Milton's first foray into radio was The Gillette Original Community Sing, which ran on CBS from September 6, 1936 to August 29, 1937 as a Sunday night comedy-variety program. It was here than Berle demonstrated his patented "machine gun comedy" shtick, a style very similar to that of Bob Hope's but with a heavier emphasis on slapstick. (Both Berle and Hope have both acknowledged that they patterned their stage personas after Ted Healey, a sadly neglected comic who - for better or worse - was responsible for unleashing The Three Stooges on an unsuspecting world.) Berle recalled in his autobiography that the program's theme song (which he sang in the show's opening) was "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing," which would require the audience to respond "Tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet!"
Milton later went on to host NBC's Stop Me If You've Heard This One in the fall of 1939 - a comedy panel show in which its members would attempt to finish the jokes sent in by the show's listening audience. He then resurfaced in 1941 for Three Ring Time, a comedy-variety program for Ballantine Ale that ran for a season on both the Mutual and Blue networks. Though the program received favorable critical buzz, it turned into a complete bust - much of it due to the internecine squabbling between Berle and co-star Charles Laughton. Milton tried radio three more times as a headliner: a brief self-titled series over CBS in 1943 for Campbell Soups; a 1944-45 "half-hour of slapstick" for Blue/CBS called Let Yourself Go (sponsored by Eversharp Razors); and a summer series over CBS in 1946, Kiss and Make Up, a gimmick program in which "judge" Berle presided over a mock court. (This turkey was created by writer-producer Cy Howard, later responsible for My Friend Irma and Life With Luigi.)
1947 found Berle seriously wanting to succeed in radio, so much so that he canceled several lucrative nightclub appearances that would have netted him $25,000 a week in order to break his radio jinx with Philip Morris' The Milton Berle Show, a Tuesday NBC program beginning March 11, 1947. Though the show barely made a dent in the ratings - its Hooper was a dismal 11.6 - it's probably Berle's best radio work.
The Milton Berle Show took a weekly satirical look at prominent pop-culture phenomena; one week it might be "a salute to relaxation," the next "a salute to high finance." Its format rarely deviated from week to week; after his monologue, Milton would interview a few individuals with some connection to the show's topic, more than likely members of his supporting cast, like Jack Albertson (pre-"Chico and the Man"), Ed Begley, and Arthur Q. Bryan. Next, he would conduct a hilarious interview with "expert" Al Kelly, a comedian/second banana whose specialty was "double-talk" routines. Announcer Frank Gallop would then introduce with a ringing bell the weekly "forum" (similar to Fred Allen's "Allen's Alley"), in which questions would be taken from "members" of the audience. Among the participants were Arnold Stang, playing a quarrelsome character always out to pick an argument with Berle, and Pert Kelton, who invariably introduced herself as "Tallulah Feeney, I'm a homemaker." The show would then conclude with a segment entitled "At Home With the Berle's," in which Milton, his wife (Mary Shipp), and his bratty son (Stang) would be featured in a sketch again related to that week's topic.
The Milton Berle Show was a very underrated program which benefited tremendously from both a fine supporting cast and well-written scripts from veteran scribes Nat Hiken (a former writer for Fred Allen who later created the TV classics The Phil Silvers Show and Car 54, Where are You?) and Aaron Ruben (The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, USMC). Announcer Frank Gallop was the perfect foil for Berle (Berle: "Mr. Gallop, did you hear that? I just got four laughs in a row." Gallop: "Yes, they're all in the row your mother is in."), and vocalist Dick Forney and orchestra leader Ray Bloch found themselves the frequent target of Milton's barbs. But what ultimately made the show click was Berle himself, his boorish stage persona (described by Gerald Nachman as "the manic comic who won't shut up until you laugh") and self-deprecating manner blending seamlessly with Hiken and Ruben's broadly-written satire. Known to many in the business as "The Thief of Bad Gags," Milton frequently used this reputation to his advantage; on a September 16, 1947 broadcast he quips: "Tonight, Bob Hope's coming back on the air and why, in a couple of weeks, I'll have more jokes than I can stea...handle!" Berle demonstrated with this series - though admittedly, the radio audience appeared to have a dissenting opinion - that he didn't need his trademark visual gags and slapstick to create a rapport with listeners.
Deep in the forests of Bocheland lurked a horror that was not Death — but a living doom that robbed the soul and turned men into bloodthirsty beasts! What ghastly genius of forgotten centuries had now returned to paint the sky and earth in blood? G-8 held half the secret within his whirling brain, and meant to learn the rest, knowing too well that his only reward would be Death or living madness! G-8 and his Battle Aces rode the nostalgia boom ten years after World War I ended. These high-flying exploits were tall tales of a World War that might have been, featuring monster bats, German zombies, wolf-men, harpies, Martians, and even tentacled floating monsters. Most of these monstrosities were the work of Germany’s seemingly endless supply of mad scientists, chief of whom was G-8’s recurring Nemesis, Herr Doktor Krueger. G-8 battled Germany’s Halloween shock troops for over a decade, not ceasing until the magazine folded in the middle of World War II. G-8 and his Battle Aces return in vintage pulp tales, reissued for today’s readers in electronic format. $2.99.
The Invisible Patrol — The Red Falcon by Robert J. Hogan. The Falcon follows a phantom enemy deep into dead man’s skies. Dare-Devil Aces was another of the many pulps that rode the wave of popularity of World War I aviation tales in the decade after the conflict. It made its debut in February 1932 and lasted for an astounding 135 issues. It finally closed after World War II ended, with the November 1946 issue. During its run, it presented a wide assortment of high-flying aerial series, including The Red Falcon, The Vanished Legion, The Three Mosquitoes, Molloy and McNamara, The Black Sheep of Belogue, The Mongol Ace, Chinese Brady, Captain Babyface, Smoke Wade and others. Strap on your flying helmet, toss that scarf about your neck and get ready for some soaring action in the skies over France and Germany during the Great War. Dare-Devil Aces return in vintage pulp tales, reissued for today’s readers in electronic format. $2.99.
Special Avram Davidson Issue. The Winter 1988/1989 issue of Weird Tales showcases the work of Featured Author Avram Davidson and Featured Artist Hank Janus. Also includes work by Carl Jacobi, Robert Sheckley, Ian Watson, Keith Roberts, and many more. 148 pages. Specially priced until March 26 - $4.97
Special Karl Edward Wagner Issue! The Fall 1989 issue of Weird Tales showcases Featured Author Karl Edward Wagner (who contributes a major Kane novella and an interview) and Featured Artist J.K. Potter (who contributes all the artwork). Also includes work by Jonathan Carroll, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Brian Lumley, and more. 148 pages. Specially priced until March 26 - $4.97
The greatest superhero of the pulp era returns in two-fisted thrillers by Lawrence Donovan and Lester Dent writing as "Kenneth Robeson." First, Doc Savage is framed by a bronze lookalike as nightmarish reptilian creatures fill the air and Earth is threatened with environmental disaster in "Mad Eyes." Then, Patricia Savage blunders into a death trap after she intercepts a message for Doc, and the only clue to her disappearance suggests "Death is a Round Black Spot." This deluxe pulp reprint leads off with a knockout cover painting by legendary illustrator James Bama and also features both color pulp covers, original interior illustrations by Paul Orban and historical commentary by Will Murray, author of fifteen Doc Savage novels. Double Novel Reprint $14.95
Father Knows Best Volume 4, Have Gun, Will Travel Volume 5 and Dragnet Volume 8 arrived in this afternoon's mail. Thank you for your quick service. I was anxious to listen to Father Knows Best. The audio quality is just wonderful. The show brought back many happy memories from my younger days. I hope your business continues to succeed.