Friday, October 15, 2010

Old Time Radio - More Comedy in Your Mind's Eye

Mmmmm...Old Time Radio comedy. An art form that died a good 10 years or more before I was born, but that still holds hours and hours of pleasure for me.

I may just install a big knobby radio dial on the front of my laptop to make me feel even better as I sit here in the illumination of the WMP oscilloscope whiling the hours away.

First up, as usual a couple of visits to radio's home folks on Virginia Ave., Vic and Sade.

From September 22, 1939 we find our favorite family relaxing in their living room after lunch, when suddenly Sade remembers that she's promised the other ladies in her "Thimble Club" to provide them all with names of wildflowers and interesting facts associated with them. Again we hear the genius of Paul Rhymer as he milks big humor from something so seemingly common and ordinary.

And from October 6, 1939, Vic is pulled from his enjoyment of a game of indoor horseshoes over at Ike Kneesuffers to come home and wait for Fred and Ruthie Stembottom to take him and Sade for a ride. Already distressed he will spend a miserable hour or so riding in Fred's ratletrap car on the usual round trip to Chenoa (complete with periodic stops to pump up the bald tires on Fred's car), he learns the evening is to be much more involved.

It's a trip to Hopewood and a double feature at the moving picture show that Fred has in mind...the cutest idea he's had since the bullet that choked Billy Patterson, and Vic's expected to act as grateful as a horse about the whole thing.

No matter how much disdain Vic has for the idea, the double feature sounds grand to me. Gloria Golden and Four-Fisted Frank Fuddleman in "You Are My Own Wonderful Husband, Sub-Aldern Gleek" and "Your's is a Magnifiscent Love, Petty Officer Griswald".

Once again, we never leave the living room of the Gook's cozy little home and never hear another character speak save the little nuclear family, but by the end I feel I know what Ike Kneesuffer's basement inddor horseshoe pit look like, know what it feels like to ride the farm roads of Illinois in Fred Stembottom's car and have the enjoyed viewing pleasure of watching the romantic goings on of Gloria Golden and Four-Fisted Frank Fuddlman under my belt.

Thanks again Mr. Rhymer.

On now to part 6 of "Speaking of Radio: The Jack Benny Program". This segment contains mainly show excerpts from two episodes of the long running show.

The first half is a tribute to Jack and his life story, presented by CBS narrated by the great Ken Carpenter.

Carpenter is usually associated with Bing Crosby as his long time annoncer. In fact, Bing once called Ken "The man with the golden voice". The rundown of Jack's life from birth to vaudeville to radio to the assembling of his cast is told very entertainingly if a bit cloying and spritely with orchestration and impersonations of the cast with plenty of inside jokes thrown in.

As Jack then comes to the microphone to thank everyone in the production, Fred Allen bursts into the studio...

And then the talk turns to the long-running Benny-Allen feud, followed by a fantasy reinactment in which Benny and Allen supposedly started in vaudeville as a duo act. Violin, Clarinet and snappy patter. Funny stuff with Mel Blanc playing the booking agent.

The Benny-Allen feud was great when heard played out in it's entirety. Completely organic and never seeming forced, two of the funniest minds playing at each others weaknesses. Fred was such a smart writer and Jack always keeping the bar high, their continued play-anymosity never seemed tired or old. It proved such a ratings boosters that other feuds in radio sprung up like the Hope-Crosby feud, but that was more like fun sibling rivalry and the W.C. Fields-Charlie McCarthy feud which was just cartoony and forced.

Even without the other segments' insight with contemporary interviews with cast and crew, Part 6 is just plain good listening.

I'm throwing in a bonus clip today. A clip I've harbored on my hard drive for a decade or better and never paid much mind too. When I listened last week I nearly fell off of my chair.

Jack Benny and George Burns were best friends dating probably back to their days on the vaudeville circuit in the 1920's, and they're both two of my favorite comedians. Here we have a short clip, probably from the 1950's or even 60's from the sound of their voices. A Friars Club roast for a couple of writers (Wedlock and Snyder anyone?) and a very rare listen to both of these wonderful funny men working blue.

Get the kids out of the room and get ready to laugh

I'll say it again. Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for the information super-highway where all this is so available to those of us who appreciate it.

Talk to you soon.

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