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The Man Behind the Mustache

Critic Lee Siegel explores the misanthropy that drove Groucho Marx and examines how we miss the mark on the comedic giant

Jewish Lives (Sponsored)
January 20, 2016

When we think of Groucho Marx, we think of a giant of comedy. From his cigar to his wisecracks, Groucho, along with his brothers, established the fundamentals of American comedy. Indeed, it was he who first said he’d want no part of a club that would have him as a member—a notion made famous by a Brooklyn-bred heir named Woody Allen.

As critic Lee Siegel argues in Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence, Marx’s humor was predicated on disdain toward others—he was hardly a cuddly character, or a champion of the downtrodden, as critics and fans alike have painted him. Groucho and his brothers were all about disrupting social norms and sticking it to the man—whether that person was a lowly shlub or a high-society doyenne. Siegel joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss how such an unlikable person became such a household icon; to what extent the personae the Marx brothers played were faithful to their real selves; and how you can trace a direct line from Groucho to Amy Schumer.

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