Miskatonic University Press

Oscar Levant on Information Please


Otto Tolischus was the guest on Information Please on 17 September 1940 (the show is one of many at the Internet Archive), but the best stuff comes from regular Oscar Levant. In this music question, not only does he know all the answers, but he throws in a fact about Charles Ives.

Clifton Fadiman: We’ll start the second half of the program this evening with a question from A. Johnson of Jacksonville, Florida. Oh, this is a pretty easy one, they tell me, let’s get all out of it. There are three parts. First, name a pianist who was also an inventor of motor accessories. Mr. Levant.

Oscar Levant: Josef Hofmann.

CF: Josef Hofmann. That’s quite right. And what did he invent, do you know, Mr. Levant?

OL: Something about—some carburetor things—about an automobile.

CF: Any good?

OL: He’s a marvellous pianist. I don’t know anything about carburetors. He’s a great pianist.

CF: That’s safe enough. Name a composer who is, or perhaps was, an official of a hardware company. Doesn’t music pay, Mr. Levant?

OL: Well, look what I’m doing.

CF: And the answer, Mr. Levant?

OL: An aptly-named man named Carpenter from Chicago. A friend of Mr. Adams, I think. Am I wrong again, Mr. Adams?

CF: Do you know John Alden Carpenter, Mr. Adams?

Franklin P. Adams: Wrong again!

CF: John Alden Carpenter is quite right. Is he still an official of a hardware company, do you know. Mr. Levant?

OL: I don’t know, but there’s another wonderful composer in New England named Charles Ives, who is I think in the insurance business. Very good at both.

CF: He’s in the insurance business.

OL: Extraordinary character.

CF: All right. I’m glad of the gratuitous information. Now, how about a conductor who—a conductor in this case—who owns a goat farm.

OL: Oh, that’s easy.

CF: Mr. Levant? Easy?

OL: Dr. Artur Rodziński.

CF: Dr. Artur Rodziński.

OL: He’s the conductor of the Cleveland Symphony and his goat farm is in Stockbridge, Mass.

CF: And why does he conduct a goat farm these days, Mr. Levant, any idea?

OL: Well, non-union I guess, I don’t know.

CF: Your profession goes into odd occupations. Mr. Levant has hit the nail on the head three times.

You can hear it about 18 minutes into the show: