A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 19, 2012
“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was assassinated in Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, while watching the play Our American Cousin. Fletcher Knebel (1911-1993), author of the satirical column about government called “Potomac Fever,” wrote in 1957:

“What TV interviewing would have been at the time of the Civil war: ‘Well, aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, what did you think of the play?’”

The classic example of the “sick joke” became popular in 1957 and is still told.


24 June 1957, The Oregonian (Portland, OR), “Knebel Knifties,” sec. 3, pg. 4, col. 6:
What TV interviewing would have been at the time of the Civil war: “Well, aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, what did you think of the play?”

19 October 1957, The Independent (Pasadena, CA), pg. 8, col. 5:
Aside from that, Mr. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the show?

9 December 1957, Omaha (NE) World-Herald,"Briton: Sputnik Spawning Gruesome American jokes” (AP), pg. 2, col. 6:
“And apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”

24 June 1958, Springfield (MA) Union, “Give a Hearty Cheer But Never Stoop to Leer,” pg. 4, col. 2:
An example of one of the milder hate jokes: “Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how’d you like the play?”

Google News Archive
3 July 1958, Reading (PA) Eagle, “Status of Comedy Is Poor on TV and Films, Says Critic” by Bob Thomas (AP), pg. 2, col. 7:
Such as: “Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

Google News Archive
1 July 1972, Lewiston (ID) Morning Tribune, “California Loss Turns Into McGovern Boon” by Gregg Herrington (AP), pg. 1, col. 6:
... McGovern’s campaign director Frank Mankiewicz replied:

“That’s like saying, ‘except for that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln.’”

29 May 1983, New York (NY) Times, “Tasteful Good Looks in Scarsdale” by M. H. Reed, pg. WC25:
But, as the old line goes, “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

9 October 1983, Washington (DC) Post, “The Serious, Mind-Bending Work of Laughing at Washington; The Outlook Interview: Mark Russell, comedian, talks to Lee Michael Katz, pg. C3:
Q: Are there emergencies or political actions that don’t lend themselves to humor?
A: Yes. I may feel like commenting about them when they’ve resolved themselves. That might be in a few days, it might be in a few months. Lincoln’s assassination, that took what, 100 years. Then finally they said, “Well, outside of what happened, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

8 February 1987, New York (NY) Times, “Running First Women’s Bank Is Now a Man’s Job” by N. R. Kleinfeld, pg. F6:
“Asking how the bank was doing aside from a lack of capital,” Mr. Simon said, “is like saying, aside from the assassination, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theater • Monday, November 19, 2012 • Permalink