Stars of Vaudeville # 926: “Senator” Edward Hastings Ford
Edward Hastings Ford (1887-1970) was a vaudeville comedian who later went on to even greater fame in radio. References to the Brooklyn-born Ford’s stage career can be found as early as 1906. By the 1920s he was known professionally as “Senator Ed Ford from Michigan”.
According to Marian Spitzer, Ford initially started out as a visual artist, and some of his “baseball figurines” are in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York. Ford became popular as an after dinner speaker at places like the Lambs’ Club. I recently had a chance to visit trhe Lambs and found a huge amount of Ford memorabilia hanging there, including paintings done by his own hand, including this one of fellow Lamb Bert Lahr:
By 1931, he was telling his jokes on the stage of the Palace. His character has been described as “dour-faced” and “deadpan”, and he was said to be sullen in real life as well — but a hilarious joke teller. You can get a flavor of his act on this 1923 record album:
In 1940, he guested on the radio show Stop Me If You Heard This One, a joke telling program hosted by Milton Berle, and starring Jay C. Flippen, Lionel Stander and others. In 1940 he created the show Can You Top This?, which ran on the Mutual Network through 1954, featuring a panel of comedians called “the Knights of the Clown Table”, which included himself, Joe Laurie, Jr, and Harry Hershfield. Their job was to tell jokes submitted by the audience and then try top them, often with their own material. A short-lived TV version of the show ran from 1950 through 1951.
To learn more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.