In the Broadway production of Ballyhoo of 1932, Willie Howard (1886-1949) and his brother Eugene Howard (1991-1965) played in a skit where a soap-box orator told some Columbus Circle (New York City) bums about the glories of Communism. “Comes the revolution,” the orator declared, everyone would live the good life and eat strawberries and cream. “I don’t like strawberries and cream!” responded one of his listeners. “Comes the revolution,” the orator declared, “You’ll eat strawberries and cream—and like it!”
The Depression-era comedy routine became widely popular to describe the inanities of government programs.
Vaudeville, Old & New
By Frank Cullen, Florence Hackman and Donald McNeilly
Published by Routledge
WILLIE & EUGENE HOWARD
b: (Wilhelm Levkowitz) 13 April 1886, Neustadt, Germany
d: 14 January 1949, Paramus, NJ
b: (Isidore Levkowitz) 7 July 1881, Neustadt, Germany
d: 1 August 1965, New York, NY
Eugene played the original heckler in “Comes the Revolution,” in which Willie mounted a soap box, railed against capitalism and “de beeg boss-ez” of industry and promised that “comes the revolution, everyone will eat (Pg. 536—ed.) strawberries and cream.” When the heckler countered that he did not like strawberries and cream, the future commissar of the Lower East Side told him he would eat them and like it! By the time the sketch was committed to film, doubletalk comic Al Kelly had taken over as the heckler.
Ballyhoo of 1932
Production Information Opening: September 06, 1932
# Performances: 95
Theatres: 44th Street Theatre (New York, NY)
(9/6/1932 - 11/26/1932)
Production Type: Original Production
Production Status: Closed
Run Type: Unknown
E. Y. Harburg .... Lyricist
Lewis E. Gensler .... Composer
Norman B. Anthony .... Bookwriter
7 September 1932, New York (NY) Times, “Opening of ‘Ballyhoo of 1932’” by Brooks Atkinson, pg. 14:
Willie Howard, who is becoming a pleasanter comedian with each passing season—if he doesn’t watch out he will some day be accused of being “lovable”—is a long way from having ideal material, but he does all he can with it. As a man about Yonkers, as a Hebraic Scotsman, as a Columbus Circle orator, as a husband rapidly forced into hypochondria, he gives of his best and is a valuable figure in the show.
Google News Archive
2 November 1934, Kentucky New Era (Hopkinsville, KY), “News behind the news” by Paul Mallon, pg. 2, col. 2:
A new dealer tells the new version of what may be an old story about the soap box agitator in Union Square. he says the fellow was haranguing about the revolution, drawing luscious pictures of what would happen when it came.
“Dese people on Park Avenue,” said the earnest haranguer,” are living in beeg apartments and eating strawberries and crim. Comes the revolution and you also will live in beeg apartments and eat strawberries and crim.”
A little fellow down front in the crowd protested loudly at this, saying he did not like strawberries and cream, whereupon the haranguer leaned over, (Pg. 3, col. 2—ed.) shook a finger in the little fellow’s face and shouted:
“Comes the revolution, and you will eat strawberries and crim—and you’ll like it.”
Google News Archive
4 July 1935, St. Petersburg (FL) Evening Independent, “Bruce Catton Says,” pg. 4, col. 6:
“COMES THE REVOLUTION”
If you buy a meal in Wisconsin nowadays, and pay more than 25 cents for it, you have to eat some cheese with it. Or, to be exact, you have to buy some cheese, whether you eat it or not. This is under the terms of a new law, signed recently by Governor La Follette, designed to stimulate consumption of Wisconsin’s dairy products.
Maybe you don’t like cheese? You’ll buy it anyhow. And it somehow reminds one of the story of the readical who was haranguing a group of bums on the beauties of Communism. When the revolution came, he assured them, they would all eat strawberries and cream for breakfast.
One brave soul objected, saying that he didn’t like strawberries and cream. The orator wagged his finger sternly and shouted: “Comes the revolution and you’ll eat strawberries and cream—and like it!”
...And in Wisconsin, you’ll eat cheese, nowadays—and like it.
6 August 1940, Hutchinson (KS) News, “this and that” by j.p.h., pg. 4, col. 2:
Ever See that stage skit in which Willi Howard plays the meek little man listening to a Communist soap box orator? “Comes the revolution,” shouts the Red, “and we’ll all get into our big cars, drive up to the best hotel, go into the dining room and be served double portions of strawberries and cream.” The meek fellow all the while has been shaking his head in mild dissent. Irked, the orator shouts louder than ever, “Comes the revolution and we’ll all have strawberries and cream.” The little fellow shakes his head vigorously this time. “What’s the matter?” demands the Communist, “don’t you like the revolution?” “No,” says the timid soul. “I don’t like strawberries and cream.” “Comes the revolution,” thunders the orator. “And you’ll eat strawberries and cream and like it.” Well, the skit comes inevitably to mind in noting that the Chanute municipal band, on learning that a new $5,000 band shell is to be built there with federal funds, has said ti prefers playing on its own stand. Comes the WPA, Chanute municipal band, and you’ll play in the new $5,000 shell and like it.
OCLC WorldCat record
Comes the revolution
Author: Fred Waller; Warren Murray; Willie Howard; Al Kelly; Minoco Productions.; All authors
Publisher: [S.l.] : Official Films ; Soundies Distribution Corporation of America, ©1941.
Edition/Format: Film : Picture : English
Washington (DC) Post
Say You Want a ‘Revolution’
By Jane Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 9, 1997
In a clever old vaudeville skit, a Bolshevik firebrand would preach from his soapbox to a handful of poor bystanders. “Comes the Revolution, comrades, everybody’s gonna eat strawberries ’n’ cream!” A timid old man would protest, “But I don’t like strawberries ’n’ cream.” The Bolshevik would growl menacingly, “Comes the revolution, comrade, you’ll EAT strawberries ’n’ cream!” It was a subtle, pre-Cold War acknowledgement that the workers’ paradise was really a gray, murderous, hellish place.