Vaudeville’s Greatest Comedy Writer: Al Boasberg

Boasberg, framed by a couple of his mouthpieces

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 vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from etc etc etc




3 Responses to “Vaudeville’s Greatest Comedy Writer: Al Boasberg”

  1. About halfway through No Applause…like it a lot. HAve developed an interet in vaudeville history recently after coming into possession of an old, beat up table once owned by Harry Mock (who?) – superintendent of Hammerstien’s Victoria in its heyday. Table covered with over 500 signatures – Houdini, Cohan, Keaton, Will Rogers, Ziegfeld, Willie Hammerstein, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Jack Johnson, John L. Sullivan, Eva Tanguay, Bert Williams, William Morris, Martin Beck, Victor Herbert, Winsor McKay, Rube Goldberg…need I go on? Vaudeville was an amazing cultural crossroads.

      • I have photos and a spreadsheet listing the names. Been able to identify about 350 of the 500 that are readable. Be glad to send them to you but unclear about whether I can attach them to this. Direct email would be easier.

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