This post was originally an episode of The Old Time Review Daily Podcast. In each edition, Jamie Dyer spoke off the cuff about a famous person, film or song for up to three minutes. The following is a transcription, which has been cleaned up to remove any hesitation and some repetition. Where possible, the subject has been expanded on from the original broadcast.
.This is the Old Time Review Daily Podcast for the 31st of May 2021, and this is Jamie Dyer speaking to you from the UK. On this day in 1894, American comedian Fred Allen was born. Now I realize that in the UK that name may not be familiar to you, but he was a very famous radio personality. He also appeared on television later, but he made his name in the vaudeville stage of the early 20th century. His radio show lasted for many years.
And he was a great… Right? He was one of the early examples of satire on the radio. Fred would be looking at what was going on and doing topical gags in a way that I don’t think others were doing at that particular time. Instead of going through a joke book, he’d try to find other things to laugh at.
He was famous for doing things like Allen’s Alley on his radio show. In hindsight, you know, sometimes they can be a little bit too topical to be understood, but they’re still funny really in their own right. He also had an ongoing feud with Jack Benny, the famous comedian. After violinist Stuart Canin appeared on Fred’s show, he made a comment about Benny’s violin playing after hearing Flight of the Bumblebee. There’s some amazing radio hidden within that feud that I do recommend going to check out.
The last thing I should say here is he did have a film career. He appeared in quite a few films including one or two with Jack Benny. I think his film It’s in the Bag is considered to be one of his better films. I also recommend checking out his appearances on What’s My Line during the 1950s; What a wit! He also wrote two books as well, Treadmill to Oblivion and Much Ado About Me. And that was the Old Time Review Daily Podcast for the 31st of May 2021, remembering Fred Allen.