I’ve told already, my sister was the radio fan, and our father. I could parrot the openings to The Shadow and to The Lone Ranger because Beth was listening to those shows, I was just in the house, hardly able to avoid hearing.
Some of my favorite radio memories go way back in the ’40s when my father was still in the family: Baby Snooks, with Fannie Brice. Fred Allen, Jack Benny … Henry Aldrich, G-Men. But I also recall some favorite radio moments when it was me hearing: Dad gone, whether or not Beth or Mom were also listening. I want to tell once incident, from the 1950s, cause it still pops into my head now and them: that’s effective comedy. This file can then serve to tell any additional such memories as they occur to me.
Bob & Ray
Mom went off to work when her boss came to pick her up, drive into Manhattan daily. Beth and I got ourselves ready for school (though, to tell the truth, I was never ready for school!)
Mom had a clock radio, Oo, how new was that?! We’d all hear her radio come on, we all knew what it meant. The radio would play for a few minutes, waking one slowly, then the alarm would buzz: or, Mom could turn the buzzer off before it buzzed, if we were all up and functioning. Not me, I just lay there, snoozing to Bob & Ray, then sprint off without breakfast.
Bob & Ray had a regular shtick: Mary Backstage, Noble Wife. The base for the lampoon was a current soap: Mary Noble, Backstage Wife. (I see that that it launched in the 1930s, ran through 1959!)
Anyway, I’d lie abed, waking slowly, marveling at Bob & Ray, being funny, seeming spontaneous, playing together, hour after hour, for days, weeks, months, years. I was impressed, a fan.
Two shticks in particular, related: the spoof characters included a black-sheep brother, Fielding. The titular characters were a famous actor, and his wife. Characters were routinely getting amnesia, getting kidnapped, and sometimes they would get amnesia while they were kidnapped: nice and silly. What got me cackling, and still echoes in my head down these decades, the actor is held for ransom, he gets amnesia.
Joke 1) Amnesia: he doesn’t know who he is. A friendsly happener-by says, well, you must be rich and famous: look how well dressed you are. And someone says, You know sometimes rich people have their names embrooidered in their clothing: initialed handkerchiefs, name on the shirt pocket, family crest … They go though the actors clothes: “Sure, look: Robert Hall. Well, Bob, it’s good to have you …”
Robert Hall was a clothing store chain, Robert Hall sponsored Bob & Ray.
I hate sponsor jokes now, but I laughed at that first one I ever heard.
Joke 2: The actor’s associates come up with the ten thousand dollar ransom. Fielding is one of the badies. Fielding or some other dumb crony is counting the swag: “One, two, three …”
It’s already funny, they’re paid in singles! And later, “five hundred eighty-two, five hundred eighty-three …” And then “nine-thousand nine-hundred, ninety-four, nine-thousand nine-hundred, ninety-five …” And somebody says something, and the moron says, “Now I lost count: One, two, three …”
Comedy is timing. Bob & Ray timed things well. I drank the culture in: from Chaplin, from Sachmo, from Mad … from Steve Allen, from Bob & Ray.
One morning, senior in high school, my ride was a minute late, I though I’d eat of bit of something for a change. I did. Later that morning I was in gym class. I hated gym, it was all team stuff, I’m not a team person. On the baseball field, on the gridiron, on the basketball court, I’d just look for a way to be invisible. Everyone understood, ignore Paul, he’s no good anyway. This particular morning I wasn’t paying attention in particular and suddenly I realize some oaf had passed the basketball, it was coming to me. I didn’t know what to do. I caught it. What do I do now? “Shoot!” somebody instructed. I saw the basket, I shot, Swish!
Huh? I’d never scored a basket in my life, no one had ever given me the ball. A minute later I hear, “Paul.” Ball is being passed to me again. I shoot again. Swish!
The rest of the game, I didn’t miss! I had never had breakfast before! Makes a difference.