Great Radio Comics Were True Entertainers
By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope your New Year started out okay. It seems that New Year’s resolutions are not the big deal they were at one time. I think that a lot of people are making one resolution – not to make any resolutions that they don’t keep. Everyone always looks for the New Year to be better than the last, but rarely are they satisfied.
This is one of those weeks that I’m going to meander around more than usual, as at a time like this I believe a light-hearted approach is appropriate. I wonder if all of you are disgusted at what passes for comedy these days. I refuse to watch sitcoms or the Comedy Central station.
My belief is that there are only two real comedians around, Jeff Foxworthy and Dennis Miller. The rest are a bunch of no-talent, foul-mouthed individuals who use gutter language or sexual innuendo to entertain. I know all about first amendment rights and I don’t advocate censorship, but place most of the blame on people who believe this is entertainment. These days, people of my generation still remember those great old radio programs that were really funny.
When I lived on Papa Badley’s farm we had a table model Philco battery radio that brought the world to me. Every night we had either Fibber Magee and Molly, Eddie Cantor, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Burns and Allen or Henry Aldrich to entertain us. How many of this current crop will be remembered fifty years from now?
I was so thrilled to hear Bob Hope broadcast from different military bases with great cast members such as Jerry Colona and Vera Vague. Bob traveled overseas during the war and, in later wars including Korea and Viet Nam, until he was in his 90s.
George Burns entertained until a year before his death at 100. The radio shows were so great because we had to use our imagination to visualize how it looked when Fibber Magee opened that hall closet he never cleaned out.
During World War II, Bob Hope went into battle zones with only Jerry Colona and Frances Langford, and Tony Romano, who played his guitar when Frances Langford sang, and the GIs loved it.
In later years, he carried Les Brown and his band along with Marilyn Monroe, Ann-Margaret and Joey Heatherton. George Burns made a great movie called, “Just Me and You Kid,” with Brooke Shields when he was 90.
Red Skelton brought his gentle humor and great characters to television and was always a hit. I was privileged to see him in Chicago on stage when I was ten. He always played a lovable character. He said something in later years that I still remember. He said, “I don’t hate anybody not even my enemies, after all I made them.” So many people in the entertainment industry seem to be angry at something. Jack Benny never told jokes, but he could make you laugh by putting his hand to his face and saying,”well.”
The great voice of so many cartoon characters, Mel Blamc said that he had been badly injured in a car wreck and was in a body cast when Jack came to his house and asked, “Is Mel In?”
Before some of you start saying “Cooper’s not writing about Water Valley,” have no fear as we start our ninth year. I’ve been doing research on several topics that I think you’ll enjoy.
As I always ask you to do your part and send me some of your fond memories and we’ll included them in future columns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at P.O.Box 613189 Memphis Tn 38101 and have a great week.