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CHICAGO _ When Victor Borge launched his career as a concert pianist in Denmark in 1926, he was not exactly destined to become one of the world's most famous pratfall artists.
Yet because he could not resist sabotaging his own stage performances with pranks, both physical and verbal, Borge gleefully derailed a promising future as a highbrow pianist. Instead, he refashioned himself into a screwball musical satirist, ultimately attaining greater fame than most of the serious classical musicians he had revered since his youth.
Borge died Saturday at age 91. His daughter, Rikke Borge, said he died in his sleep at his Greenwich, Conn., home as the family was gathering for Christmas.
His death removes from the world stage a unique merger of high classical art, low physical comedy and unusually dexterous wordplay. For although others have tried to follow in his distinctly skewed footsteps, Borge had no significant rivals in a career that spanned more than 70 years.
He could not be imitated because his comic persona and stage routine were tailored to his own personality quirks, musical gifts and screw-loose …