Al Boasberg

Active - 1926 - 1937  |   Born - Jan 1, 1892   |   Died - Jun 18, 1937   |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Romance

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The son of a Buffalo jeweler, Al Boasberg established himself in the early twenties as one of the foremost comedy writers in America. Boasberg was kept so busy supplying one-liners and special material to vaudevillians like Burns and Allen and Jack Benny that he ultimately set up a weekly wire service, telegraphing jokes to his scores of clients. It was said that virtually half the acts playing the Loews vaudeville circuit were subsisting on Boasberg's material. He headed to Hollywood in 1926 to work for Buster Keaton, contributing gags and bits of business for the Keaton classics The General (1926) and College (1927). Seldom did he write an entire screenplay; instead, he was what now would be called a script doctor, punching up and improving the work of other writers. Disdaining the regimen of studio life, Boasberg preferred working at home, sitting in a huge bathtub and firing off jokes into a Dictaphone. During the talkie era, he contributed extensively to the films of Wheeler and Woolsey and the Marx Brothers; it was he who came up with the celebrated "stateroom scene" for the Marxes' A Night at the Opera (1935). During this period, he also dabbled in directing, helming several two-reel comedies as well as the 1933 feature Myrt and Marge, which co-starred the Three Stooges. While employed as a comedy troubleshooter at MGM in 1936, Boasberg signed on as one of the chief writers for Jack Benny's radio show. At the end of the 1936-37 season, Benny offered Boasberg a dream contract, paying the writer $1500 per week merely to be "on call" if needed. Al Boasberg agreed to the deal, shook hands with Benny, then headed home--where he died the next day at the age of 45.

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