‘Baby, You're the Greatest’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About 'The Honeymooners’
The Honeymooners may, at first glance, seem like a simple comedy about two working-class Brooklynites yelling at or complaining about their wives, but the 1955 show was more than just its cringe catchphrases. Not only did Jackie Gleason’s sitcom inspire myriad iconic TV programs to come, but it also featured two childless couples (in the 1950s, gasp) and stripped away the idyllic portrait of marriage many shows back then were trying to push.
To really understand the significant influence of The Honeymooners today — its main character, bus driver Ralph Kramden, has his own statue in New York, after all — here’s a look at the making of the single-season show and the legacy those “Classic 39” episodes left behind...
‘The Honeymooners’ Inspired ‘The Flintstones’
As The Flintstones co-creator William Hanna once explained, “At that time, The Honeymooners was the most popular show on the air, and for my bill, it was the funniest show on the air. The characters, I thought, were terrific. Now, that influenced greatly what we did with The Flintstones. The Honeymooners was there, and we used that as a kind of basis for the concept.”
Mel Blanc remembered being asked to voice Barney as a “pre-historic Art Carney,” and Gleason’s lawyer told him he could probably sue and get The Flintstones pulled, but Gleason didn’t want to be the guy responsible for killing the show.
The Show Was a Spin-Off of Gleason’s Variety Show
“The Honeymooners” was a sketch first performed in Gleason’s variety show, Cavalcade of Stars, and after finding success at CBS with The Jackie Gleason Show, the actor took the sketch series and pitched it to the network. They agreed to do the show but with one ultimatum…
Pert Kelton originally played the character of Ralph’s wife, Alice Kramden, in Cavalcade of Stars, but CBS pushed Gleason to drop her after she was accused of being a communist. Kelton was blacklisted in the 1950s and didn’t get much work for the next decade.
‘Futurama’ Called Out the Show’s Controversial Catchphrase
Ralph Kramden’s (in)famous catchphrase was the violent threat: “One of these days, Alice — Pow! Right in the kisser!” He’d sometimes change it up with, “BANG, ZOOM!” or “You’re going to the moon!” because Ralph apparently craved variety in his abusive outbursts.
Futurama, of all shows, poked fun at the what-the-hell of it all in an episode where Fry accompanies Leela on a Lunar Exploration tour and learns that the future somehow thinks Kramden was the first space pioneer.
Audrey Meadows Defended Ralph Kramden’s Verbal Threats
“He never did touch her,” Meadows, who played Ralph’s wife Alice Kramden, told Phyllis George on The CBS Morning News when the controversial catchphrase was brought up. “There was no violence there. It was his way of letting off steam, and that’s it.” Other critics have argued that the two characters’ devotion toward each other trumped Ralph’s recurring rants.
‘The Simpsons’ Rip-Off
The episode “The Ten-Per-Cent Solution” saw the Simpsons take a trip to the Museum of Television. While there, they see an exhibit and clip from The Adventures of Fatso Flanagan, a parody of The Honeymooners with Itchy & Scratchy-level violence.
Ralph Kramden’s Original Job
The writers initially wanted Kramden to be a police officer, but Gleason didn’t dig the idea, fearing that putting Kramden in a position of power would alienate viewers. He insisted that Kramden be a bus driver instead.
The Bus Driver Who Never Drove an Actual Bus
Due to being filmed in a live studio, Ralph Kramden was never shown working his job at New York City’s Gotham Bus Company (except in promotional photos). We’d never see Kramden in a bus until Cedric the Entertainer played the brash fella in the 2005 reboot.
Ed Norton Was Originally a Cop, Too
In the initial sketches for Cavalcade of Stars, Art Carney portrayed his character, Ed Norton, as a cop who gets flour-ed when Alice dumps a bag of it out the window. The character, of course, would go on to be a sewer worker in the sitcom instead.
The Kramdens’ Home Address
The street address, 328 Chauncey Street, was the same address of Gleason’s childhood home in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. The show changed the neighborhood to Bensonhurst because they thought it’d be better recognized.
That Time the Gang Got Turned into Looney Tunes
The Looney Tunes did a series of animated shorts that featured the Kramdens (and Ned and Trixie) as the Crumdens, a married pair of cartoon mice.
No One Thought Jackie Gleason Would Make It in Hollywood
While Gleason was doing bit parts in films during the early 1940s, he reportedly didn’t make much of an impression on Hollywood. To earn a living, he combined comedy and music and developed his own nightclub act, and when he wasn’t performing, he hosted nightly ragers in his hotel suite. “Anyone who knew Jackie Gleason in the 1940s would tell you The Fat Man would never make it,” CBS historian Robert Metz once wrote. “His pals at Lindy’s watched him spend money as fast as he soaked up the booze.”
’The Honeymooners’ Inspired ‘The King of Queens’
Not only did The Honeymooners inspire The King of Queens, but the Kevin James series had him fall asleep to an episode of the 1950s sitcom, leading to a dream sequence of him as Ralph Kramden.
On and Off
While Gleason pulled the plug on the show following the first season’s eventual drop in ratings, he kept doing Honeymooners sketches for his variety show. When Art Carney called it a day in 1957, Gleason dropped it for good — for a while, at least. In 1962, he revived his variety show and did sketches whenever Carney was available for work. However, new actresses played Alice and Trixie since Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph didn’t want to relocate to Miami, where the new sketches were filmed.
Gleason Composed the Theme Song Himself
The instrumental piano theme titled “You’re My Greatest Love” was composed by Gleason, and although lyrics were written, they were never sung because the melody was just that good.