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November 11: Happy Birthday, Joe Penner

An ethnic Hungarian born on November 11th, 1904 as József Pintér, Joe Penner passed through Ellis Island as a child when his family moved to New York City. Penner began his successful radio career with the help of Rudy Vallee, who helped him earn his own radio show, The Baker’s Broadcast. The program began on NBC’s Blue Network on October 8th, 1933. Penner’s crazy, zany comic style was punctuated by his catchphrase, “Wanna buy a duck?” 

Joe Penner was voted as radio’s top comedian of 1934, but an ad dispute caused him to quit his radio show. Vox Pop began as a summer replacement series for Penner in 1935 until the creation of The Joe Penner Show on radio in 1936. Penner died of heart failure in 1941 at the young age of 36.


  1. Unfortunately, there are people who cringe at the mere mention of Joe Penner's name, and they trash him as annoying and unfunny, but I've always enjoyed his radio and film work.

  2. Egghead.

    I think we may have all been introduced to him in WB cartoons.

    Something that I've noticed about Joe's 1930s radio shows....He was a lot like Lou Costello in that while he was enjoyed by adults, he had a special way of relating to children. You can tell by the way he signs off his program, with a special "Good-night" to the kids.

    My earliest influences, the things that got me started on my lifelong exploration of classic comedy, were Hope in Road to Zanzibar, Cantor in Thank Your Lucky Stars and Joe in The Boys From Syracuse. I thought he was hilarious and I still do. I saw the film again recently, the only crummy bootleg print available on DVD, and while the movie has diminished in my estimation, Joe hasn't. He was just a naturally funny man and it's tragic that he left us so soon.

  3. While Joe had various radio series during the 1930s, my personal favorite was the "Park Avenue Penners" series that he did in 1936-1938. It was a sitcom format with a very funny premise: Joe's family was wealthy and refined...He had a Margaret Dumont-type mother, a dignified businessman father, a snobbish brother, etc., and Joe was considered (and billed as) "The Black Sheep of the family". The other family members would be oh-so-veddy proper and in would come Joe Penner (who they all called "Joseph"), acting like Joe Penner and constantly embarrassing the others. It may sound like a one-joke idea, but the contrast was hilarious, and the scripts were well-written and funny.

    I've heard three episodes of "The Park Avenue Penners", and I wish more existed, and certainly that more "Baker's Broadcast" shows existed from when he was at his peak.

    The Famous Phyllis' comment on Penner: "He wasn't very funny, but he was popular." That was the day I first met her, so I was just surprised there's somebody old enough to remember him!

  4. How many times have you sat through "College Rhythm"? "GOOO-goo! GOOOO-gooo!" God bless Joe and I'm sorry his life was so brief and his fame so short, but....let's say he's an acquired taste.

    I'm a big fan of Joe's RKO films, and of Boys from Syracuse. He is definitely an acquired taste, like Pee Wee Herman, or Martin Short. His sense of total silliness, mixed with a very original and unique persona make him a winner with me.


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