Cuckoo for the KUKU Hour

The KUKU Hour premiered January 1, 1930 on the NBC Blue Network. In 1929, while writing for NBC, Raymond Knight was approached by Bertha Brainard. Brainard, a programming executive for NBC and radio pioneer in her own right was looking for something comedic and fresh. She asked Knight to come up with something “cuckoo” for the NBC Blue Network.

Raymond Knight had a talent for turning the mundane aspects of everyday life into comedy. Knight was an unusual fellow. Born in 1899, he initially sought a career in law. He attended Boston University law school and passed the bar exam. Shortly thereafter, he fell ill and was bedridden. During this time, Knight began to contemplate a career change. After his recovery, he began to study theater and writing.

In response to Brainard’s request, Knight came up with the KUKU Hour. Actually, the show ran only thirty minutes, but that did not distract from its audience appeal. The KUKU Hour was an invented broadcast from a fictional radio station with the call letters, KUKU. One of his characters, Professor Ambrose J. Weems entertained the audience with his sarcasm and humor. The professor and his sidekick, Mrs. Pennyfeather engaged in discussions surrounding current events of the day. Ambrose had a propensity for drifting off topic and into a tangent, before he wound his way back on track. Mrs. Pennyfeather also had her quirks. She ran a Personal Service for Perturbed People, in which she offered disturbing and nonsensical advice on everything from household chores to cooking.

The show enjoyed success, because it was not tainted by the popular and overdone vaudevillian comedy. The material was fresh and funny. Although the show switched back and forth between the Blue and Red Networks, it never lost its comedic and appealing edge. The last show aired on March 9, 1936. Raymond Knight enjoyed future success in radio and on the stage until his death in 1953.

This rare “Cuckoo Program” is available on Random Rarities #6

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