Wolf Files: The Mother of All Jokes

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"When you've got family in show business, you just learn to adjust," says Bob Hope's daughter, Linda, who helped her father write My Life in Jokes (Hyperion).

In reality, Hope grew up poor but relatively happy. His mother scrimped to take him to vaudeville performances. "She'd whisper — loud enough for everyone around to hear — 'Son, you're much better than those folks on stage,' " says Linda Hope.

"I think his mom really made him feel proud. She made scrapbooks of his news clippings when he started out."

Mother's Day Thought: Bob Hope's mother liked to get her family around the piano and sing. It's cheaper than going out to dinner, and almost always more memorable. The Comic: Susie Essman The joke: On her mother's Eastern European looks: "You know the kind of woman that looks like she has a brisket under her skirt."

Mom's Reaction: "Denial is a beautiful thing," says Essman, a New York stand-up who's become famous for tearing apart Larry David on HBO's hit comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm.

"When my mother hears my stand-up routines, she reacts the same way my ex-boyfriends do," she says. "They always think I'm talking about someone else."

Mother's Day Thought: "Moms are important to humor because they're so engrained in our psyche," she says. "I suppose when my mom dies, I'll have a whole new hour of material … Hopefully, that won't be for a long, long time." The comic: Soupy Sales

The Jokes: Through the 1950s and '60s, Soupy Sales had an endless stream of mother-in-law jokes.

On The Tonight Show, he once told Johnny Carson that his mother-in-law asked him not to send Mother's Day gifts. "She didn't want to be reminded," he said, joking that she was a wino.

Mother-in-Law's Reaction: "When you're married to a comedian, you can't take it personally," says Trudy Carson, Soupy's second wife.

Soupy and Trudy married in 1980. But Soupy kept using the same mother-in-law jokes on stage. That's showbiz.

Soupy says he didn't have a great relationship with his first wife's mother, and the wino schtick didn't help matters. But she put up with it, while her daughter was married.