Comedy

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Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd Meet a New Generation

Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd on Charlie McCarthy #6 (1949) This past semester I've been teaching American humor to a group of 11th and 12th graders who have been brought up on Steve Martin, Bill Cosby, George Carlin and Richard Pryor. Sure, they've seen Bob Hope and Edgar Bergen and they remember Jack Benny and Groucho Marx. But Jack Carson? Judy Canova? Joe Penner? Fred Allen? Wasn't he the coach of the Red Sox? Well, being a OTR freak,I had to set these kids straight on just ... (read more)

Jack Benny: How Radio Made Comedy Grow Up

In the past 20 years, American humor -- accelerated by radio -- has come out of the barnyard. It has been cleaned up, perfumed and sparked by those unsung heroes, the gag writers. Today, the ether is so full of good gags that even the ghosts have hysterics. I will go out on a limb to say that radio has done for American humor in 10 years what it would have taken vaudeville 50 years to reach. I feel no heartaches over vaudeville's passing, when I think of the way the old-time comic used to ... (read more)

Bing Crosby: A Quick Study in Singing and Acting

Bing Crosby in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949) When Bing Crosby changed from "live" radio shows to transcribed ones, it was because he felt that better programs would result when they could be assembled and produced with the care and control that transcribing allows -- you can't change a song or a comedy line once it's gone on the airways, but you can always "edit" a transcription. Besides, having to show up for rehearsals and broadcasts at set times every week was ... (read more)

Harry Ackerman Produced Our Miss Brooks, Gunsmoke on Radio

Harry Ackerman Harry Ackerman, long-time executive at CBS radio died Feb. 3, 1991. He worked on many of network radio's successful shows, including Our Miss Brooks and Gunsmoke. After graduating from college in 1935, Ackerman became an assistant to Raymond Knight and appeared as part-time announcer and comic poet on Knight's Cuck Coo Hour at NBC. Later he became the assistant director of the Phil Baker Show. From New York he moved to Detroit, where he was hired as agency producer for ... (read more)

Jim and Marian Jordan Were the O'Henry Twins

Marian and Jim Jordan of Fibber McGee and Molly on NBC radio The velvet drop concealing the skinny legs of marimba said "Marian and Jim Jordan," and the names sparkled with all the fine, phony brilliance of a dancer's exit smile. The act on stage in this small-town theater was a harmony team -- the girl at the piano, the man leaning debonairly against it and singing a pleasant tenor to the girl's contralto. The keynote was a jaunty good cheer. They sang "When You're Smiling," and a comedy ... (read more)

Fibber McGee and Molly at Home in Chicago

Jim and Marian Jordan perform Fibber McGee and Molly on NBC News of their impending assault on the screen capital had just broken when I called on Jim and Marian Jordan, who are Fibber McGee and Molly as well as sundry other quaint characters on a weekly radio program. I found them at a modest but quite fetching home in Peterson Woods, an attractive, spic-and-span district of Chicago's North Side, neither exclusive nor ritzy. It is the Wistful Vista of the McGee radio script. No ... (read more)

Phil Harris: Why Alice Faye Moved from Movies to Radio

Alice Faye and Phil Harris with daughters Phyllis and Alice Jr. in 1948 Maybe I never should have taken Alice Faye as my bride on that day in May seven years ago. Until then, all this beautiful, big hunk of talent talks about is show business. Then she marries me, gets a house, has babies, and all she wants is to push one of those wire carts around the grocery store. First thing you know I'm not allowed to make tours with my band any more, either. "We're through living by an upside down ... (read more)

Four Radio Shows Hired Les Tremayne to Replace Don Ameche

Les Tremayne, star of The First Nighter radio show For the first six years of my radio career, I was very particular about keeping a daily record of every show I worked -- the date, time, name of show or episode, each character I played (and sometimes there were up to 10 in a single show!), and, later on, pertinent observations and specific comments pertaining to these or made by others, which I felt important enough to record. My career accelerated to such an extend (up to 45 shows a ... (read more)

The Earliest Radio Shows of the 1920s

The Goldbergs creator Gertrude Berg during its radio years By the middle 1920s, it became obvious that radio manufacturers could no longer support free radio time. Fortunately, advertisers were discovering that radio was one of the most effective means of advertising available. So, it didn't take long after that for radio to become big business. Its popularity continued to grow -- until the biggest programs were heard by more than 40 million people. And advertisers were paying up to ... (read more)

Judy Canova: The Queen of Hillbilly Hokum

Judy Canova during her radio years When she was a kid, Judy Canova once wrote that she wasn't a happy child. The only thing that could take her mind off herself and her personal unhappiness was music. Born Julietta, she started singing popular songs on a Jacksonville, Florida, radio station together with her brother Zeke and her sister Anne when she was just 12. When she sang she would forget her troubles. Although her mother took her three children to the Carolina hills for the summer, ... (read more)