How do you draw a fish?”
That line, he said, “is a very old thing. I was a fisherman and it became a bit of a joke on an episode of The Muppet Show where we used to draw a fish. Then Gene Autry, who was the show’s writer and director, said, ‘Why don’t you invent two of these, and let’s have them draw some fish for us.’ I thought that was brilliant, and it became such a popular line” — a line that was repeated, as always, in Muppet newsreel reels.
After that, the sketch has been parodied in TV commercials, a Muppet Christmas Carol, and even a movie called “My Fishy Friend,” where an entire episode was composed of Fishy’s jokes. (Today, the phrase “My Fishy Friend” is used in all sorts of settings, including a video of an elderly Fishy as a character in a video game.)
And so, in the early 1960s, an amateur musician, named Frank “Fisherman Fish” Moseley, began to perform these jokes for people, but he knew it wouldn’t be a great idea if he tried it in the street. This, he learned, was a catchphrase that was a dead giveaway, which meant that the audience would be able to identify it when they saw it, and so he decided to try to get it into public view.
This is the man in the photo on the right: He is now an expert at this part of the improv: A fish is drawing attention to itself. In Moseley’s version (above) he has the fish at arm’s length, drawing all eyes on it. The fish has no idea what it’s doing — a fish can’t draw — but it is drawing attention back.
The fish, Fishy
Moseley’s version is a version of the famous Fishy’s Fish line, and there is nothing new about it, but it’s also a bit different, and perhaps funnier in this modern context. Moseley was inspired by a joke by a professional improviser named Joe Zito, which, back in the 1950s, was first performed by Jack Benny, an American standup comic. In his version, when Fishy says, “I’m a man fishing and, uh, in fishy time I, uh, catch fish,” the audience could tell that Fishy is fishing.
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