Sunday, 3 March 2019

Wedlocked to Jack Benny and Jack Pearl

Hugh Wedlock, Jr. and Howard Snyder wrote for Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In but, at the time, they were hardly young hip writers. They had been around about 35 years, going to the early days of radio comedy/variety.

Among the people who employed the two was Jack Benny. They never received credit on his radio show, but apparently filled part of the breach in 1936 when Harry Conn quit/was fired and Ed Beloin and Bill Morrow were hired. Despite that, Benny must have liked them as they co-wrote his last four TV specials.

Here’s Wedlock talking about his career to date to the Long Island Daily Press of November 26, 1938. The photo of Wedlock accompanied the article. Wedlock died in 1993 at the age of 85.

Former Wall St. Runner Now Gagman
Radio Satire His One Ambition

"We work together on every word," the stout man says as he looks to his partner for confirmation.
"Yes, that's the way we work," the man with glasses affirms. "And let me tell you, we fight over every word before a script is finished. Why the two of us are covered with bruises when we have completed a script.
"And one of our difficulties is that we can't tell who hits the hardest. So we shall probably continue writing and fighting for quite some time."
The partners are Hugh Wedlock Jr., and Howard Snyder, script writers who have written gags for Jack Oakie, Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny and Jack Haley.
And six years ago they were making $12.50 as page boys at the Curb Exchange in Manhattan.
Good Old Depression
"We would probably be there yet, writing gags as a hobby," Wedlock laughs. "But we were fired when the depression made itself felt and we decided to write for a living instead of a hobby."
When he is in New York, Wedlock lives at 105-13 84th street, Ozone Park, His parents and brother have been living there for the past 10 years.
"To explain how we got started as gag writers," Wedlock, says. "Howard and myself had been sending gags and ideas for humorous situations to various columnists on the Manhattan papers as well as the humor magazines.
"Then we took our courage in both hands and wrote a script which we submitted to Jack Pearl, who was running his Baron Munchausen series at that time. He used the script but through a misunderstanding we were never paid for it. Shortly after that we lost our jobs at the Curb.
"We thought if we could turn out a script Jack Pearl could use, we must be pretty good. So we decided to really go to work. We heard at the time that Georgie Price was dissatisfied with his gag man and we submitted a script. He liked it and we went to work."
Worked for Benny
After that they did some work for the Mark Hellinger vaudeville show until they had a chance to go to California to work with Jack Benny. They worked with the comedian on his "Buck Benny Rides Again" series and then went with 20th Century Fox to do work on pictures.
"We worked on several pictures," Wedlock says. "But it is hard to give you an idea of just what part of our work went into the finished picture. At a story conference in a movie studio there is a whole staff of writers and each man contributes an idea which is discussed and then either rejected or kept for further inspection.
"Some of our ideas were used in the picture 'Sally, Irene and Mary' but don't ask me which were ours. Sometimes they take a suggestion and let another man work on it. He embroiders it with his own style and the resulting piece of business is often unrecognizable to the man who suggested the idea in the first place."
At present Hugh Wedlock and his partner Howard Snyder, are in Chicago working with Billy House on a forthcoming radio program, the Laugh Liner. House is a vaudeville comedian who is making his radio debut with the program.
Not Bad Money
When Wedlock and Snyder started writing radio scripts they were paid $100 per script. But now they receive $1,000 per script and are known as the highest paid gag writers in the business.
"How do we work?" Wedlock chuckles. "That's a laugh in itself. We usually start about six in the evening and work through until about six the following morning. After a stormy session Snyder and I are not on speaking terms until the middle of the afternoon but somehow we finish our work and it is usually funny."
The scripts are rewritten word by word many times before the laugh team submits the finished product to the radio comedian. After preliminary rehearsals the show is previewed before an audience.
"Sometimes that means an entirely new script," Wedlock laments. "A gag which went over big in rehearsal may fall flat—in other words it has no audience appeal. Those gags must be ironed out before the program goes on the air."
One of Wedlock's favorite jokes is one of the cracks he was forced to eliminate from a script because it didn't get laughs from the preview audience.
"It's in the form of a classified advertisement," Wedlock says. "It goes like this:
"Couple wants to go to California. Will share expenses with a refined gypsy family.
'Oh well. I thought it was funny when I wrote it."
What was the hardest job the team has worked on?
"The present job is always the hardest," Wedlock declares. "When we are working on a job, we have to have our style fit the personality and manner of delivery of the comedian. It is obvious that Jack Benny and Jack Oakie, for instance, do not work in the same manner. But we turned out scripts for both men and had to please them or else."
Everybody's O. K.
"Who did we like to write for?" Wedlock hesitates for a moment.
"That puts me on the spot. I liked to work for all of them but it was easiest to work with Jack Benny. I'll put it that way. Benny does not expect a laugh in every line. He is content with a handful of really good gags."
Wedlock and Snyder have one overpowering ambition. They want to write a play for Broadway production.
"It will be a satire on the radio industry," Wedlock says. "There isn't a line on paper yet but we want it to be different. We are going to avoid the idea of panning the sponsor who wants to have his finger in every part of the radio program. That angle has been overworked. No, I can't say what we will feature in this satire, we change our mind too often for that. But it will be good, if we ever get around to writing it."
Wedlock and Snyder offer a study in contrast. They are about the same height but Wedlock is easily 50 pounds heavier. Snyder is the irrepressible member of the team while Wedlock is more restrained and is not so enthusiastic in his speech or actions.
Snyder is single while Wedlock takes his wife Margaret with him on tour.
"Just wait until next month when the Laugh Liner comes on the air," Wedlock promises. "It will be better than good."

1 comment:

  1. Wedlock and Snyder received credit as well on at least one of Jack's filmed half-hour episodes, "Main Street Shelter" from the 1961-62 season.