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Do you believe in fairies? ... If you believe, clap your hands!

May 28, 2024

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About Robert Orben

Robert Orben

Robert Orben

Robert Orben (born March 4, 1927) is an American magician and professional comedy writer. He is also an author of books for magicians. He wrote a book called "Speaker's Handbook of Humor".

Robert Orben published his first gag book at the age of 18 in 1946, when he was working in Stuart Robson Jr.'s (stage manager for Florenz Ziegfeld) conjuror's shop in New York. Professional magicians would use his gags to add humor to their acts; comedians also came into magic stores, for props and books, as there were no comedy stores or resources as such at that time.

When Robert Orben wrote his first gag book, Encyclopedia of Patter, it proved very popular, and he started publishing more books of gags, complete with sketches, ad libs, bits of business and routines. Titles included Patter Parade, Laugh Package, Sight Bits, and Screamline Comedy.

By the 1950s, Orben gag books were ubiquitous in the comedy profession and were probably overused by stand-up comedians. Orben has said he nearly sued Lenny Bruce once, as Bruce advertised his show with the tag line, "No Joe Miller, no corn, no Orben". However, Orben never sued, and only saw Bruce perform once, shortly before Bruce's death.

In addition to his gag and humor books, he started publishing a regular newsletter of topical humor, which he wrote for nearly 30 years, stopping in 1989.

As Orben made a name for himself with his books, he attracted attention. He started writing custom-made gags for comedian Dick Gregory for six years. Gregory had contacted him in 1955, when Gregory was starting out in Chicago. Orben told him to get in touch when he'd found his own comedic voice. In 1962, Gregory telegrammed Orben, saying there would be a two page article in Time about him. Orben bought the magazine, saw the article, and shortly after, the two signed a contract to work together. Orben also wrote for the Jack Paar Show in New York (1962-63), and the Red Skelton Show in Hollywood (1964-70).

Later, Orben moved into politics, and in 1973 he became head speechwriter to Vice President Gerald R. Ford. When Ford succeeded to the Presidency in August, 1974, Orben became his speechwriter. In January 1976 he was appointed Special Assistant to President Ford and Director of the White House Speechwriting Department.

As of 2007, Orben works as a speaker for corporate events. His most recent book is Speaker's Handbook of Humor.

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