Vaudeville

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What's in a Name? A Lot in Portland Hoffa's Family

Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa on Radio Stars, February 1935 When Fred Allen met Portland Hoffa on the vaudeville circuit in 1922, he was telling jokes and performing badly as a juggler. She was a dancer. The two future comedy stars hit it off because of a conversation about her name: "I'm a doctor's daughter," Hoffa advised him. "My father named me after the city where I was born. Out in Oregon, you know." "I know," said Allen. ''You ought to be glad you weren't born in Terre Haute or ... (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)

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)

Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll Created Amos 'n' Andy

Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll perform Amos 'n' Andy on radio Amos 'n' Andy are two of the best known radio characters in America, and in the last six months -- the time they have been on the National Broadcasting Company networks -- they have made radio history in broadcasting at least 150 times, which is the equivalent of three years on the air for an ordinary program. Amos 'n' Andy operate the Open Air Taxicab Company in Harlem. Each night a microphone picks up the highlights of their ... (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)

How Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa Fell in Love

Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa on the February 1935 Radio Stars magazine The day of which I write was approximately five years ago. It was behind the scenes of The Passing Show, a fleshy, flashy piece of rhinestone entertainment on pre-Depression Broadway. It was one of those days on which stars have headaches, hoofers get runs in their stockings, and comedians look as full of joie de vivre as Egyptian mummies. It was a day on which a tall young man called Fred Allen, despondently leaning ... (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)