David is thinking about the meat faerie (zoomardav) wrote,
David is thinking about the meat faerie

First Banana/Second Banana

I have always wondered where the term "second banana" came from to describe the person who is the straight man or assitant to a comedian. Well, I'm just finishing up the Phil Silvers autobiography and he prints the original sketch that started it! The term "top banana" was coined by Johnny Mercer as a better sounding replacement for "first banana". This sketch is, according to Silvers, ancient and popular with Dutch-Dialect comics.

The Banana Sketch
(Three comics. One holds up two bananas.)

First Man: I have three bananas here, and I will give you one.

Second Man: You only have two bananas.

First Man: I have three bananas. Look, I'll show you. (Holds up one banana in right hand.) One banana have I. (Holds up his left hand.) Two bananas have I now. One banana and two bananas makes three bananas."

Second Man: I only see two bananas. In your words, I will show you, you are wrong. (He takes bananas.) One banana have I. Two bananas have I. One banana and two bananas... by golly! He's right. (To Third Man) Would you like a banana? (Third Man nods.) Okay, one banana for you. A banana for ---"

First Man: How about me?

Second man: You eat the third banana!


I bet it's funnier with the Dutch dialect. Still, a great piece of comedy nerd history. Your position in the show defined by your position in this sketch. It's an archetypal bit.
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