Canned Laughter

Canned Laughter : Best Stories from Radio and Television

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Jack Benny, Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle, Lucille Ball, Walter Winchell, Walter Cronkite--the giants of the airwaves, with all their quips, quotes, foibles, and insights, have now been gathered together in one delightful book. Peter Hay, best-selling author of Broadway Anecdotes and Movie Anecdotes, has collected stories of journalists and jokesters, inventors and investors, sportsmen and sponsors, presidents and producers, providing a riotous ride through the whole history of radio and television.
By turns hilarious and insightful, these anecdotes offer revealing portraits of the personalities behind the scenes. Here, for instance, is the origin of Jackie Gleason's nickname (Gleason once was reciting Shakespeare on demand for Orson Welles, then switched with ease to Aeschylus, leading Welles to call him "the Great One"). Hay gives us stories from every area of the topsy-turvy world of radio and television. What was the ratings system in the days before Nielsen? One early broadcaster would name individual radio-set owners on the air and ask them to call if they were listening; later, Amos 'n' Andy became so popular that the New York water department noticed a sharp drop in pressure as seemingly the entire city rushed to the bathroom during commercial breaks. There is memorable fan mail: A Frenchwoman once wrote a British announcer, "I am fervent of your emissions"; a little girl wrote to Linda Ellerbee, "When I grow up I want to do exactly what you do. Please do it better." And Hay offers rousing examples of executive courage: The top brass at CBS, for example, congratulated Edward Murrow on his landmark expose on Senator McCarthy with, "Great Show, Ed. Sorry you did it." Along the way, we see the wild improbabilities of the entertainment world. The title role of Columbo, immortalized by Peter Falk, was first offered to Bing Crosby; and the first TV interview with the victorious Fidel Castro in 1959 was conducted by Tonight Show host Jack Paar: Castro offered to sell him Batista's mansion, but Paar looked at Castro's beard and asked for the Norelco shaving concession instead. And Hay highlights the role of the broadcast media in the great events of our century, from the impact of FDR's "Fireside Chats" to LBJ's reflection that when he lost Walter Cronkite's confidence in the war in Vietnam, he lost Middle America.
In Broadway Anecdotes, Theatrical Anecdotes, and Movie Anecdotes, Peter Hay has shown that he has an ear for good stories and a gifted voice for retelling them. In this volume, he gathers the greatest tales of the classic age of radio and television and beyond, from Marconi to Monty Python's Flying Circus, offering endless insight, enjoyment, and laughter.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 273 pages
  • 157.48 x 233.68 x 27.94mm | 521.63g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 019506836X
  • 9780195068368

About Peter Hay

About the Author: Peter Hay is the author of eight other books, including MGM: When the Lion Roars. An expert in script development, he is founding artistic director of First Stage in Hollywood.
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