Created by Matthew J. Goldberg,

Henry (Henny) Youngman was a stand-up comedian that was once dubbed The King of One-Liners.

Perhaps the quintessential New York Jewish comedian, Youngman (1906-1998) was actually born in Liverpool, England but moved to New York City at six months. Youngman’s work started in a print shop; after learning the trade, he started to publish comedy cards with some of his original lines that would eventually bring him great fame.

Pushed by his parents to study the violin, Henny’s debut in show business was as a jazz bandleader for a group called the Swanee Syncopaters. Youngman would often tell jokes to the audience during his performances, and the shtik paid off.  One night, the regular comedian didn’t show, so Henny obliged the club owner by filling in. The rest, as they say, is comedy history.

Henny’s unique style was to stand on stage with a violin tucked under his arm. His bits were quick jokes, and his comedy sets ran about 15 minutes. The audience would just about recover from one belly laugh when the next comedic assault would be delivered. He never uttered profanity, but some of the lines were borderline risqué during his heyday.

Youngman’s most famous line (too famous for this list?) was “Take my wife, please.” Indeed, his wife, Sadie, was the unnamed butt of many of his jokes. In reality, Henny and wife Sadie (nee Cohen) were very close and enjoyed more than sixty years of marriage. Thirty for him, and thirty for her. Just kidding: they enjoyed—by all accounts—a long, wonderful union.

Henny was still performing until the very end, which came shortly before his 92nd birthday. He is buried in Glendale, New York, and his great lines live on.

Here are ten of his quick bits, among very many.

10. Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays.

9. There was a girl knocking on my hotel room door all night! Finally, I let her out.

8. While playing golf today I hit two good balls. I stepped on a rake.

7. Those two are a fastidious couple. She’s fast and he’s hideous.

6. When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.

5. My wife and I went back to the hotel where we spent our wedding night. Only this time, I stayed in the bathroom and cried.

4. My wife and I went to a hotel where we got a waterbed. My wife called it the Dead Sea.

3. My other brother-in-law died. He was a karate expert, then joined the army. The first time he saluted, he killed himself.

2. She’s been married so many times she has rice marks on her face.

1. I just got back from a pleasure trip. I took my mother-in-law to the airport.

OOPS! I can’t resist one slightly longer one:

A guy complains of a headache. Another guy says “Do what I do. I put my head on my wife’s bosom, and the headache goes away.” The next day, the man says, “Did you do what I told you to?” “Yes, I sure did. By the way, you have a nice house!”

That concludes my list of the Top 10 one-liners written and delivered by the inimitable Henny Youngman. If you have any observations or suggestions for this column or future lists, please comment below or send me an email.

Matthew J. (call him Matt) Goldberg will be presenting a Jewish-style Top Ten list every Thursday on this site.

 For information about Matt’s books, sports columns, speaking events and requests for appearances and custom writing, please visit, or contact him via email. His new Facebook Fan Page (“to like, to like, l’chayim”) can be found here.

Filed Under: HumorTop Ten Lists


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Matthew J. Goldberg About the Author: An author, speaker and custom writer from Cherry Hill, NJ, Matt loves to entertain people through his writing and public speaking. Laughs, Smiles and just enough Wisdom reach his audience through the magic of his written and spoken words. More about Matthew

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  1. bill copeland says:

    everybody has forgotten his second-best joke: how’s your wife? (pause, pause, pause) Compared to what?

  2. roy says:


  3. William Delia says:

    Omitted from your list is the all-time classic of classic Youngman one-liners: “Take my wife. Please”.

  4. Frankie Laffalottz says:

    Matt, there’s one you might have forgotten; My wife told me she wanted to go somewhere she’s never been before, I told her “try the kitchen”. This joke has been with me for 30yrs. I heard it when Henny appeared on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. It’s timeless and still funny to this day.

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