In his hit TV sitcom ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’, Gabe Kaplan would often do impersonations of Groucho Marx. So when Groucho’s son Arthur wrote a play about his father’s life, Kaplan seemed a logical choice for the lead role. Despite lacking the necessary finesse to portray Groucho at different stages of his life, the former stand-up comedian possesed a skill that was equally vital to the play's success - the ability to deliver a punchline.
Supported by Michael Tucci as Chico, a disembodied harp and bicycle horn as Harpo, and Connie Danese in various female roles, Kaplan narrates Groucho’s life as he progresses through his various careers, including stage, film, radio and television. Featuring re-enactments of scenes from The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers , the play explains how the Marx Brothers attained their stage names, why their later films didn’t succeed and, most amusingly, why Harpo never spoke.
Though Kaplan’s depiction of Groucho’s stooped walk and later frailty gives the appearance of a troublesome marionette, his apparent ad-libs to the audience’s reactions enliven a play that, though sentimental at times, isn't dependant on nostalgic fondness for its characters.
An episode of ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’ was to have featured a cameo of Groucho but when he arrived on set it was obvious to all that he was too weak to perform. Though he posed for some publicity shots with the cast, it was decided not to proceed with the scene as planned. Groucho died the following year.
Chico Marx did not appear as a contestant on Groucho’s game show ‘You Bet Your Life’.
After intermission, Groucho announces the year is now 1941. In the interview that immediately follows, he tells a reporter than he has written a few books and hands her a copy of his latest, titled ‘Beds’. Not only was it his latest book, at the time it was also his first and only. The following years he would publish ‘Many Happy Returns: An Unofficial Guide to Your Income-Tax Problems’, and followed that with ‘Groucho and Me’ (1959), ‘Memoirs of a Mangy Lover’ (1963), ‘The Groucho Letters: Letters From and To Groucho Marx’ (1967), ‘The Marx Bros, Scrapbook’ (1973), ‘The Secret Word Is Groucho (1976) and ‘The Groucho Phile: An Illustrated Life by Groucho Marx ‘ (1976).
Though the play covers Groucho’s film career, it includes no scene recreations per se. It does, however, recreate scenes from the stage versions of The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers, which were both adapted for the screen.