Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Five OTR characters who make me laugh

I have a list of 20 of the funniest characters I have found in old-time radio. I've decided to chop it down because really, after the first handful, they all kind of run together.

The funniest character is Mayor LaTrivia from Fibber McGee and Molly.  There are others that come close but Mayor LaTrivia (who got his name from New York's Mayor La Guardia) was the essential funny character. 

Actually, he was a very serious character.  But Gale Gordon, the man with impeccable timing who played LaTrivia, would find whatever he said twisted and taken literally and hurled back at him by both Fibber and Molly,  Then he would deteriorate - he would become confused then angry.  Like a crashing plane, he'd become uncontrollably sputtering and you waited for that moment when he realized what the McGees had done to him.  He'd stop and the audience would grow quiet after his enormous outburst.  "McGee," he'd say.  And the audience would come back to life.

Just thinking of those moments, which are the highlights of many of my days listening in the evening, give me chill bumps just thinking about him saying it.

At #2 I have Uncle Fletcher of Vic and Sade.  Many people who claim to not like Vic and Sade have never heard Uncle Fletcher.  The arrival of Uncle Fletcher presented a level of humor to Vic and Sade. He's almost funny enough to be at #1.

At #3, I have George Kingfish Stevens of Amos and Andy fame.  The Kingfish twisted English as badly as anyone on radio and you'd think about what he'd was saying later on and laugh to yourself.  "Regusted" instead of disgusted. "Dispossessed" instead of "repossessed" and on and on.  I've a never-ending smile listening to the Kingfish.

At #4 Leroy on The Great Gildersleeve.  The early days, primarily as the older the show got, it seems Leroy wasn't near as funny.  Of course Leroy was 25 or 26 when the show started so... But when he was on there, he was funny, for corn's sake.

The last spot could have been anyone.  Fibber McGee was funny in a lot of different ways.  Gracie Allen - playing herself - was funny and I appreciate her more as the days roll by.  And there are many others I could mention.  But I vote for Baby Snooks.

From what I have read, Fannie Brice would become possessed with Baby Snooks, turning into this creature at show time.  She was just as funny as she was bratty.  This is an overlooked show because many people see the title and believe it is a juvenile show.  It is anything but that.  And Baby Snooks always makes me laugh.


  1. One I would consider in the top five are the scenes with Elliot Lewis and Phil Harris.

  2. Hi BB,

    I recently found a large amount of episode of Phil Harris-Alice Faye that I didn't have. The sound on them is excellent (not sure they are there anymore but it was at OTRR.)

    At any rate, I've been listening to them one every day for many monos now. You're not going to believe this probably but I now officially hate that show.

    I used to think Phil was funny - he's not. Lewis can be funny - but to me, he's just not funny on that show anymore. Alice isn't funny. Even Tetley isn't funny. He sounds like Sheldon Leonard (look him up) who is also on the show a lot in the latter years - Leonard and Tetley are TWINS. Annoying twins.

    I have this all balled up inside of me; I've been wanting to write about how much I hate this show - how I used to like it and now I find it to be a show I dread listening to. I wonder why I listen to it even now?

    The thing is, I used to enjoy the show. But the more of it I hear the less I like it.

    I'm sorry to you and all the others who like it but - and perhaps it's just me - it's so far away from what I would call good radio.

    Vic and Sade has spoiled me. That's all I can say.

  3. Phil Harris is funnier in small doses, I think. He is hysterical on Benny when he doesn't have to carry the show.

  4. Hi Mr. B,
    On Benny, he's funny. Elliot Lewis does a funny, weekly bit on Burns and Allen in '48. Together, they are not funny in the latter years of the show (to me.)

    Add in the fact that Phil and Alice plug their RCA records (literally) twice a show. Blah.


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