chapter  12
15 Pages

Tick Tock Goes the Musical Clock: Time Discipline and Early Morning Radio Programs

WithAlexander Russo

In 1947, during a famous fi ght with NBC, comedian and variety show host Fred Allen described a mythical vice president of “Ah! Ah! You’re running too long” who sat in a “little glass closet with a mother of pearl gong.” When programs went over time, Allen asserted that this executive would “thump the gong with a mushroom tied to the end of a xylophone stick,” taking the program off the air, saving precious minutes and seconds that the executive would then save up and use for his vacation. Allen and Portland, his wife and sidekick, concluded that this executive (and presumably all of network radio) “was living on borrowed time” and “enjoying every minute of it.”1 The aesthetics of time borrowing, from whom, and for what ends, frames this chapter.