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Gay jokes from the Golden Age of Radio

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Intro to series

Radio censorship was funny. Much different from the stifling Hays Code imposed upon the movies, where even an oblique reference that Gay people exist in the world was verboten, radio scripts were checked for certain words established in the 1920s as unpleasant. So, for example, one could not say “belly” or name most other body parts. The word “lousy” was frowned upon, as well as “flea” and “flea-bitten.” Also, “stink” was a no-go, but radio writers loved leading up to these black-listed terms with rhymes so the listening audience could say the word(s) in the uncensored comfort of their living rooms.

And although you could not say “butt” on the air, you could say “jackass” as often as you wanted. So, as I say, radio censorship was funny, and the writers and performers gleefully exploited the gaps in logic.

Camp humor abounds, and most is of the entirely unnecessary double-entendre variety. No masks were needed; one could come right out and say the darndest things about same-sex love. And, to their enduring credit, none of this humor was backbiting, mean-spirited or interested in projecting Gay black-face type stereotypes (of the type so rampant on TV – Still – to this day).     

So, our first offering of this type of Gay joke will come from the Bob Hope show.




In a live broadcast from the University of Arizona at Tucson on March 12th, 1946, Bob’s special guest was blond, hunky matinee idol Sonny Tufts.



Bob Hope: Sonny, how do you like it up here in Tucson?

Sonny Tufts: Fine, Bob, but this is quite a long trip for you, isn’t it?

Bob Hope: No, not much longer than usual. You know, I’m always pretty close to the border.

Sonny Tufts: Yeah, and if I were you, I’d see a psychiatrist about it.

[Audience takes a moment to get it, then laughs and laughs]

Bob Hope: (wryly) You be careful, Tufts. The bigger they are, the harder I fall.  




[As a musical treat, do yourself a favor and go back to min. 6:52 and listen to Skinnay Ennis sing Madame Pompadour. Even GIs roared, stomped and hooted for him more than “girl” singers of the day. What a talent!]




Edited by AC Benus
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20 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

He was quite a hunk, indeed. How did the network censors let these slip by?

Well, as I say in my opening remarks -- things like this did not "slip by" anybody. They were censor-reviewed and fully blessed. The acknowledgement of Gay people was not censored on the radio, at all. It was different from the Hays Code, and radio professionals seemed to relish this liberality of freedom of expression. 

In the same broadcast, another Gay joke opens the show. Just seconds into the airing, the host has this to say:


Bob Hope: Well, here I am, in Tucson, Arizona. That’s a sand dune with a traffic lights . . . I’m just kidding; I got my laugh. It’s a lovely city. And everybody here dresses like cowboys, and it’s pretty confusing too. You don’t dare take a chance at whistling at a pair of high heels until they get close enough to smell the perfume.

[Audience laugh]

I know. I spent all last night doing the rumba with a foreman from the Double-R [Bar].

[Audience gasps/laughs.]

. . . That’s some ranch . . . .


[Perhaps the Double-R Bar was a Gay establishment, judging by the audience’s astonishment at this punchline.]


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Fred Allen often told downright dirty (sexually suggestive) jokes on the air, but his high level of erudition and sheer delight in wordplay often leaves a listener ‘coming up’ with the dirty connection to the joke some time later.

Jack Benny and his crew occasionally engaged audiences with suggestive images, but – because he was the most listened-to and highly compensated comedian in showbiz [[signing a 5-year, $4 million contract with CBS in 1949!!!]] – he had to maintain some plausible deniability.

Bob Hope on the other hand was a dirty SOB! The off-color jokes he told on the air relied on initiated humor, and therefore seem to have sailed past the censors for decades, from the late 1930s to the mid 1950s. He truly did not seem to care; anything for a laugh. Unfortunately, with his move to TV, it all had to be toned down.   

So, with this in mind, I present a moment from a Hope opening monologue. This was said on January 15th, 1951, at a live broadcast from Fort Ord, California, near Bing Crosby’s famous Pebble Beach golf club.





Bob Hope: I’m playing at Bing’s golf tournament up here at Pebble Beach. I expect to be way out in front, waiting for the winners to come in. […]

[Audience lughs]

And it was really windy out there today. I don’t know if it was blowing hard or not, but I had the only caddy on the course with two Adam’s apples.

[Unsure audience response]

You see . . . it was . . . blowing hard . . . he had his mouth . . . .

[Dirty sniggers from the audience]




Bing with some of his Pebble Beach "boys"


Now, if someone can tell me how this ‘joke’ is funny, except as an allusion to man-on-man oral sex, I’d be interested to learn ;)  



Edited by AC Benus
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