To comedians, “material”—their jokes and stories—has always been precious, worthy of protecting and preserving. On stage, a good vaudeville routine could last years as it was performed on tour across the country. In radio, a year's vaudeville material might be fodder for one week's broadcast. Bob Hope used new material not only for his weekly radio series, but also for the several live charity appearances he made each week. In the beginning of his career, Bob Hope wrote his own material, adapted jokes and comic routines from popular humor publications, or commissioned segments of his vaudeville act from writers.
Over the course of his career Bob Hope employed over one hundred writers to create material, including jokes, for his famous topical monologs. For example, for radio programs Hope engaged a number of writers, divided the writers into teams, and required each team to complete an entire script. He then selected the best jokes from each script and pieced them together to create the final script. The jokes included in the final script, as well as jokes not used, were categorized by subject matter and filed in cabinets in a fire- and theft-proof walk-in vault in an office next to his residence in North Hollywood, California. Bob Hope could then consult this “Joke File,” his personal cache of comedy, to create monologs for live appearances or television and radio programs.
The complete Bob Hope Joke File—more than 85,000 pages—has been digitally scanned and indexed according to the categories used by Bob Hope for presentation in the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment.
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Annie Leibovitz. Bob Hope in his joke vault. Photograph, July 17, 1995. Courtesy of Annie Leibovitz (197)
Jokes from Bob Hope's Joke File. December 15, 1953. Typed manuscript with holographic notations. Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5 - Page 6 - Page 7. ©Bob Hope Enterprises. Bob Hope Collection. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress
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Bob Hope & His Comedy Writers
Bob Hope was always candid about his reliance on his comedy writers, and generous with credit to them.
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Bob Hope with writers, ca. 1946. Copyprint. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (106b)
Bob Hope with writers, ca. 1950. Photograph. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (197a)
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The writers whose creativity and wit contributed to the Bob Hope Joke Files are:
Fred S. Fox
Jack Haley, Jr.
Robert L. Mills
Strawther & Williger
Ken & Mitzie Welch