The Funniest FBI Files on Famous Comedians

Apparently the FBI doesn’t have a great sense of humor
The Funniest FBI Files on Famous Comedians

The FBI may seem like just a bunch of humorless, bureaucratic squares, but, well, you’re totally right. And nothing in this article is going to dispel you of that notion. That’s because in addition to targeting domestic terrorists, VHS video pirates and pretty much anyone who owns a smartphone, the FBI has also investigated some of the most legendary names in comedy. While this is objectively dumb, some FBI files on comedians are at least good for a chuckle, such as…

A TV Viewer Wanted Groucho Marx Locked Up for a Pun

The FBI investigated Groucho Marx for decades, building a 200-page file on the comedy icon who they suspected of being a communist. This necessitated regularly watching his hit game show You Bet Your Life, and even poring over an episode in which “a guest spoke Russian to Groucho.” The most hilariously flimsy accusation came from a random citizen, who wrote into the bureau suggesting that they “investigate” Groucho over the time he referred to “the United Snakes of America.”

J. Edgar Hoover Really Didn’t Like George Carlin’s Impression of Him

Somehow George Carlin’s controversial “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” bit doesn’t appear anywhere in his FBI file. What really seemed to tick off J. Edgar Hoover, though, was the time Carlin played a character named “J. Edgar Noover” on The Jackie Gleason Show, which the bureau found to be in very “poor taste.” When the file was made public, Carlin’s daughter Kelly expressed disappointment that the file was full of lame complaints that didn’t “really cover any of his more radical 1970s stuff.”

The Bureau Looked into Abbott and Costello’s Love of Porn

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello caught the attention of the feds in the 1950s, not because there were secret commie messages in “Who’s on First?” but because the famous comedy duo absolutely adored pornography. As the FBI noted in their file: “A police informant furnished information to the effect that Bud Abbott, the well-known motion picture and television star, is a collector of pornography, and alleged he has 1,500 reels of obscene motion pictures.” 

Costello, meanwhile, “had the largest library of obscene film in Hollywood” and paid two sex workers to put on a “lewd performance,” according to the report that totally wasn’t a waste of taxpayer money. In retrospect, it’s surprising that these two guys didn’t have raging boners when they met Frankenstein and The Mummy.

Lucille Ball’s File Contains an Angry Letter to J. Edgar Hoover

Lucille Ball was extensively investigated by the FBI for her communist ties, having aligned herself with the Communist Party in 1936 in order to “appease her socialist grandfather. Also, it could be argued that the classic chocolate factory scene from I Love Lucy is the perfect metaphor for the grotesque follies of late-stage capitalism.

Weirdly, her file also includes a letter criticizing J. Edgar Hoover for praising Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz. He said they were two of his favorite stars during a 1956 interview, and at least one person was shocked, writing, “I’m wondering if there is not a mistake or misquote of some kind since it lists Lucy and Desi among your favorite entertainers who you think set a good example for the youth of America.”

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