Thursday, January 18, 2007

Inside Radio Stars, part II: Stoopnocracy is Peachy!

Radio Stars, May, 1933. Frederick Chase Taylor and Wilber "Budd" Hulick, alias Colonel Stoopnagle and Budd, were two of radio's original satirists, forerunners of Bob and Ray and today's topical sketch comedy shows. A former broker and radio announcer respectively, Stoopnagle and Budd were not really a comedy team in the classic sense. Although Taylor was ostensibly the comic and Hulick the straightman, none of their comedy was quite personality based, and while Taylor did have a hook with his zany "Stoopnocracy" inventions (such as upside-down lighthouses for submarines) and spoonerisms, it wasn't exactly the kind of act you could take on the road. That didn't prevent Paramount from giving them a few lackluster standalone scenes in International House (1933) and Educational attempting a two-reeler, The Inventors, the following year. At their core, Taylor and Hulick were witty yet fundamentally normal men and their generally dry and whimsical satire was dependent upon deapan delivery and/or their adopting a variety of guises, the very antithesis of character comics such as Ed Wynn and Jack Pearl. I wonder if it read as patently false back then as it does to me today to see Taylor and Hulick cavorting for the camera, dressed in madcap costumes. Perhaps it was just what was expected. They had definitely dropped the goofy garb by 1936. Stoopnagle and Budd split in 1937, each initially finding milder success as hosts of their own quiz shows. Taylor continued to crop up on radio as Colonel Stoopnagle, as star, MC, or in support of performers such as Vaughn Monroe, until his death in 1950 at the age of 52. Budd Hulick eventually returned to local radio. Believe it or don't, Budd is still alive today at the age of 101. You can hear a 1935 episode of their show here, courtesy otrcat.com. Visit Rick Squires' terrific Stoopnagle.com for much, much more information about the team, including dozens of articles by Taylor. And here's something nifty I learned from Squires' site: Frederick Taylor and H. P. Lovecraft, one of my favorite authors, were first cousins! Who knew?

This article nicely evokes the sights and sounds of a Stoopnagle and Budd broadcast, at this time a 30 minute, Thursday night program for Pontiac on CBS. It's hard for me to imagine a point in history when an impression of Adolph Hitler ("the new German Chancellor") wasn't complete without a silk top hat.

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