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Book Shelf Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “Fred Allen – His Life and Wit” by Robert Taylor

A portrait of the great radio comic follows his rise to popularity from vaudeville–where he appeared as “World’s Worst Juggler”–to the Broadway stage, and on to “Town Hall Tonight”–his wildly popular radio show.

For two decades Fred Allen, “the man with the flat voice,” was America’s most brilliant radio humorist, and for a time his program was the most popular in the country. This appreciative biography, enlivened by hundreds of quotations from Allen’s books, journals, letters, scrapbooks, and scripts, follows the career of Boston-born John Florence Sullivan (1894-1956) from his early days as a vaudeville juggler to his subsequent appearances as a Broadway comedian, culminating in his 25 years of national prominence. Boston Globe art and book critic Taylor ( Saranac ) discusses Allen’s meticulous working methods, his longstanding “feud” with Jack Benny, his happy marriage and working relationship with Portland Hoffa, Allen’s wife of 27 years, and the characters he used to interview in Allen’s Alley : Ajax Cassidy, Sen. Beauregard Claghorn, Titus Moody, Mrs. Pansy Nussbaum and Falstaff Openshaw. Allen’s cleverness and wit, his preeminence as a master of pace and timing, acknowledged and proclaimed by the likes of James Thurber and Groucho Marx, are fully represented in this delightful, distinguished biography.

Unlike Jack Benny, his long-time contemporary, Fred Allen is perhaps almost forgotten today, except for those who grew up listening to the radio for an evening’s entertainment. He was, nevertheless, one of the leading radio comedians of the 1930s and 1940s. This book covers Allen’s roots in Boston, his days of vaudeville and Broadway revues, and his coast-to-coast success on radio. Television was his downfall, however, and nearly overnight his type of humor, shrewd and sardonic, became passe. This book is very much worth reading, but its excerpts from radio scripts really do little more than suggest what it was that made Allen so funny. Listening to tapes of Allen’s actual broadcasts would give a better sense of his remarkable style.

~ From Wikipedia~

John Florence Sullivan (May 31, 1894 – March 17, 1956), known professionally as Fred Allen, was an American comedian. His absurdist, topically pointed radio program The Fred Allen Show (1932–1949) made him one of the most popular and forward-looking humorists in the Golden Age of American radio.[1][2]

His best-remembered gag was his long-running mock feud with friend and fellow comedian Jack Benny, but it was only part of his appeal; radio historian John Dunning (in On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio) wrote that Allen was radio’s most admired comedian and most frequently censored. A master ad libber, Allen often tangled with his network’s executives (and often barbed them on the air over the battles) while developing routines whose style and substance influenced fellow comic talents, including Groucho MarxStan FrebergHenry Morgan and Johnny Carson; his avowed fans also included President Franklin D. Roosevelt and novelists William FaulknerJohn Steinbeck and Herman Wouk (who began his career writing for Allen).

Allen was honored with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for contributions to television and radio.[3]

To purchase the book on Amazon go here!

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Clown Comedy Dance Photography Variety Arts Video

George Carl – Golden Clown Award Press Kit

GEORGE CARL

I have been fortunate to have met and photographed George Carl at my studio in the early 1980’s. He was funny even off stage. Inviting him to my studio with Francis Brunn and Natalie Enterline was so much fun. He passed over his press kit to me and I am posting it here. He won the Golden Clown Award from Monte Carlo Circus Festival in 1979.

From Wikipedia:

George Carl (7 May 1916 – 1 January 2000) was a “vaudevillian” style comic & clown. Carl was born in Ohio, and started his comedy career traveling with a variety of circuses during his teenage years. In time, Carl would become internationally famous as a clown and visual comedian. Johnny Carson, a fan of Carl’s, invited him to appear on The Tonight Show on March 21, 1985 when Carl was 69. His appearance was so well received that he was asked back within weeks for a second appearance which also received raves from viewers. He appeared again on May 27, 1986 doing essentially his same act and received great laughter from an obviously appreciative audience.

With hardly any props,[1] except for a microphone, a mic stand, his hat, and sometimes a harmonica, Carl would seemingly accidentally become tangled up in the mic cord,[2] get his thumb stuck in the microphone stand and, through a flurry of silent bits, wind up accomplishing nothing at all in the time spent onstage.

At the age of 79, George Carl made his screen debut in the 1995 film Funny Bones also starring Jerry Lewis. He played an old music-hall comedian, one of the Parker brothers, who never spoke until a scene in which his character explains the reason performers perform;

“Our suffering is special. The pain we feel is worse than anyone else. But the sunrise we see is more beautiful than anyone else. The Parkers is…like the moon. There’s one side forever dark. Invisible. As it should be. But remember, the dark moon draws the tides also.”

Comedians using similar visual material include Charlie Frye, Bill IrwinGeoff HoyleBarry LubinChipper Lowell, Rob Torres, and Avner the Eccentric.

Carl died of cancer in Las Vegas on January 1, 2000. [3]

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George Carl on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

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Another wonderful performance from George Carl.

Click here for my previous posting for photographs and video of George Carl.

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