Groucho Marx Biography & Activities

Read this biography to learn about comedian Groucho Marx. Then, have children form their own comedy teams and share their jokes with the class.
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Comedian / Actor

Born: 2 October 1890
Died: 19 August 1977 (pneumonia)
Birthplace: New York, New York
Best known as: Mustachioed leader of the Marx Brothers

Julius "Groucho" Marx was the most famous of the Marx Brothers, a landmark comedy team of vaudeville and the movies. The Marx Brothers' witty, irreverent wordplay and clever physical gags made them some of the world's biggest movie stars during their heyday in the 1920s and 1930s. Groucho was the ringleader in the group's routines, cracking wise and waggling his eyebrows over his signature greasepaint mustache. His brothers included fellow stars Chico (Leonard Marx, 1886-1961) and Harpo (Adolph Marx, 1888-1964), plus two brothers who made more rare appearances: Gummo (Milton Marx, 1897-1977) and Zeppo (Herbert Marx, 1901-1979). The Marx Brothers' movies included Animal Crackers (1930), Duck Soup (1932) and A Night At the Opera (1935); often the actress Margaret Dumont served as a stuffy foil for their antics. Groucho became a solo success when he hosted the game show You Bet Your Life on radio and television from 1947-1961. In 1974 he received a special Academy Award for lifetime achievement.

Extra credit: Harpo was the brother who didn't speak on-screen; Chico often played a comical Italian... Among those who wrote routines for the Marx Brothers were S.J. Perelman and George S. Kaufman... In his last years Groucho was guided by a secretary and companion, Erin Fleming, eventually leading to a legal battle with his family in which she was ousted as his guardian... A new version of You Bet Your Life aired briefly in 1992, with comedian Bill Cosby as host... Marx is no relation to philosopher Karl Marx... Groucho Marx died three days after Elvis Presley in 1977.

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Enrichment Activities

  • Instruct children to create their own stand-up comedy routine. Capture the spirit of the Marx brothers by having children work in groups to form their own comedy team. Have them write out their jokes in advance to practise spelling and penmanship. Encourage children to practise public speaking by performing their jokes in front of the class.
  • Ask children to research their favourite comedian and write a brief report about him or her.
  • Encourage children to share their favourite joke with the class.
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