Today is the birthday of legendary comedy writer Al Boasberg, born this day in Buffalo in 1892. He began writing in vaudeville for the likes of Jack Benny and Burns and Allen (he wrote their best loved routine “Lambchops” in 1925). He naturally gravitated to radio where he wrote for the aforementioned stars as well as Bob Hope, Eddie Cantor and the Marx Bros (“Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel”). At the same time he was a gag man on silents for the likes of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. When talkies came along he supplied dialogue for top Hollywood comedians like Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers (he is said to have come up with the stateroom sequence in A Night at the Opera). At one time he was said to be writing gags for 150 separate clients. That’s a lot of comedy…which is a lot of work. Which is perhaps why he died of a heart attack in 1937.
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.