Saturday, November 20, 2010

Brother Theodore

Brother Theodore, born Theodore Gottlieb, was a German-American monologuist and comedian known for rambling, stream-of-consciousness dialogues which he called "stand up tragedy."

He was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, where his father was a magazine publisher. Theodore attended the University of Cologne. At age 32, under Nazi rule, he was imprisoned at the Dachau concentration camp until he signed over his family's fortune for one Reichsmark. After being deported for chess hustling from Switzerland he went to Austria where Albert Einstein, a family friend and alleged lover of his mother, helped him escape to the United States.

Theodore's career as a monologuist began in California in the late 1940s, with dramatic Poe recitals. He moved to New York City, and by the 1950s his monologues, now darkly humorous, had attracted a cult following. In 1958 he presented a one man show that promoted the idea that human beings should walk on all fours. He reached a wider audience through television, with 36 appearances on The Merv Griffin Show in the 1960s and '70s, and was also a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Dick Cavett Show, and The Joey Bishop Show. As his nightclub and TV appearances in the 1950s and '60s waned, he was forgotten, and he retired in the mid 1970s.

He was pulled out of retirement and booked by magician Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brooks in the Magic Towne House on New York's upper East side for special weekend midnight performances. This resulted in a resurgence of interest in Brother Theodore that brought him success in his later years starting with Tom Snyder's Tomorrow Show in 1977 followed by more TV appearances and movies. Talk-show viewers probably remember Theodore for his 16 appearances on NBC's Late Night with David Letterman in the 1980s.

Just prior to his death from pneumonia, he taped several monologues for the controversial documentary series, Disinformation, and voiced the character of an ointment expert on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday audio version of Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer in 1995.

Brother Theodore died in New York City on April 5, 2001, at the age of 94 in Mount Sinai Hospital,[1] and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.

His headstone reads: Known as Brother Theodore / Solo Performer, Comedian, Metaphysician / "As Long As There is Death, There Is Hope"

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