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Button-cute, rapier-keen, wafer-thin and pauper-poor…is how S.J. Perelman described himself.

They were in line before me, waiting to give their tickets to the ticket-taker. “Now what’s this we’re seeing again?” she asked him. He was short, eager, perhaps late thirties; he had a nice energy about him, he was reminiscent of say, Jerry Stiller. She was younger than he, undeniably attractive, but with that rapacious look you sometimes see in the ambitious. Reminiscent, perhaps, of Megan Hilty. From their body language, I guessed they were in the early stages of their courtship -this was maybe their second date. We were waiting to see Lewis Stadlen, that fabulous actor, who was appearing in his one-man tribute to Sid Perelman, the great humor writer. “It’s Perelman,” he explained to his date, “he’s the guy wrote all the scripts for the Marx Brothers -you like the Marx Brothers, don’t you?” he asked, the end of his sentence curling upwards in a wisp of hopefulness.

Groucho Marx, S.J. Perelman, and Kenneth Tynan

Groucho Marx, S.J. Perelman, and Kenneth Tynan (Photo credit: John McNab)

 And then she threw the line that -I predicted, I just knew- doomed this relationship. “In moderation,” she said.