Zero Mostel

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Brain cells create ideas. Stress kills brain cells. Stress is not a good idea.
Richard Saunders
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Zero Mostel (February 28, 1915September 8, 1977) was a Brooklyn-born stage and film actor best known for his portrayal of comic characters such as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Max Bialystock in The Producers. He had been blacklisted during the 1950s, and his testimony before HUAC was well-publicized. He was a Tony Award and Obie Award winner.


  • There's a kind of silliness in the theater about what one contributes to a show. The producer obviously contributes the money... but must the actor contribute nothing at all? I’m not a modest fellow about those things. I contribute a great deal. And they always manage to hang you for having an interpretation. Isn’t [the theater] where your imagination should flower? Why must it always be dull as shit?
  • Mostel: If I appeared there, what if I did an imitation of a butterfly at rest? There is no crime in making anybody laugh. I don't care if you laugh at me.
    Congressman Jackson: If your interpretation of a butterfly at rest brought any money into the coffers of the Communist Party, you contributed directly to the propaganda effort of the Communist Party.
    Mostel: Suppose I had the urge to do the butterfly at rest somewhere?
    Congressman Doyle: Yes, but please, when you have the urge, don't have such an urge to put the butterfly at rest by putting some money in the Communist Party coffers as a result of that urge to put a butterfly at rest.
    • Testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), October 14, 1955, regarding Mostel's appearance at a Communist Party fundraiser.


  • You should have told him (Jewison) to get Topol's son!
    • To his actor-son Josh Mostel, who had been cast in Jesus Christ Superstar by co-writer/director Norman Jewison; Jewison had previously replaced the embittered Zero with Topol, for his movie Fiddler On the Roof.
  • With kikes like you on the loose, who needs Hitler?
  • Romanian-Jewish cooking has killed more Jews than Hitler.
  • Humor is a sense of proportion and a power of seeing yourself from the outside.
  • The freedom of any society varies proportionately with the volume of its laughter.
  • Comedy is rebellion against that kind of piety which we may call the False Piety...against hypocrisy, against pretense, against falsehood and humbug and bunk and fraud, against false promises and base deceivers...against all evils masquerading as true and good and worthy of respect.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Zero Mostel at PBS: Stars over Broadway.