AT the October meeting of the Probus Club of Andover members were treated to an interesting and amusing talk by Nick Thomas on the life and wit of the great comedian, Groucho Marx.

Readers of a ‘certain age’ might remember with nostalgia the days when Groucho performed with his four brothers, delivering his mix of slapstick and hilarious, sometimes risqué but never overtly dirty, ‘one liners’.

He was a Jew, born in New York in 1891, the son of an impoverished tailor. His mother initially put him and his brothers on the stage as a singing group but when ‘given the bird’ by an unappreciative audience Groucho took to insulting the punters, to their great amusement — and the legend of the Marx Brothers was born.

Groucho soon developed his trademark bushy eyebrows, black moustache and strange walk, together with quick-fire repartee and ‘ad libs’. In 1929 the brothers moved to Hollywood where they starred in such films as ‘Animal Crackers’, ‘Monkey Business’, ‘Duck Soup’ and ‘A Night at the Opera’. Marilyn Monroe made her first appearance in one of their films.

The brothers toured again during the war when humour was much needed, but to mixed reviews, and on his visit to the UK in 1946 he discovered that his brand of American humour was altogether to our taste.

After the war Groucho went solo, undoubtedly influencing such comedians as The Goons, Woody Allen and John Cleese. In 1972 at the age of 81 he appeared at Carnegie Hall and in 1974 was awarded a Lifetime Oscar. He was a serious, prolific and thoughtful letter writer with a great variety of admirers in the entertainment world. He died in 1977.

He will be remembered for such one-liners as: ‘I would not want to join any club who would accept me as a member’; hardly a sentiment for Probus members to espouse! And his memorable put-down: ‘I never forget a face but in your case, I’ll make an exception!’

The club will meet again on 27 November when the speaker will be Graham Horn, who will talk about ‘The Isle of Wight — England in Miniature’. The club’s 40th anniversary year will end on 7 December with the Christmas lunch. Wassail!

Why not join them in their 41st year? Contact Barrie Johnson 01264 337479.