Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wanna Buy a Duck?

You probably have no idea who Joe Penner was. But he was voted radio's top comedian in 1934. His career really began with a guest appearance on the Rudy Vallée Show on July 13, 1933. It was a quick rise to the top and a long painful slide into obscurity. This episode of the Rudy Vallée show was recorded and strangely even Wikipedia has a clip.
Joe was born Joe Pinter in Hungary and emigrated with his parents at the age of nine in 1914. they settled in Detroit. He went into vaudevilel on a lark. His first appearance on radio was in 1929 on the Paramount-Publix radio hour on WABC carried on CBS. Paramount-Publix was an early variety program that ran every week. It's off topic, But interesting to note that the Paramount-Publix Corporation owned theaters, made movies and distributed them. Sam Katz founded the group in 1925. In January of 1933 they went into receivership. Creditors ate them alive, the radio program did not survive the reorganization.

After Rudy Valee Penner scored his own NBC Variety program in October 1933. Literally only three months had passed since he guested on The Rudy Valee program. "The Baker's Broadcast" began on the NBC Blue Network on October 8th 1933. But sudden fame led to a suddenly big ego. Penny Quit his own show in 1935 in a dispute with the shows ad agency over the show's format. He took the opportunity to move to CBS and start the "The Joe Penner Show" which first aired October 4th, 1936 on CBS. It was sponsored by Cocomalt and widely referred to already as his "come-back." More here.Everything Penner touched turned to gold.. after he stopped touching it. The Bakers Broadcast remained on air with a new host, Robert Ripley, of Ripley's Believe it or Not. The programs band leader and it's singer were none other than Ozzie and Harriet who went onto even greater fame. More here.

His catchphrase was "Wanna Buy a Duck?" Maybe it made sense in the zany comedy of the 1930s.. but it's lost on me today. Penner died of heart failure in Philadelphia, PA in 1941.