Victor Borge -- better onstage than in print; My Favorite Comedies in Music, by Victor Borge and Robert Sherman. New York: Franklin Watts. $8.95.
Victor Borge's re-emergence a couple of seasons ago, after a lengthy period of retirement from touring, was and is a tremendous blessing to all those who value the warmth, zest, and humor exemplified by this consummate comedian. He is undoubtedly one of a very small number of truly funny people: a man who doesn't stand and recite jokes, but instead is imbued through and through with a love of life, who reminds us that we all could stand to take ourselves less seriously and remember the joy that life's deepest meaning contains.
Ingratiating. Infectious. Universal. Elfin. Nimble witted. These are the qualities of Victor Borge the pianist-funnyman.
What is unfortunate is that they are qualities of performance -- of presence and action -- and that they don't lend themselves easily to the printed page.
This is Mr. Borge's second foray into books, his first having been "My Favorite Intermissions," and, sadly, this is no more successful than that earlier volume in reproducing what it is like to be limp from laughter when experiencing the man onstage. True, "My Favorite Comedies" contains some whacky paragraphs and a helping of some of the same chestnut jokes we have adored for 30 years. But the overwhelming bulk of this not- very-bulky volume consists of lighthearted looks at several standard musical heroes, although not one could be called truly original or funny, nor would they do even for a high school student wanting information on a composer in a light but factual vein.
A section on musical instruments fares better, and a final reward is a short glossary of musical terms, the most genuine music a la Borge to be found in the book ("ABSOLUTE PITCH: completely dark. RECITATIVE: the tune will be along any minute").
Mr. Borge's fans (count me in) would agree, perhaps, that we should treasure this enchanting man, who feels that "a smile is often the shortest distance between two people."
But the book is no substitute for the real V ictor Borge Experience.