Fred Allen and his wife Portland kept a huge scrapbook of newspaper and magazine clippings from his broadcasting career. It was huge because Fred constantly seemed to be giving interviews, even when he was secluded along an almost inaccessible beach in Maine every summer. When he wasn’t giving interviews, he was writing letters. A collection of some of his letters was published in book form in 1965.
Allen’s observations about flea’s navels and California oranges and molehill executives came from newspaper interviews and he seemed to like to quote his favourites to more than one reporter. That was in the 1940s. But he was reviewed and interviewed going back to his original radio show for Linit in 1932. He may have been a little less pithy but was still entertaining.
The following story from the Associated Press comes from the scrapbook and is passed on thanks to Kathy Fuller Seeley, who spent hours taking photo shots of the water-stained, brownish-yellow clippings as well as invaluable pages of Allen radio scripts as submitted to the network or sponsor or its ad agency or all of them. Allen’s collection rests in the public library in Boston, his place of birth. The photo with this article was with another story on the same scrapbook page. As a side note, the wire service writer was later the science editor for Saturday Review for 17 years and a Pulitzer Prize nominee.
I appreciate Allen’s cleverness but the concept of him being in an aquarium is more odd than funny.
HOSPITAL WILL GET JOKE BOOKS WHEN DIES
Comedian Gives Interview, He Insists, In Fish Tank At Museum
By JOHN LEAR
New York, Nov. 14.—(AP)—The library of 4,000 books through which Fred Allen rummages for some of his quips is going to be willed to Bellevue hospital, he said today, "so they can set it up for the psychopathies."
Sitting in a tank in the aquarium, Allen described the library as "the most amazing collection of useless information" in the world, including "everything that's not worth anything."
Among his most prized volumes he listed these pamphlets:
"The Art of Making Bibs for Country Babies."
"How to Grow Dewberries."
"How to Keep a Due Bill Dry."
He keeps the books in two closets, “to give the bookworms a change of pace.”
He was under water in the aquarium, he explained, “to have lunch with Dr. Beebe and some old friends.”
Dr. Beebe wasn't visible. In fact, there wasn't any water, and the room didn't look like the aquarium, but Fred insisted it was so. All his interviews, he said, took place in the aquarium, under water, so his public couldn't find him.
And the radio funny man sat there, in what he swore was a fish kennel, brooding over the news of the day.
"Be careful," he whispered. "Be careful how you pass up hitchhikers in the next few days. It may be your congressman thumbing his way home from his last campaign speech."
Fred acknowledged he had been thinking a lot about the farm problem. He suggested a solution: "Farmers could save themselves the bother of plowing under their crops—by planting their seeds up-side down."
The political campaign made him think of air races.
“A man flies around the world in 19 days,” he exclaimed. “For what?
“A sea gull could have made the trip in two days, and no one would have said anything about it.”
The biggest pests in a comedian's life, in Fred's opinion, are the people who ask: "What is your funniest story?"
"When you kick around a couple of hundred jokes a week, you don't have time for thinking which is best," he asserted, but here are two recent favorites:
(1) The boy who wanted to learn to be a bell ringer. The only way he could practice was to break into belfries. No one caught him at that, but he got into trouble when people walking down the street heard the chimes in Trinity Church playing "Chopsticks."
(2) The woman who lived in a town where water was so scarce she had none for the goldfish bowl. She put casters on the fish, so they could get around the bowl by themselves.
Fred says he gets most of his laughs out of people he knows or has heard about. Some of them:
"The shy business executive who was always grabbing his stenographer's notebook. He wanted to hold her shorthand."
"The Sunday driver who decided to save time. He got up in the morning and drove straight to the hospital."
"The Scottish tavern keeper who saw a Neon sign and started to teach glow worms to spell 'bar and grill."
"The gambler who always went to bed with a penny in one hand in case he tossed in his sleep."
"The man who was thrown out of a community sing after the first practice. They sang in E flat and he was a G-man."
If you want to know the story of his success since he began as an amateur juggler in New England twenty-five years ago, hunt Fred out sometime.
"Tell them," he concluded, "that they can see me in my main office on bench No. 2 of Central Park."