Ole Olsen (1892-1963) and Chic Johnson (1891-1962) were, along with the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello and The Three Stooges, among the most popular comedy teams in vaudeville. Their free-wheeling, improvisational play Hellzapoppin
, which was touted as "never the same show twice," became an immediate sensation when it opened on Broadway in 1938 and ran for over 1400 performances. The film version followed in 1941, after which the duo made a few more movies (including Crazy House and Ghost Catchers) while returning to the stage and appearing on television periodically.
All-Star Review: In this 1951 episode from the popular NBC series, which featured rotating hosts, "The Olsen & Johnson Show" takes center stage, with the pair appearing in a number of hilarious sketches, including a Western spoof, a version of "Marie Antoinette" that turns the French Revolution upside down and a fast-paced satire of Shakespearean theater in which the actors quote dialogue from any number of classic plays at random.
The Milton Berle Show - Hellzapoppin '56: In a 1956 episode of his legendary comedy series, Milton Berle celebrates Olsen & Johnson's 35th anniversary in show business with a special tribute to Hellzapoppin, complete with dancing girls, rubber chickens, seltzer bottles and pies in the face - all before the first commercial break! There's also a "tribute" to Noel Coward (involving a gorilla!) in the Hellzapoppin spirit that "anything can happen.. and probably will!" A bonus is the original commercials, most notably a Kukla, Fran and Ollie ad promoting the "new" Whirlpool washing machines. Berle ultimately dedicates the show to Olsen & Johnson, calling them "two of the funniest men ever to give laughs to our great country."