Sunday, August 7, 2016
Joe Smith (originally Joseph Seltzer) and Charlie Dale (originally Charles Marks) grew up in the Jewish ghettos of New York City. Many of the famous comic performers of vaudeville, radio and movies came from the same place and the same era, including Gallagher and Shean, George Burns, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel and The Marx Brothers.
Seltzer and Marks met as teenagers in 1898 and formed a partnership. They named their act "Smith and Dale" because a local printer gave them a good deal on business cards reading "Smith and Dale" (intended for a vaudeville team that had dissolved). Joe Seltzer became Joe Smith, and Charlie Marks became Charlie Dale.
By 1902 they joined two singing comedians, Irving Kaufman (later a popular singer) and Harry Godwin in a team known as The Avon Comedy Four.
By 1919, the act had run its course, and the Avon Comedy Four broke up. Smith and Dale took up where the foursome left off, playing Broadway and vaudeville (including the Palace Theatre, considered the pinnacle of stage venues). Both used a heavy Jewish dialect, with Smith speaking in a deep, pessimistic voice and Dale in a high, wheedling tenor.
During the 1920s, they became famous for their signature sketch "Doctor Kronkheit and His Only Living Patient," which like "Who's on First?" for Abbott and Costello, became one of the famous comedy sketches of the 20th century. The name of the doctor is an inside joke: Smith and Dale, both being Jewish, named the physician Kronkheit, which is Yiddish and German for "sickness". Thus we have a doctor named "Dr. Sickness". Indeed a hospital in German is called a Krankenhaus, or literally "sick house".
(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS. YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)