinating time. It is called Vaudeville 1922 and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I  will write a full blog entry about it in the near future. You can purchase it at 


~ by Nick Lewin on September 2, 2015.

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