When I found old-time radio in 1975, I found out quickly. Although I don't really remember if I knew that Bergen was a ventriloquist. My brother wasn't around to ask. I may have asked my parents - but at any rate, sometime after 1975, I found out that Charlie was a dummy.
Skip ahead a half of a lifetime and here I am listening to all of the surviving broadcasts. The shows themselves are something that I simply cannot like; there is too much music and too much slapstick and vaudevillian-type humor that reminds one of a bad Abbott and Costello Show.
However, when Bergen and his dummies are isolated, apart from the periphery of the rest of the show (which can include lots of "awful" singing and coffee commercials) you find a treasure.
Bergen, by all accounts, wasn't a very good ventriloquist. His lips moved and his talent in this area was far behind others. But his material was good and he was on the radio, where you couldn't see his lips moving.
Bergen didn't just have Charlie McCarthy - who was very much a Bugs Bunny/Walter Tetley-type character (sans the Brooklyn accent) - Charlie was like a smart-aleck kid who could get away with almost anything. He really wasn't that funny but he provided laughs now and then.
Charlie and to a lesser-extent, Bergen, became super famous almost overnight. For a good part of the latter 1930's, Bergen's dummies were as popular (or more-so) than any other star on radio. He made films too.
|One of these guys is Mortimer Snerd|
It's Snerd that really stands out when you listen to the sketches as a whole.
Another dummy, Effie Clinker, is Bergen's female persona. I do not find the character funny in the least. I don't think Bergen ever really felt that comfortable with Effie as he uses her very sparingly on the radio shows.
When broken down into dummy sketches, you will find a quick-paced barrel of fun. While the various Bergen radio shows drag (many of them last as long as an hour) 90% of the sketches last less than 7 minutes. And I'd guess that 75% of those actually last less than 5 minutes.
Other than Bergen and his dummies, the one standout would be Don Ameche. Ameche comes and goes throughout the series. When he is in the sketches with the dummies (in my recollection, always with Charlie) he plays an Italian named Gazzolla. The Gazzolla character can be quite amusing at times when paired with McCarthy.
Yes, we are talking about a very juvenile/vaudevillian-type show; I understand that kind of humor isn't everyone's cup of
The rest of the sketches should be up sometime before the end of year.