American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2012 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 12

Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy

1903 – 1975

Network radio was a natural medium for comedians, singers and actors, but what was Edgar Bergen, a ventriloquist, doing with his own national program for 20 years from 1936 through 1956. Making people laugh through his alter ego, Charlie McCarthy. The strength of a “vent’s” act is supposed to be the ability to give voice to a wooden figure without an audience detecting the human moving his lips.

Edgar and Charlie became a national craze because technique was second to comedy. Edgar was a smart comedy writer and he created contrasting stage personalities for himself (calm, slightly prissy and pedantic) and Charlie (bright, witty and sexually precocious). Together they represented one of network radio’s most popular comedy teams. Bergen’s double act also proved successful in movies, and he later worked only when he wished. Occasionally he branched out into solo dramatic roles. He announced his retirement while playing Las Vegas and died shortly thereafter.