Leonard Zelig: I'm 12 years old. I run into a Synagogue. I ask the Rabbi the meaning of life. He tells me the meaning of life... But, he tells it to me in Hebrew. I don't understand Hebrew. Then he wants to charge me six hundred dollars for Hebrew lessons.
Leonard Zelig: I have an interesting case. I'm treating two sets of Siamese twins with split personalities. I'm getting paid by eight people.
The Narrator: The Ku Klux Klan, who saw Zelig as a Jew, that could turn himself into a Negro and an Indian, saw him as a triple threat.
Leonard Zelig: But I've never flown before in my life, and it shows exactly what you can do, if you're a total psychotic!
Leonard Zelig: [in a hypnotic trance] My brother beat me. My sister beat my brother. My father beat my sister and my brother and me. My mother beat my father and my sister and me and my brother. The neighbors beat our family. The people down the block beat the neighbors and our family.
Bruno Bettelheim: The question of whether Zelig was a psychotic or merely neurotic was a question that was endlessly discussed among his doctors. Now I myself felt his feelings were really not all that different from the normal, what one would call the well-adjusted, normal person, only carried to an extreme degree, to an extreme extent. I myself felt that one could really think of him as the ultimate conformist.
[Leonard Zelig is apologizing on radio to all the people he misrepresented himself to]
Leonard Zelig: My deepest apology goes to the Trochman family in Detroit. I...I never delivered a baby before in my life, and I... I just thought that ice tongs was the way to do it.
Leonard Zelig: I love baseball. You know, it doesn't have to mean anything. It's just very beautiful to watch.
Leonard Zelig: [while under hypnosis] Oh... the pancakes!
[Zelig thinks he's a psychiatrist.]
Leonard Zelig: I worked with Freud in Vienna. We broke over the concept of penis envy. Freud felt that it should be limited to women.
Leonard Zelig: I would like to apologize to everyone. I... I'm awfully sorry for, for marrying all those women. It just, I don't know, it just seemed like the thing to do.
Leonard Zelig: And to the, to the gentleman who's appendix I took out, I...I'm, I don't know what to say, if it's any consolation I... I may still have it somewhere around the house.
The Narrator: That Zelig could be responsible for the behavior of each of the personalities he assumed means dozens of lawsuits. He is sued for bigamy, adultery, automobile accidents, plagiarism, household damages, negligence, property damages, and performing unnecessary dental extractions.
Zelig's Wife: He married me up at the First Church of Harlem. He told me he was the brother of Duke Ellington.
Wrist Victim: He was the guy who smashed my car up. It was brand new. Then he backed-up over my mother's wrist. She's elderly... and uses her wrist a lot.
House-Painting Victim: He painted my house a disgusting color. He said he was a painter. I couldn't believe the results. Then he disappeared.
The Narrator: Who was this Leonard Zelig that seemed to create such diverse impressions everywhere? All that was known of him was that he was the son of a Yiddish actor named Morris Zelig, whose performance as Puck in the Orthodox version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was coolly received. The Elder Zelig's second marriage is marked by constant violent quarreling. So much so that although the family lives over a bowling alley, it is the bowling alley that complains of noise. As a boy, Leonard is frequently bullied by anti-Semites. His parents, who never take his part and blame him for everything, side with the anti-Semites. They punish him often by locking him in a dark closet. When they are really angry, they get into the closet with him. On his deathbed, Morris Zelig tells his son that life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering and the only advice he gives him is to save string.