Sunday, December 26, 2010

The funniest shows and why

Personally, I'm in love with radio comedies.  Truth be told, there are few comedies that hold up and pass the test of time.  But there are a few:

Molly and Fibber; 1950's
Fibber McGee and Molly - Fibber is funny without Molly. Molly is funny without Fibber. WWII came, 3 of the cast went to war, the show replaced them with more funny people. The war ended, things got rearranged and they were still funny. Show went to 15 minute serials. Still funny.

Puns (ridiculously FUNNY puns, to be more precise) and malaprops at every turn. Scripts by Don Quinn were expertly written and Fibber & Molly (Jim and Marian Jordan) would blow lines at every show and it still didn't matter.

Recurring characters that remain so good at what they do, you don't mind when you "know what's coming"; there's a sense of "I know someone just like that guy" at every knock of the McGee door.

To my way of thinking, Fibber McGee and Molly are the kings of radio, comedy or not. The show is the Babe Ruth of old-time radio.

Snooks - never has a child been so good at being bad
Baby Snooks - In my opinion, the most underrated radio show of all time. Baby Snooks was (and remains) a hilarious classic about a small female child (played by forty-something year-old Fannie Brice) who drives her daddy crazy by being a somewhat cartoonish, enigmatic, non-stop curious brat.

Her rapid brow-beat questioning (Why? Why?) along with the fact that at every opportunity she was willing to get others in trouble (her friends, her daddy and especially her innocent baby brother) drove her daddy (played to the hilt by Hanley Stafford) bananas; so much so that you just know he wanted to rip her little eyeballs out.

Snooks was like a ticking time bomb and daddy had to sit on the bomb in every episode. In the air is the hint of Road Runner violence at every corner of the script (a lot of it written by Jess Oppenheimer, who created the I Love Lucy television series.) And Snooks is like the evil, conniving - yet very, very funny Lucy Ricardo would have been - as a child.

If you have never heard Snooks, you are missing the thrill of your OTR life. This show is hilarious.

You Bet Your Life - The only non-sticom in the group, YBYL was 1950's-era quiz show with wacky Groucho Marx at the helm.  While a lot of what he spewed on the show was probably scripted, Marx had such a flair for the pseudo-obscene and for punny innuendoes with almost anything was liable to come out on live radio (and later, televison); and remember, this was a quiz show.  The show remains a time capulse of a roulette wheel of What-Will-That-Crazy-Groucho-Say-or-Do Next?
No one knew what Groucho would do or say!

The quiz seemed secondary to the interviews with the contestants, which Groucho used as a backdrop to (basically) a weekly stand-up routine.  He never once minded embarassing a particularly plump female or making a "play" at a 16 year old high school cheerleader. He made fun of people's names and ethnicity; he would voice his opinions or question someone pointedly and obtusely when you could tell he was puzzled with or disagreed with some known-facet of a contestant's life made public on the show.

While Groucho was unpredictable, somehow he always managed to remain the same.

Despite the fact that the host was rude and crude, somehow the reactions he got from the studio audience from his over-the-top comical audacity makes for hilarious listening.  After all, Groucho was so intimidating (by keeping a contestant on-guard and edgy) that they were liable to embarrass themselves without any help from Groucho.
The Aldrich Family - Henry Alrich was a teenage boy with problems running out his ears.  Although the Henry character (and virtually all the other characters in the show) almost always played "straight man" to the usually not-so-far-out situations the writers came up with (Henry raises rabbits and they keep multiplying; Henry goes ice skating and falls through the ice; Henry is late for a dance and forgets to return his boss' bicycle that must be returned...); the real fun is listening to how Henry's father (played perfectly by House Jameson) reacted and tried to remain level-headed about every predicament - and how he tried to turn everything into some sort of important experience-is-the best-life-lesson for Henry.

Along for the ride is Henry's opportune friend Homer, who innocently took advantage of almost every situation but always managed to do so without looking like a bad guy.

Lum and Abner - Two kind-hearted but very uneducated residents of Pine Ridge, Arkansas traverse the world in a seemingly never-ending radio serial; each full of spit-take phrases and diction that will remind some of The Beverly Hillbillies or Snuffy Smith without the phony TV laugh track or comic panes.

Lum is thrice as smart as Abner (and that's not saying much) and they are almost daily-swindeled by wiley Squire Skimp. When they aren't being taken for their life savings, Lum is "chasing" women or being chased by some ugly "widder" with 5 young-uns. Meanwhile, Abner is married. but it seems his goal in life is to gossip and play checkers as often as possible.

Both run a rural grocery store where life in the little town revolves. 90% of the town's crazy characters are played by the show's stars (Chester Lauck and Norris Goff.) Every show ends with a wock-wock-wock ironic twist to whatever the show was about.

Once a week (it seems) they are faking a broken leg or being "quarateed" for a fictional (make that "actual") case of measles.

Ridiculous rural humor that's like a never-ending CBS-TV sit-com of the 1960's but set in World War II, Norman Rockwell-era America.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know what you think of this post or this site! It only take a few seconds and I'd really appreciate your comments...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...