Tag Archives: Old Time Radio

Classic Hollywood #63 – Abbott & Costello With Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy

Abbott & Costello With Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy

When I was growing up there were only seven television channels to choose from in New York City. Many weekend mornings I found myself laughing at the antics of Abbott and Costello on WPIX, channel eleven. A lot of other kids at that time shared that love for the fast-talking comedy duo.

Not just their movies were shown, but also the Abbott and Costello TV show was broadcast regularly as well. If today’s generation knows anything about Abbott and Costello, it is almost certainly their famous “Who’s On First” baseball skit. Unfortunately Abbott and Costello and their wordplay humor are fading into history.

But if Abbott and Costello have faded, then ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his puppet Charlie McCarthy are forgotten. Continue reading

Man Eats Light Bulbs (And Other Delicacies) – 1939

Harold B. Funston Demonstrates An Unusual Talent For Tolerating Pain

Harold B Funston eats light bulbs 1939

New York City– Harold B. Funston, accounting machine mechanic of Columbus, Ohio brought to New York for an appearance on a radio program, eats glass from a light bulb in a demonstration of his unique hobby — that of emulating the mysteries of the East Indian Fakirs. Credit line (Acme) 2/21/39

The radio program mentioned above was a CBS show, “Dave Elman’s Hobby Lobby.” In rehearsals, Funston amazed Elman, Radio Guide reporter Martin Lewis and the studio audience by chewing up and swallowing six razor blades, which he downed with a glass of water.  He then proceeded to eat some light bulbs.

Funston puts red hot soldering iron on tongue 1939 watermarkedFilm footage exists of Funston eating razor blades; putting fire in his mouth; and laying on a bed of spiked nails as another man sits on him. He also extinguishes a lit cigarette with his tongue.

Here is another image (unfortunately watermarked) of Funston applying a red hot soldering iron to his tongue.

According to a genealogy web site Harold Funston was born in 1900 or 1905 and died in January 1950, not surprisingly, in a magic trick gone wrong. No details are provided.

The Best Woman Presidential Candidate Ever

Comedienne Gracie Allen Enters The 1940 Presidential Race

In this newswire photograph, Gracie Allen, the zany half of the Burns & Allen comedy team “tosses her hat into the ring” to run for President in 1940.

Gracie put out a very funny book after her tongue-in-cheek Presidential run entitled How To Become President (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1940) which has enlightening chapters such as:

Government Jobs Pay Big Money

How Not To Offend Anybody

Buying A Good Used Platform

Secrets of Unsuccessful Speechmaking

Even though the candidacy was a plot line for the Burns & Allen weekly comedy radio show, Gracie did a whistlestop tour by train and over 300,000 Americans came out to hear her make campaign speeches in cities along the route.

After “dropping out” of the race in the middle of 1940, Gracie still ended up receiving over 42,000 write-in votes in the November election.

The forgotten story of her candidacy was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Click here to listen.

Classic Hollywood #7

Fred Allen, Mary Martin and Jack Benny – 1940

I believe Jack Benny was one of the funniest comedians of all time. Benny could elicit more laughs with a look, gesture or single utterance than other comedians could with an entire monologue.  He became a star in vaudeville and was one of the few entertainers who made the transition to radio, film and eventually television successfully. Although Jack Benny has been dead for over 37 years, he is still fondly remembered by millions of fans.

Radio comedian Fred Allen is almost completely forgotten today. His sharp, acerbic wit Continue reading