Musical humorist Victor Borge was born Børge Rosenbaum in Copenhagen, Denmark on January 3, 1909; the son of a violinist in the Danish Symphony Orchestra, he began playing piano at age three, and was quickly hailed as a child prodigy. On scholarship at the Royal Danish Music Conservatory, he studied under Olivo Krause and Victor Schiøler, later becoming a protégé of Frederic Lamond and Egon Petri; in 1926, Borge made his professional debut, and by the following decade ranked among the top stage and film stars in all of Scandinavia. His performances always maintained a satirical bent, adopting an increasingly acrid sensibility as the Nazis began sweeping through Europe; Borge, a Jew, regularly mocked Hitler from the stage, and when the German forces invaded Denmark in 1940 the pianist was briefly blacklisted before fleeing to the United States, escaping from Finland via the S. S. American Legion, the last American passenger ship to leave Northern Europe prior to World War II.
Borge arrived in New York City without knowing a word of English, but soon learned enough of the language to land a job as the opening act for Rudy Vallée's radio show before moving on to Bing Crosby's program. Emerging as a fixture of radio and later television, Borge arrived on Broadway in 1953 as the star of Comedy in Music; the production ran through 1956, and its 849 performances entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running one-man show. His patented brand of comedy, a singular combination of one-liners, sight gags, and musical pranks, worked simultaneously to deflate the pretensions of classical music while expanding its popularity and accessibility; often, Borge's on-stage antics obscured the virtuosity of his piano playing, however, although he appeared with many of the world's most renowned orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the London Philharmonic. In addition to a series of albums and home videos, Borge also co-authored a pair of books, My Favorite Intermissions and My Favorite Comedies in Music, and continued actively performing past his 90th birthday. He died at home on December 23, 2000. ~ Jason Ankeny