COMEDY GENRE – RADIO:
Imagine a long day or week at work, with the stresses of daily life seemingly never-ending. Then imagine, with relatively little cash outlay, being able to enjoy a good chuckle or even a belly-laugh or two, all from the comfort of your easy chair. No theater ticket to buy, no need to dress up. Just sit down and enjoy. This is a great part of the charm of what made radio comedies so popular to early radio listeners.
And of course, the whole purpose of a comedy program was to make you laugh. Some of the earliest comedians on radio came straight from the vaudeville stage and the transition was not easy for them. They were used to being able to see and hear the audience’s reaction to their routines. Now, performing on the radio, it was a whole new ball game --they had to rely on their instincts.
On the other hand, there was more freedom to let their imagination run free. Their routines could be as ‘out there’ as they could imagine, and the producers didn’t have to expend any cash on elaborate sets and props to set the scene. They only had to rely on their own and the audience’s imaginations.
A very successful early radio comedy, The Goldbergs aired from 1929 to 1946. Starring Gertrude Berg and Himan Brown, the series introduced many Americans to Jewish culture. This part soap opera, part comedy program focused on the lives of the Goldbergs as they struggled to make ends meet in a brownstone tenement, and later as they moved out to the suburbs.
Fibber McGee and Molly were a much-loved pair who came into homes across America via radio from 1935 to 1959. The series starred real-life husband and wife James Jordan and Marian Driscoll as the title characters. The episodes dealt with Fibber and Molly’s comic escapades as they made their way through their everyday lives, and spawned catchphrases that were popular for decades. For instance, when Fibber told a bad joke, Molly famously answered with the line, "T'ain’t funny, McGee!" This line was repeated in households across the nation as family members chided with each other.
The Red Skelton Show was a popular comedy offering from 1941 to 1953, with a brief hiatus from 1944 – 1945 when Red was drafted into the Army. The sketch comedy program featured Red Skelton bringing to life a myriad of characters that would become a part of America's entertainment legacy, including Clem Kadiddlehopper, Willy Lump-Lump, Junior and many others.
Starring William Bendix as Chester A. Riley, The Life of Riley aired from 1943 to 1951 on the radio. Riley was just your average guy, a blue-collar worker who worked at the local airplane plant. Audiences across America enjoyed laughing, sometimes at themselves, as they listened as Riley tried to make his way day to day with his family, neighbors and co-workers.
My Friend Irma starred Marie Wilson and Cathy Lewis and was broadcast over the airwaves from 1947 to 1954. The series centered on roommates Irma and Jane as Jane related the stories of the shenanigans her ditzy friend Irma was always up to, and the scrapes she was always trying to get out of.
Other comedy programs enjoyed by many, many happy listeners include A Day in the Life of Dennis Day, Amos 'n Andy, Lum and Abner, The Martin and Lewis Show, and of course the routines of Abbott and Costello and Burns and Allen.
Take your shoes off, relax for a while and enjoy yourself listening to what made us laugh ‘back when’. You’ll find that things that were funny then are still funny today. We’re adding episodes all the time, so be sure to come back often.