Joe Penner was a household name in the thirties. He had his own radio show and made movies with Lucille Ball, Betty Grable, and Lyda Roberti. They used him as a character in animated cartoons, and everyone got the joke. But people seeing him in the cartoons don't usually get the joke today.
RadioPenner developed his catch phrases in burlesque. In 1932 he toured in a vaudeville revue with Eddie Tamblyn, father of Russ. He was launched on his successful radio career by Rudy Vallée, appearances which led to his own Sunday evening half-hour, The Baker's Broadcast, which began on the Blue Network October 8, 1933. Penner was a zany comic, noted for his famed catchphrase, "Wanna buy a duck?", and his low hyuck-hyuck laugh. Penner's other memorable catchphrase, often triggered by someone else's double entendre remark, was, "You naaaasss-ty man!"
He was voted radio's top comedian in 1934, but a 1935 dispute with the ad agency over the show's format resulted in Penner quitting The Baker's Broadcast on June 30, 1935. Vox Pop began as a summer replacement series for Penner in 1935. A year later, he returned with The Joe Penner Show, which began airing October 4, 1936 on CBS, sponsored by Cocomalt.
FilmsHis films include College Rhythm (1934), New Faces of 1937 (1937), The Day the Bookies Wept (1939) and Millionaire Playboy (1940). He was caricatured by Tex Avery and Friz Freleng in the musical cartoon, "My Green Fedora", "Can You Take It?" a "Popeye the Sailor" cartoon (Max Fleischer for Paramount), and several pictures starring the bumbling stooge Egghead. He also made a cameo in the Disney cartoon "Mother Goose Goes Hollywood" in which he says, "Wanna buy a duck?", and then shows Donald Duck on a plate.
Jack Pearl, Elizabeth McLeod summed up Penner's popularity:
The ultimate Depression-era zany was Joe Penner. A forgotten performer today to most, and little more than a footnote to the average OTR [old-time radio] fan, Penner was a national craze in 1933–34. There is no deep social meaning in his comedy, no shades of subtlety — just utter slapstick foolishness, delivered in an endearingly simpering style that's the closest thing the 1930s had to Pee-wee Herman. An added attraction was Penner's in-character singing each week of a whimsical novelty song, specially written to suit his style. Like Pearl, however, Penner was doomed to early decline by the sheer repetitiveness of his format, even though he remained very popular with children right up to the end of his radio career.
DeathPenner died of heart failure in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1941, aged 36.
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Joe Penner was more famous as a radio comedian, but he also made some movies. In 1934, Joe Penner was in COLLEGE RHYTHM with Lyda Roberti. And of course he had the duck with him.
MOTHER GOOSE GOES HOLLYWOOD
"Egghead" was given Joe Penner's voice and looked something like him, although it's also been suggested that Harry Langdon ( who played a character named "Egghead" in HALLELUJAH I'M A BUM ) was a possible source of inspiration.* Egghead later became Elmer Fudd.
Joe Penner In Comic Books
Joe Penner and his duck appeared as characters in this 1938 comic book. Cocomalt was the sponsor of his radio program, THE JOE PENNER SHOW.
Joe Penner with Lyda Roberti in COLLEGE RHYTHM.
Alice Faye sings OH YOU NASTY MAN in GEORGE WHITE SCANDALS.
DAFFY DUCK & EGGHEAD:
Egghead and Harry Langdon:
MY GREEN FEDORA: