Cultural education: Groucho Marx on Dick Cavett, 1969.


This segment was aired almost 50 years ago at the apex of the Woodstock generation’s seeming rejection of tradition (but they’re voting for Trump now, aren’t they?), and viewing the footage now, one is afforded an entertaining glimpse into a long departed era in America.

Groucho was just a bit south of 80 years old at the time this was filmed. Chico and Harpo were dead, though it had been only 12 years since they made a final brief television appearance together. Watch as Dick Cavett plays straight man and stays out of Groucho’s way, a forgotten subtlety now.

Groucho’s seemingly effortless conversational wit is something I’ve aspired to ever since watching the old Marx Brothers movies on late night television as a youngster. Amid crippling shyness, possessing a tongue perpetually tied, Groucho was a beacon of what might be. It’s a goal forever out of reach, but one that provided bountiful enjoyment along the way — and every now and then behind the bar, I was so very close.