Peg Lynch

peg

I thought I knew everything. But until I read Mike Sacks’ terrific new book about comedy writing called Poking a Dead Frog, I had never heard the name Peg Lynch.  Even though in her day she was a huge star.

She was a comedy performer on radio and later television in the 1940’s and 1950’s. But her even larger talent was as a writer. She claimed to have singled-handed written more than twenty thousand scripts for her enormously popular series Ethel and Albert. That’s not a typo. Twenty thousand.

At one point she was writing two 15-minute shows everyday. (I got anxious just writing that last sentence.) Apparently her bosses didn’t know the meaning of the word re-run.

A Minnesota native, Peg Lynch died Friday. She was still writing comedy at the age of 98.

Lynch graduated from the University of Minnesota, then worked for a local radio station in Rochester where she interviewing celebrities like Knute Rockne and Ernest Hemingway who came through the Mayo Clinic where her mother worked as a head nurse. Peg wrote commercial copy and farm news and eventually entertainment programs.

In 1937, long before Seinfeld, she too began writing a “show about nothing,” Ethel and Albert. Long on conversation between a married couple, but with less in the way of “action,” over the years it would be heard on ABC, CBS and NBC radio and, for a time, seen on television.

Unheard of today, of course, she wrote every word of every script herself. Peg Lynch was one of the first women to write, star in and own her own comedy series. It goes without saying, I guess, but she was something.

2 Responses

  1. “Unheard of today, of course…” Uh, no…for those of us who collect and revere old-time radio, Peg is quite well-known. Thank heavens my now-17-year-old daughter was lucky enough not only to meet her, but to see her perform some of her Ethel and Albert routines with Bob Hastings as Albert. (My favorite Albert was Bob Dryden, but that goes back some years.)

    I saw her last three or four years ago, and she was still extemporaneously hilarious, able to “write” lines and complete stories on-the-fly. And no one, and I mean no one, could sound so completely natural while delivering the most outrageous lines imaginable. She told me many people would ask her how she heard them talking in the privacy of their home…

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