My Life As A Thief

After Ann joked about my enjoying being on TV I said, “If I get up in the middle of the night and open the refrigerator door, when the light comes on I do three minutes.”

Since this entry was published I have received a few corrections which are added at the bottom

I have been on-the-air professionally for 40 years. Some things I say I’ve said before… many times. There’s a line I used tonight and I absolutely remember its origin and who I stole it from!

First an explanation. If you watch me on TV you know I sometimes stop in mid sentence to make a quick reference then move on. That’s what I did tonight.

After Ann joked about my enjoying being on TV I said, “If I get up in the middle of the night and open the refrigerator door, when the light comes on I do three minutes.”

That line or a reasonable facsimile, was spoken by Joel A. Spivak, a news anchor at WCAU-TV in Philadelphia in the mid-70s&#185. It was in a promo back when news personalities were promoted for their personality.

I remember liking his delivery in the promo. It was nicely done. At the time that was my station to watch.

I’ll bet I’ve used that line 20 times in the last 25 years. Other than Helaine there’s probably no one else who remembers I’ve said it before.

If you read this Joel A., thanks.

&#185 -Joel A.’s dad was a famous jazz horn player, Charlie Spivak.


Brandon Brooks: Geoff… sorry old friend, but you are wrong. it was not joel a spivak, it was ralph penza. bet ya dinner on it. it was a good promo tho… (at the end he says.. well, maybe not three minutes….)

Woody Hoyt added: Milton Berle dies at the age of 93

U.S. News & World Report | April 8, 2002 ‘ “Open the refrigerator and the light goes on, I’ll do 20 minutes.” That’s how Milton Berle joked about his yen to entertain.’

“I’m a born entertainer, when I open the fridge and the light comes on, I burst into song.” – Robbie Williams

I do twenty minutes every time the refrigerator door opens and the light comes on. Debbie Reynolds

So, this line has a long and cloudy history. I still used it knowing it wasn’t mine.

And now in November 2011 comes more on this entry:

One of your readers was right: it wasn’t Joel Spivak who made the When the light comes on in the refrigerator, I do a three-minute standup comment, it was my dad, Ralph Penza. He did it for a WCAU-TV promo. We still have the 3/4″ cassette somewhere. And the player we used to watch it on!

But I’m delighted you’ve gotten use out of that line. I’ve used quite a few of his lines over the years, too.

He was the best.


r. scott

3 thoughts on “My Life As A Thief”

  1. Only 3 minutes? Geez… Bob get’s at least 3:30 (most of the time…it’s shortened if news is running heavy.)

    And hell… what does Tom Skilling in Chicago get? Isn’t it like 15 minutes or something? (Ok…a bit exaggerated, but it feels like he gets more in the 4 or 5 minute range for his segments.)


  2. Who cares who you steal your material from?

    The important thing is that you’re funny – and you *are* more often funny than any other Newscaster, Sports character, or Weatherman on the tube, bar none.

    Ann plays straight beautifully; though we suspect she usually hasn’t any idea where you’re going but has simply become accustomed to you and recognizes you’re harmless…………sometimes.

  3. Adam – usually 2.5 minutes per weather hit. That’s plenty. I don’t want to wear out my welcome.

    ACR – Thank you. I am blushing.

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