The Unsung Genius of Radio Humorist Paul Rhymer
From 1932-1946, daytime radio broadcast a show that might be called a cross between Seinfeld and The Andy Griffith Show in hindsight, a surreal small-town comedy, nestled among the more typical melodramatic soap opera froth.
Vic and Sade told the absurdist tale of a family of three who lived in “the small house halfway up in the next block.”
At the height of popularity, it was estimated to have 7 million devoted listeners, according to Time magazine, with the more than 3500 episodes during its 14-year run all penned by one man, Paul Rhymer.
VIC & SADE 101: Who are the Characters?
WikiSwipe: “For the majority of its span on the air, Vic and Sade was heard in 15-minute episodes without a continuing storyline. The central characters, known as “radio’s home folks,” were accountant Victor Rodney Gook (Art Van Harvey), his wife Sade (Bernadine Flynn) and their adopted son Rush (Bill Idelson). In 1940, Art Van Harvey became ill, and Sade’s Uncle Fletcher (Clarence Hartzell) was added to the cast to fill the place of the missing male lead. When Van Harvey recovered his health, Uncle Fletcher was kept on as a fourth character. Part of the magic of Vic and Sade is that all of the action, all of the people and all of the places in the town were created strictly through the dialogue, as frequently discussed by Vic, Sade, Rush and Uncle Fletcher.”
For years, Rhymer had a “typical weekday” routine, with mornings scriptwriting, late afternoons spent with his family, and nights at the radio station. But did he write a daytime soap opera? Kind of, sort of, but not really though.
WikiSwipe: “Vic and Sade was technically a ‘soap opera,’ in time slots slanted toward an audience of housewives, and sponsored by food items and cleaning products. Rhymer evidently felt some pressure from the sponsor’s advertising agencies to include more romance and human interaction into his scripts, like the other daytime dramas on the air. Rhymer complied in his own dry way, by adding ridiculous touches (his romantic lead, Dwight Twentysixler, always speaks with his “mouth full of shingle nails”!) and oddball characters (Orville Wheeney, the slow-witted gas-meter man; Jimmy Custard, the crochety town official who never quite makes clear what he does; Mr. Sprawl, the frail old man who dotes on “peanuts with chocolate smeared on the outsides”).”
While his work goes widely unheard today, echoes of Rhymer’s distinctive humor can still be felt in American television shows like the aforementioned The Andy Griffith Show (for which the “grown-up” Rush, Bill Idelson, wrote episodes) and Seinfeld, Brit comedies such as The Mighty Boosh, and NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion radio series.
- pete petrisko, odd man out phx.