Rainer Hersch has often been compared with one of the greatest musical comedians of the 20th century – Victor Borge. A brilliant pianist, virtuoso comedian and, at one point, the highest paid entertainer in the world, we find out about the real Victor Borge and why his humour is so immortal.
Born Børge Rosenbaum in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1909, Victor Borge’s blend of music and comedy earned him the nicknames The Clown Prince of Denmark, The Unmelancholy Dane and The Great Dane
His father a violist in the Royal Danish Orchestra and his mother a pianist so his musical upbringing was strictly classical. He quickly displaying prodigious talent and was awarded a full scholarship to the Royal Danish Academy of Music in 1918 giving his first major concert in 1926. A few years as a classical concert pianist, he started his now famous “stand up” act, with the signature blend of piano music and jokes and travelled extensively across Europe telling anti-Nazi jokes.
During World War II, Borge was playing a concert in Sweden as the Nazis invaded Denmark. Borge managed to escape to Finland and travelled to America on the last neutral ship to make it out of the country arriving in the States with just $20. Borge returned to Denmark once during the occupation disguised as a sailor to visit his dying mother.
Borge did not speak a word of English when he landed, yet he quickly managed to adapt his jokes to the American audience, learning English by watching movies. He took the name of Victor Borge, and in 1941, he started on radio before being hired soon after by Bing Crosby.
Borge quickly rose to fame, winning Best New Radio Performer of the Year in 1942 followed by being offered film roles with stars such as Frank Sinatra. In 1946 he began hosting his famous Victor Borge Show which made his mark on NBC.
In 1948 Borge became a naturalized citizen of the United States and not long after started his Comedy in Music show in New York which was to become the longest running one-man show in the history of theatre with 849 performances placing it in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Borge even appeared several times on Sesame Street and was a guest star on The Muppet Show. Victor Borge continued to tour until his last days, performing up to 60 times per year when he was 90 years old.
One of the world’s most loved and admired performers and entertainers, Borge died in Greenwich, Connecticut, at the age of 91, after more than 75 years of entertaining.
Victor Borge’s inimitable style, based on trademark physical and visual elements was always a winner with audiences of all ages from the musically uninitiated to the most learned. His musical gags always brought the house down and his breadth of musical knowledge and skill enabled him to string a musical gag seemingly forever whilst always keeping this audience eating out of the palm of his hand. All these elements live on today in the madcap musical world of Rainer Hersch.