Long past time for an OTR review!
Komedy Kingdom was an obscure syndicated show produced in 1937. A few scattered episodes are available free in various spots on the web, and the whole series seems to be available here
at the moment. (I bought it from good old OtrCat, but they've pulled it down since then.)
The sound on these clips is outstanding, not a scratch or a skip anywhere. Somebody must have preserved the original unplayed transcription disks, which is exceedingly rare from that era.
Elvia Allman hosted KK, as the ruler of a realm where sadness was prohibited. The premise was weakly applied, and clearly wore even thinner toward the later episodes.
This was Elvia's first and only top billing, but she became more famous later in various character parts. She played the laconic Mabel Toops on Fibber, played a pair of Jersey Girls named Brenda and Kobina on Bob Hope, and did a lot of early TV including this Dragnet episode.
Along with all the other funny ladies of that era, Elvia has been deleted from history by today's monstrous Femynyst Commie-diennes, who insist that wyyymyyynn were not allowed to be funny until Joan Rivers broke the mold. Well, I suppose they're right in a definitional sense. If you define "funny" as the anti-civilization Stalinist skrawkings of a Whoopi Goldberg or a Margaret Cho, then nobody
, male or female, was allowed to be "funny" as radio entertainment in the '30s. By this modern definition, "humor"
was only heard in Party Cadre meetings.
= = = = =Despite Elvia's best efforts to liven it up, the show's komedy kontent is nothing special. Each episode has a subject (sports, afternoon, hobos, etc). Elvia starts off with a monologue which flows into a series of skits. Standard vaudeville material, done in a standard way.
Music is what makes KK stand out. The mainly nameless singers and instrumentalists are perfect, and they perform a mix of well-known standards, blues, and obscure numbers in a unique way. All songs of that era were written with a verse and a chorus, but you rarely hear the verse; KK gives full emphasis to the verses of every song, with some surprising results.
For instance, 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' is generally thought to be a song about baseball. Nope. It's a song about a girl who loves baseball
. Entirely different proposition. And the second verse is a song about a song about a girl who loves baseball. All of that complexity is lost when you skip the verses.Take me out!
As I was thinking about verse and chorus, recitative and aria, I realized each episode of KK has the form of a cantata. Starts with a rousing overture which leads directly to the first 'scripture reading' by Elvia. Several recitatives, arias and interludes are interspersed among the spoken segments. At the end Elvia gives a benediction, followed by a slow and stately hymn. Bach (who wrote several secular cantatas
replete with dialect humor
) would have appreciated this use of the form!