Monday, January 3, 2011

CONTROVERSY! (In old-time radio)

When we think of old-radio, we think of Americana, living history - clean fun.  As a matter of fact, what could be cleaner?

Old-time radio came (comes) complete with it's own censoring board, for goodness sake.  This certifiably makes it great for the kiddies, right?

Well... not so fast.

There are three radio programs we can look back in history that we can call controversial.

The first is Mae West guest starring on The Chase and Sanborn Hour in 1937. While no one would blink an eye today concerning the dialog, back then it had people up in arms.

The second one is obvious: it's the famous Mercury Theater's War of the Worlds broadcast, where near-tragedy struck by "accident."

But I'm not writing this article because of Mae West or The War of the Worlds. I'm writing this because of something I have never heard anything about.

On the March 31, 1958 radio/TV program, You Bet Your Life, Groucho Marx had special guest Ernie Kovacs. Kovacs had been under incredible pressure to "clean up his act" because he was one (of many) comics doing stand-up routines that were getting increasingly "filthy" (as "upright citizens" or the church might call it.)

On Groucho's show that evening (which I have never seen, only heard - the shows on TV and radio were the same) Groucho's first set of guests includes a professional bridge player and his partner is a woman - obviously one of those women that Groucho goes nuts over. He makes crack after crack about her "health" and that kind of thing (obviously referring to her breasts/figure/beauty.)

Still the show isn't really that controversial until Kovacs shows up. Surprisingly, the bridge player says he's going to "step down and let some chap more deserving" take his place.

This is when Groucho invites Kovacs (who just happens to be there) to be the gorgeous girl's partner.

George Fenneman then calls for an odd commercial break - and when the show comes back on the air, the quiz is about nursery rhymes... except Groucho's quiz mostly involve words that are double entendres.  You must listen to the show for yourself!

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