Friday, October 27, 2006

Comedy wirelessness

"Funny new show"? Well, one out of three isn't a total loss. Jack "Baron Munchausen" Pearl's 1936-7 series for Raleigh-Kool was, indeed, a show. Ah, I shouldn't be so cruel. This was Pearl's final attempt to retain what little popularity he had left after his 1932-3 pinnacle for Lucky Strike, and it does have its moments. Pearl would work steadily in radio for the next 18 years, but it was all downhill after this. Including the "Vas you dere Sharlie?" tag in the ad was akin to saying "More of the same!", a mistake considering that audiences were not only tired of Pearl's limited bag of tricks, they were about ready to toss over "vaudeville"-style radio and its requisite catchphrase comedy altogether. Pearl's Raleigh-Kool series would last until June 25, 1937 and would be handed over to Tommy Dorsey entirely after Pearl and straightman Cliff Hall, were kicked to the curb. In my humble opinion, Pearl stands as one of the greatest cases of wasted talent in the history of American comedy; probably the finest dialect comic of his time undone by a neurotic adherence to a tired formula that he believed to be the "key" to his success. Pearl desperately needed management he never received. He was doing his Munchausen shtick to the end, closing out his radio career with a quiz show entitled The Baron and the Bee in 1953-4. You can hear a 1937 episode of Pearl's Raleigh-Kool Program for free here courtesy otr-cat.com. Cliff Hall reminds me of a proto-Bud Abbott.

Click thumbnail. No, not that one!
The one on the screen, you fool!

And for your further enjoyment and edification, here is the entirety of the page that ad was culled from. Radio Guide was, of course, the forerunner of TV Guide, and what treasure troves of information these old magazines are, especially for classic comedy obscureologists such as myself! For instance, if it weren't for this particular issue of Radio Guide (week ending Dec 26, 1936), I would never have known that burlesque comic and future kidvid host Pinky Lee was the star comic of Joe Rines' Dress Rehearsal (Sundays at 11:30 AM), thus finally explaining this radio-themed publicity photo of Pinky I found on Ebay a few years ago. What other blog brings you fascinating information like that? Hah?? Damn straight!

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