Wednesday, 8 October 2014


Eddie Cantor had not one but two dialect comedians on his show in the mid-1930s. Barney Gorodetsky was better known as Bert Gordon, who was better known as The Mad Russian. Harry Einstein was better known as Parkyakarkus.

Gordon may have been the more famous of the two. His Russian had a couple of catchphrases. Einstein’s Parky didn’t have any. He wasn’t even the only Greek dialectician around; George Givot (the Greek Ambassador of Goodwill) and Bill Thompson (as Nick Depopoulous) both appeared on radio. But Parkyakarkus got his own radio show that ran from 1945-48, one of a number of comedies that didn’t make the transition to television (the radio show, “Meet Me at Parky’s,” was replaced on Mutual with Bible readings). There was talk as early as 1938 of a starring radio vehicle for Parky.

Here’s a syndicated news story from August 3, 1937 when Einstein was working with Al Jolson. He had joined the Lifebuoy show in March after being released from his contract with Cantor. Evidently there were no hard feelings; Parky returned to work with Banjo Eyes on the air the following May. This story favours “as” at the end of his character’s name when Einstein spelled it with a “us.”

Noted “Greek” Comedian Finds Clowning Is Very Serious Affair
Parkyakarkas’ Correct Name Is Harry Einstein

International Illustrated News Writer

New York, Aug. 3—The newlyweds greeted me without a flicker of embarassment when I said, “How do you do, Mr. and Mrs. Parkyakarkas.” It just isn't a funny name to them. But you try saying it, in all seriousness, at the doorway of a swanky hotel suite some time: “Park your carcase.” Whew!
The famous Greek comedian and his dark-haired bride just aren't funny, off stage. In fact, Harry says—his real name is Harry Einstein and he used to be a Boston advertising man—that being funny is a serious job. And she says—she's Thelma Leeds, screen newcomer with a great big voice—that being married is a serious job. Altogether, the comic note is very much lacking.
Clowning Serious Business
The two young people were in the midst of packing to return to Hollywood, with their third attempt to sail to Europe for a honeymoon thwarted by a new picture for Parkyakarkas. They were sorry, of course, but not so sorry that they stopped casting ecstatic glances at each other in between serious remarks about their careers. You could see it didn't matter an awful lot if they had a vacation or went on working. They were “that way” about their lives.
Married ten months, Harry and Thelma have already bought five acres of land in the San Fernando valley, where they plan to build a house with a swimming pool and everything.
The moving picture business is no different from the glove business, to this serious young business man who is coining money by being funny during business hours. And his wife shares his opinions, even to the point of being willing to give up her own business some day if it interfered with his.
“It wouldn't be a sacrifice,” said the pretty brunette, who has only made two pictures so far, “New Faces of 1937” and “Toast of New York,” but whom critics have acknowledged as a young woman of great promise. “Harry is worth more to me than anything else. The most a girl can expect is success till she is about 35, and then she has to have another interest anyway. We hope to have a family, and that would take up my time.”
Can't Even Speak Greek
Mrs. Parkyakarkas, do you speak Greek? (Sounded so silly).
“Oh no,” said Thelma, with a swish of her green taffeta negligee. “I don't even know a Greek.”
“And I can't speak Greek, either,” said Harry.
He adopted Greek ancestry in 1923, when he did some after-dinner speaking and amateur radio work. His father, an importer of Greek foodstuffs, was well acquainted with Greek customs. Harry met many of his father's customers, learned to mimic them. He was called the unofficial Greek consul of Boston, and decided—just for fun—to register the name Parkyakarkas as a trademark.
Then, one day, he went on Eddie Cantor's radio hour as a guest speaker—and the rest is history.
All his brothers and sister are just as good at Greek dialogue as he is. One of his brothers writes a great many of his gags. Only, not being comedians, they are—not such serious people as Mr. and Mrs. Parkyakarkas.

As it turned out, the Einsteins did start a family. Two of their sons are known to comedy fans as Albert Brooks and Bob Einstein, better known as Super Dave Osborne.

Einstein was one of a number of show folk who died immediately after a performance. You can read about it HERE.

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