Comedy

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'I Can't Stand Jack Benny' Contest Received 277,104 Entries

Jack Benny with judges in the I Can't Stand Jack Benny contest So you tore off a carton top? Visualizing thousand-dollar bank notes, shiny new automobiles and post-war electric refrigerators, you were a "goner"' before the announcer's pear-shaped vowels reached "in twenty-five words or less." On the back of the cart top you detailed in pulsating prose why you simply cannot exist without Fluffo Flakes. With fingers crossed, you dropped it in the corner mailbox and went home to wait for the ... (read more)

The Audition That Changed the Lives of Chester Lauck and Norris Goff

A print ad for Lum and Abner A strange sight would have greeted the eyes of anyone entering the board of directors room of the Quaker Oats Company on a summer morning in 1931. On one side of the room you would have found all the staid and dignified directors of the company, seated with their faces to the wall. On the other side you would have seen two young men talking hillbilly dialect to a broom handle! That was the turning point in the careers of the two boys who have become famous in ... (read more)

Fanny Brice Made Her Name on an Amateur Night

Fanny Brice performing as Baby Snooks on radio Every night this week, in movie theaters in small towns as well as in the big radio studios of New York, scared girls in homemade clothes -- amateurs -- are doing imitations and singing songs. Hoping! Thirty years ago, too, there were amateur nights. More brutal amateur nights than those today. They were held not in vast modern studios with an unctuous Major Bowes or a wise-cracking Fred Allen as master of ceremonies, but in variety halls, as they ... (read more)

Texaco Star Theater Became Radio's Biggest Hit Show

Fred Allen, host of radio's Texaco Star Theater (sometimes called Texaco Star Theatre) How many persons throughout the United States wonder what has become of Theda Bara, most glamorous of the movie sirens of more than a decade ago? And how many others are intrigued by the idea of hearing the bewhiskered Santa Claus of Hollywood's famed Santa Claus Lane on the air; or George McManus, creator of the popular comic strip dealing with the doings of Jiggs and Maggie; or Tom Mix, hero of a thousand ... (read more)

David Freedman: How to Make Visual Comedians Funny on Radio

A memoir about Beatrice and David Freedman by their daughter-in-law Nancy Freedman It has been my good fortune as a radio writer to be associated with such stars as Eddie Cantor, Lou Holtz, Fanny Brice and Al Jolson. In every case I strove to transplant the magic personality of these stars to the medium of the air by creating a sound substitute for those qualities that were purely visual. Cantor's electric personality with eyes popping, hands vibrating and every part of his being reaching out ... (read more)

Jack Benny Tells on Wife Mary Livingstone

Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone in Radio and Television Mirror magazine I'm glad of this opportunity to write the lowdown on Mary Livingstone, because at home or on the air I never get the chance to say anything. There's a gal that always has to have the last word, and trouble is, it's usually funny. Yes, Mary and I have our differences, but about the only time we ever really clash is on Wednesday night. As far as I'm concerned the only good thing about that program is Kenny Baker, who, ... (read more)

Edgar Bergen First Performed with Charlie McCarthy at his High School

Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy on NBC radio I can't remember how old I was when I found out that Charlie McCarthy wasn't a real little boy. I doubt I really believed he wasn't a kid until I saw a photograph of Edgar Bergen with Charlie sitting on his lap in one of those radio-TV magazines. No matter -- Charlie remained as real a person to me as all those other wonderful radio folks I had met in the theater of the imagination during my youth. Charlie McCarthy was, of course, the creation of ... (read more)

Abbott and Costello's 1938 Radio Debut on the Kate Smith Hour

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in the movie Hold That Ghost (1941) A year and a half ago a couple of comics stepped up to the microphone of the Kate Smith Hour for a 10-minute, one-appearance guest performance. No one -- with the possible exception of the comics themselves -- had any idea that their appearance was anything other than the simple guest performance it seemed, for their comedy was rowdy, hilarious, low-born, and to use their own words, "the hokiest of hokum." Bud Abbott and Lou ... (read more)

My Second Childhood, by Fanny Brice

Fanny Brice performing burlesque in around 1914 Most people start out as children and grow up to be adults. Me, I'm different. I started out as a grown-up and now I'm a child. At least, I'm a child to millions of radio listeners each Thursday night on NBC's Maxwell House Coffee Time. While I'm doing the characterization on the air, I really feel like the 7-year-old brat that Baby Snooks is. Snooks reminds me of a childhood that I never knew. The first five years of my life were spent in New ... (read more)

The Story of How Gus Van Met Joe Schenck

The comedy due Gus Van and Joe Schenck in the movie They Learned About Women (1930) Some men who sing direct their song to the girl they love. Some sing to a fancied ideal. Many carol out of sheer romance. A few sing solely for material reward. But different from any of these is the emotion which inspires the songs of Gus Van, interlocutor on the NBC Greater Minstrels. Van sings to a shadow -- the wraith of his former partner, Joe Schenck, whom he loved with a robust, masculine affection bred ... (read more)