Well, this would be a perfect day to kick the proverbial bucket, especially one of those in which it has been coming down all day. Most of us seem capable of resisting the impulse, and some wretched creatures are rewarded for their restraint by having to slosh through the muck of life toward senility, whether or not they care to prolong the journey, until they are too fragile to kick at all and waste away ingloriously like an abandoned experiment in resilience. If the Internet Movie Database got it right—and did not merely neglect to keep up with the subject*—one such mortality-resisting mortal might be Budd Hulick, an American radio comedian once known as one of a couple of “gloomchasers.” He was born on this day, 14 November, in 1905.
Hulick was an announcer at station WMAK in Buffalo, New York, where he met his comedy partner, writer-announcer-utility man F. Chase Taylor. Together they became known as Stoopnagle and Budd, an act that sounded fresh and unconventional because the two tossed caution to the wind and did what was generally discouraged on the add-littered airwaves: they ad-libbed.
Indeed, or according to legend, that is just how they got started one October evening in 1930 after a hurricane had caused the network to collapse and CBS affiliates, bereft of their regular transmissions, were temporarily left to send for themselves. Hulick and Budd filled a quarter hour with music and banter, to which impromptu performance the audience responded so favorably that WMAK gave them a regular spot.
While slow to attract a national sponsor, the team proved a popular success on radio in the early to mid-1930s with their show. Together with the big names of vaudeville, wireless and motion pictures, the voices of Stoopnagle and Budd answered the public’s curiosity by appearing alongside W. C. Fields, Rudy Vallee, Burns and Allen, Bela Lugosi, Cab Calloway, and Baby Rose Marie in the Paramount comedy revue International House (1933).
After Stoopnagle and Budd split in 1937, Hulick carried on as a radio quiz show host. It was another unforeseen advent—always dreaded in the big business of unseen entertainment—that turned Hulick into “A Man With a Platform,” the title character of a “musicomedy” by America’s foremost radio playwright, Norman Corwin. Corwin had written this piece “expressly” for Henry Morgan, a caustic radio wit who apparently got his dates mixed up, as the author-director reasoned in his notes on the play, which was broadcast on 2 November 1941. Corwin “quickly revamped the show to accommodate the sly and ingratiating comedy of Budd Hulick.”
As “A Man With a Platform,” Hulick played a know-it-all of the kind we all know: some nobody who thinks that “things should be done about things.” The character sounds familiar today, considering that most people who keep a blog such as this step on the old soap box once in a while (or frequently, even) to advocate and accuse, to bemoan and belittle. We all grab this virtual microphone to voice what we feel passionate about, even though we may be opining without sound argument, in the face of facts we dare others to face.
Mounting his platform, Hulick gets to go on about the inanity of baby talk (as if responding to the phenomenon of the “mommy blogs”) and the need for changes in public education, however questionable his suggestions. Not in favor of “singing the praise of unsung heroes,” the “Man” proposes a “dishonor system,” singling out those “whose annoyance to the public takes the form of chronic overeager optimism” (as if speaking of those who maintain that the war on terror is going well). He even gets to meddle with established broadcasting practices (something that web journalists are wont to do, simply by insisting on doing things their way).
I was glad to have learned about Hulick’s 101st birthday when, rather listless and unsure whether to write anything at all today, I sauntered over to the IMDb, and, after consulting the invaluable GOLDINdex, dug out a recording of Corwin’s play. The “Man” was just the kind of gloomchaser I needed on this miserable November afternoon; indeed, it made me rethink my remarks about kicking the bucket, being that Corwin is still kicking at 96.
*The date of Hulick’s departure has since then been added to the IMDb entry