Category Archives: comedy

28 February: Politics as unusual

Well, why not? (Photo: CBS.)

Well, why not? (Photo: CBS.)

One of old-time radio’s greatest comic stunts might have been inspired by politics on the surface, but it also drew inspiration from its protagonists’ ratings drop . . . and proved only to be a short-term fix in the end. Which, come to think of it, is just about what most political fixes prove to be, no?

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26 February: Zing went the strings of her heartburn

Alice Faye and Phil Harris. (Photo: NBC.)

Alice Faye and Phil Harris. (Photo: NBC.)

Ever after Alice Faye walked off the 20th Century Fox lot never to return, over a perceived deliberate slight from studio chieftain Darryl F. Zanuck—whom she believes undermined her in favour of Linda Darnell—Faye and her husband Phil Harris could never resist an occasional zinger at Zanuck on their own hit radio show.

But at least once the congenial couple—who throve on radio because it enabled to spend their weeks raising their children quietly in Palm Springs while doing the show work on the weekends—dedicated an entire episode to a Zanuck zing. Sort of.

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25 February: Ugga-ugga-doom

The Man of a Thousand Voices (and probably half as many classic  support roles on radio) came up short at the head of his own show. (Photo: NBC/KGO)

The Man of a Thousand Voices (and probably half as many classic support roles on radio) came up short at the head of his own show. (Photo: NBC/KGO)

Maybe one of old-time radio’s great mysteries is how and why Mel Blanc—whose vocal genius was almost as prolific on the air as on Warner Brothers’ already-immortal cartoons—proved unable to cut muster when he landed his own comedy show for the 1946-47 season.

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15 February: A lost Pearl

Jack Pearl (right) with sidekick Cliff Hall. (Photo: NBC.)

Jack Pearl (right) with sidekick Cliff Hall. (Photo: NBC.)

Few of old-time radio’s one-trick ponies (actual or alleged) were sadder than Jack Pearl, and fewer than that were half as bitter about his fate. He’d worked the hard way toward his radio stardom, saw it disappear in a near-literal blink, and couldn’t wring the thought of fickle audiences out of his being even after he finally surrendered any hope of recovering his moment in the sun.

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29 January: Canned feud

(l to r) Portland Hoffa, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and Mary Livingstone have a little wrestle and relaxation. (Photo: NBC.)

(l to r) Portland Hoffa (Mrs. Fred Allen), Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and Mary Livingstone have a little wrestle and relaxation. (Photo: NBC.)

Classic network radio has no better aural running gag than Fibber McGee’s closet, though you could argue that Jack Benny’s subterranean vault alarm might prove a close enough second. For a better verbal running gag, it’s hard to deny the Benny-Fred Allen mock feud. It’s even harder to believe that Fred Allen may actually feared it couldn’t be done in the first place.

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