Jed Dooley and Siblings

August 4th was the birthday of vaudeville performer Jed Dooley (1884-1973). Thanks to Thomas Reeder, author of the 2021 book Time is Money! The Century, Rainbow, and Stern Brothers Comedies of Julius and Abe Stern I’ve been able to lock down a few details about the act.

Jed started performing in carnivals in the early years of the 20th century, working himself up to the Keith Circuit. His first partner in his act was his wife Ethel, whom he performed with starting around the mid-teens.

We can thank Vaudeville America for sharing the information that Ethel broke up with Jed onstage and off and went on to partner (offstage and on) with Walter Ward in an act called “What We Can Do” which featured bike stunts, rope twirling, snappy patter and a dance specialty. The act was very well received. Their son Jay also went into vaudeville. A 1927 notice in Variety announced that he had won an American Legion contest for “Most Typical American Boy”. (Don’t get too excited, he’s not the same Jay Ward from Bullwinkle. I checked).

Meanwhile Jed teamed briefly with his younger brother Billy, who later became a comedy star at Christie. Jed and Billy appear to be unrelated to the Dooley Family (of whom the best known is probably Ray), a natural mistake (or assumption) that some made back in the day. Then Jed returned to a solo act that featured stand-up comedy, bike and lasso stunts, and saxophone playing. At some point his second wife, Audrey Evans joined the act as his assistant.

Jed Dooley was in seven of The Newlyweds silent film series for the Stern Brothers, which launched in 1926. In 1942 he appeared in The Theater Guild’s play Mr. Sycamore starring Stuart Erwin and Lillian Gish. He entertained troops during World War Two. And he appeared on two TV shows, The Lone Ranger (1950), and The Cases of Eddie Drake (1953).

For more on vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.