Today we take for granted comedy TV shows like The Office, Two and a Half Men, My Name Is Earl and others. They are sitcoms short for situation comedies. What’s the history of the sitcom? How did we get to the comedic form we are all so familiar with. Sure there are roots in theatre from Shakespeare on through Vaudeville, but mass market sitcoms started first on radio twenty years before the first commercial TV comedy.
One of the first, and by far the most sucessful radio comedy shows was Fibber McGee and Molly. It ran on NBC from 1935 thru 1959. Twenty four years is a long run for any show, radio or TV.
The Cast of Fibber McGee and Molly. Click for a larger version.
The show was created by Jim Jordan (Fibber McGee), Marian Jordan (Molly) and the show’s writer Don Quinn. Not only was he the creator of the show, but for many years was the only writer on the show. Don Quinn grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As a young man he had a paper route that included homes as well as businesses. One business was Kremer’s Rexall Drugstore at the corner of Franklin and Eastern. The store was owned by my grandfather, Edward Kremer. He was the pharmacist and ran the store. Back in those days a pharmacist was often referred to as “Doc” so my grandfather’s nickname was “Doc Kremer”. His store included an old fashioned soda fountain and Don Quinn used to stop by on his route for a soda. He and Doc Kremer became friends. After he moved on to Chicago to create Fibber McGee and Molly he added Kremer’s Drugstore to the show as well as the character of Ed “Doc” Kremer. Kremer’s Drugstore and Doc Kremer made appearances during the complete run of the show. Kremer’s Drugstore and Doc Kremer also were referenced on the TV show Petticoat Junction a show that was created and written by former Fibber writer Paul Henning.
Recently I was given the original letters that Don Quinn sent to my grandfather as well as a page from an original script from a 1944 show. In the letters Don refers to Johnson and Johnson’s Products. The sponsor of the show for many years was Johnson Wax.
A letter from 1937 from Don Quinn to “Doc” Kremer about one of the first times Kremer’s Drugstore is mentioned on the show. Click for a larger version.
Kremer’s Drugstore circa 1938-1940. Click here for a larger version.
In 1944 “Fibber McGee and Molly was one of the most listened to shows on radio. The country was in the midst of World War Two and rationing was in full swing. The show found humor in cigarette rationing and another letter from Don Quinn to Doc Kremer about Kremer’s Drugstore on the show:
Here’s the script page he mentions:
The local Grand Rapids, Michigan newspaper did an article about the show, and they featured Doc Kremer (on the right) as he sold a carton of cigarettes to a customer.
The story of Kremer’s Drugstore is featured in Mikey Smith’s Book “How Fibber McGee and Molly Won World War 2″ now available on Amazon.com.