Born John Florence Sullivan on May 31, 1894, Fred Allen began his career in vaudeville before becoming one of radio’s most acerbic and admired wits.
Allen and his wife, former chorus girl Portland Hoffa, began their radio career on October 23, 1932, starring on The Linit Bath Club Revue. By 1934, Allen was starring on Town Hall Tonight, a one-hour show which featured Allen examining current events and interviewing unusual guests. It was here that Allen began radio’s longest-running “feud” in 1937, when he made a series of jokes about fellow comedian Jack Benny.Allen’s best-remembered feature was “Allen’s Alley,” a weekly segment in which he would discuss issues of the day with eccentric creations like the blustery Senator Claghorn, Brooklyn housewife Pansy Nussbaum and stoic New Englander Titus Moody. Allen was known to read up to nine newspapers a day and often spent 12 to 14 hours a day writing and re-writing his scripts.
Poor health forced Allen off the air in 1944, but he returned in the fall of 1945 with The Fred Allen Show, which lasted until June 26, 1949.
Fred Allen died on March 17, 1956.
He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988.