Robert Orben

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Robert Orben (March 4, 1927February 2, 2023) was an American magician and professional comedy writer. He is also an author of books for magicians. He is the author of Speaker's Handbook of Humor.


  • President Ford used humor a great deal.
    • Gail Russell Chaddock (January 3, 2007) "Congress tries Ford's way - The late president's emphasis on compromise is recalled as the 110th Congress is set to convene", Christian Science Monitor, p. 1.
  • It's mandatory in this day and age to be considered to have a sense of humor and to demonstrate it. You're not paying me for a joke, You're paying me for the right joke.
    • Gail Russell Chaddock (December 9, 2005) "Backstory: Serious business of jokes in politics", Christian Science Monitor, p. 20.
  • A young person today has a nanosecond attention span, so whatever you do in a humor has to be short. Younger people do not wait for anything that takes time to develop. We're going totally to one-liners. Telling a joke is risk taking. Younger people are more insecure and not willing to put themselves on the line, so a quick one-liner is much safer.
    • Warren St. John, The New York Times (May 28, 2005) "Wit's end: The death of the joke - Old-style wisecracks are passe in an age of decreasing attention spans, political correctness and the Internet", The Orlando Sentinel, p. E1.
  • Dick Cheney has to be the kindliest attack dog ever.
  • It always seems to someone outside the business that it is very difficult to write for a comedy show because it must be done quickly. Actually, it is much easier to write this humor than to do a joke or a show from scratch, because the audience knows the plot. Just mention what is going on and then deliver the punch line.
    • Lauren Keeport (February 3, 1998) "Scandal feeds maelstrom of Clinton jokes - 'Monicagate' a windfall for TV wits", The Washington Times, p. A2.
  • I remember when humor was gentle pokes. I used to call it 'arm around the shoulder' humor. Now they go for the jugular and they take no prisoners. It's mean, mean stuff.
    • Steve Lowery (October 23, 1993) "What's So Funny? Humor Comes Under Harsh Glare of Political Correctness", Press-Telegram, p. C1.
  • If somebody accuses you in a story of being a crook, you can demand that they prove it. But if a comic says it and you protest, people say, 'What's the matter, you can't take a joke?'
    • Thomas J. Brazaitis (March 14, 1992) "Comics' Barbs Keep White House Hopefuls On The Run", The Plain Dealer, p. 4A.
  • If you can get someone to laugh with you, they will be more willing to identify with you, listen to you. It parts the waters.
  • George Bush has turned into the playboy of the Western world. He shows up at Chinese restaurants, at movies, at the Kennedy Center. He seems to be a totally relaxed, enjoy-the-moment kind of individual. He has shown a sense of playfulness that is very appealing. It shows he isn't overwhelmed by the overwhelming responsibilities he is taking on.
    • Kevin Merida (January 15, 1989) "The Bush Inauguration - The 'real George Bush' -- exhibiting confidence and an unpretentious, fun-loving touch -- emerges from Reagan's shadow", The Dallas Morning News, p. 1M.
  • Very few people ever meet celebrities. All we really know is what we read about them and the most memorable lines are jokes. That's how we tend to define what we think of a public figure.
    • Janet Cawley (September 22, 1988) "The Joke's On George, Mike, Dan and Lloyd", Chicago Tribune, p. 23.
  • Humor is a marvelous communications tool, as Reagan has demonstrated so well. He has weathered many a storm that others might not have. With Reagan, people just say, 'There he goes again.' A sense of humor allows a president to back off a little from the tensions of the moment and take a calmer view of things.
    • Phil Gailey (June 12, 1988) "Presidential politics should be more of a laughing matter", St. Petersburg Times, p. 5D.
  • Anybody with a good sense of humor is one-up on their competition. We respond to somebody who has the ability to make us laugh. It's a bonding influence.
    • Kevin Merida (February 15, 1988) "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to The White House - The one-laugh-one-vote theory has candidates cracking wise", The Dallas Morning News, p. 1C.
  • Humor starts like a wildfire, but then continues on, smoldering, smoldering for years.
    • Elizabeth Kastor (May 6, 1987) "The Jokers Take Heart - Pundits Ponder The Implications", The Washington Post, p. B1.
  • As much as we admire all the characteristics of a Ronald Reagan, as soon as something goes wrong, people will hate those same characteristics.
    • Dave Hoekstra (September 28, 1986) "A former president's gag order - Ford's symposium examines humor in the Oval Office", Chicago Sun-Times, p. 22.
  • The chance to be seen as a warm, witty guy is too good an opportunity for a politician to miss.
    • Marianne Means (September 26, 1986) "I Just Flew In From The White House - And, Boy, Are My Arms Tired", Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p. A10.
  • Humor gives presidents the chance to be seen as warm, relaxed persons. Humor reaches out and puts its arm around the listener and says, 'I am one of you, I understand,' and implicitly it promises, 'I will do something about your problems.'
    • William Lowther (September 21, 1986) "Americans laugh at their presidents -- not with them", The Toronto Star, p. B3.
  • Nowadays, you cannot be a very Effective political figure without Having a demonstrable sense of humor. People take to it.
    • Claudia Buck (May 26, 1986) "Humorless Election Year Is Nothing To Laugh At", Sacramento Bee, p. A1.
  • I'd be surprised if Ronald Reagan doesn't run again. To us it's a second term. To him it's a double feature.
    • Lou Cannon (January 17, 1983) "Is the Presidency Really So Fragile That Leaks Can Destroy It?", The Washington Post, p. A3.
  • Humor is the most honest of emotions. Applause for a speech can be insincere, but with humor, if the audience doesn't like it there's no faking it.
  • The secret of writing comedy is to know where it's all going, then get ahead of it.


  • Do you ever get the feeling that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right?
    • Ventura County Star staff (November 1, 2008) "Famous lasting words about elections - From Will Rogers to Yogi Berra, immortal quotations for Tuesday", Ventura County Star.
  • Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian.
    • Manly Daily staff (August 5, 2008) "They Said What?", Manly Daily, p. 8.
  • Sometimes I get the feeling the whole world is against me, but deep down I know that's not true. Some of the smaller countries are neutral.
    • Henry J. Waters III (April 29, 2008) "The Tribune's View: The oil crisis - Shall we continue to fiddle?", Columbia Daily Tribune.
  • A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.
    • Bill Husted (April 27, 2008) "Local legal eagle stages sendup", The Denver Post, p. B-03.
  • Noise pollution is a relative thing. In a city it's a jet plane taking off. In a monastery it's a pen that scratches.
    • Henry J. Waters III (April 22, 2008) "The Tribune's View: The Democrats - Time for Clinton to quit", Columbia Daily Tribune.
  • There's so much pollution in the air now that if it weren't for our lungs, there'd be no place to put it all.
    • Stated by Orben in 1927 — reported in Robert Krier (January 31, 2008) "Waiting to Inhale: Don't take a breath without the report from our Air Pollution Control District", The San Diego Union-Tribune, p. E-1.
  • The next time you feel like complaining, remember that your garbage disposal probably eats better than 30 percent of the people in the world.
    • Steven Keith (December 26, 2007) "The Food Guy Food, how do I love thee?", Charleston Daily Mail, p. P1D.
  • More than ever before, Americans are suffering from back problems: back taxes, back rent, back auto payments.
  • A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that "individuality" is the key to success.
  • Every morning I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I'm not there, I go to work.
    • Henry J. Waters III (March 19, 2007) "The Tribune's View: Shield law - Stand up, Mr. Gibbons", Columbia Daily Tribune.
  • Life was a lot simpler when what we honored was father and mother rather than all major credit cards.
  • If you can laugh together, you can work together.
  • You wouldn't want Alan Greenspan to write the instructions for assembling a beach chair.
    • Chicago Tribune staff (June 25, 1995) "Think About It", Chicago Tribune, p. 3.
  • Quit worrying about your health. It'll go away.
  • I take my children everywhere, but they always find their way back home.
  • What bothers me about television is that it takes our minds off our minds.
  • Successful salesman: someone who has found a cure for the common cold shoulder.
    • Greg Heberlein (September 20, 1987) "Seattleite Eyes Northwest Stocks for Wall Street Institutions", The Seattle Times, p. D2.
  • Wall Street is where prophets tell us what will happen and profits tell us what did happen.
    • Greg Heberlein (September 28, 1986) "'Doctor' Lefevre Seeks Cure For Hospitalized Bull Market", The Seattle Times, p. C2.
  • Did you ever figure to be living in a time when your check is good, but the bank bounces?
    • Alison DaRosa (November 26, 1985) "Title: Alison DaRosa", Evening Tribune, Union-Tribune Publishing Co., p. B-1.
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