Radio Dramas Are Alive and Well With Good Humor Radio Hour

By Zach Mosca
Jambar Contributor

Last week, people who tuned to 570 WKBN got a taste of old-time radio drama programs as the Youngstown State University telecommunications department hosted Good Humor Radio Hour on April 16 and 17.

YSU telecommunication professor Fred Owens is in charge of the program that has been airing for three years, and each year has new shows for listeners to enjoy.

Owens said that prior to the invention of the television, people across the world got their prime-time entertainment through radio.

Prior to television, virtually all prime-time entertainment was done through radio drama, according to Owens.

“We do our shows in that style, but our stories are contemporary,” he said.

Owens said this year’s show included three stories about various locations in Cleveland.

“Three of them were written by a fellow who was an author in residence at Ideastream, which is the public television station in Cleveland. While he was there he wrote a number of plays about locations in Cleveland and we’re doing three of those,” he said.

These shows included “The Pepperonis,” a story about a mob boss who runs a pizza shop trying to keep his mob on track while trying to maintain his family life; “West Side Market,” a story about a struggling family trying to sell perogies; and “Cleveland Clinic,” a story about dysfunctional patients who all need treated at the same time.

In addition to the three stories about Cleveland, there was also a fourth show, which was an audio noir titled “Blues For Johnny Raven: The Ambience Man” reminiscent of old detective stories from the 1940s.

Douglas Campbell, a junior broadcast and digital media major provided the voice of Pete, the main character of “West Side Market.” Campbell said while he did some acting in high school, he had never done voice acting on radio before, so this was a brand new experience for him.

“It’s a bit more challenging than doing stage work because with stage work, you get to use everything around you … but with the Good Humor Radio Hour and audio in general, it’s a bit more of a challenge because your only outlet is your voice,” Campbell said.

Despite this increase in difficulty, Campbell enjoyed this challenge and said he would love to take part in the program again.

“Seeing how the next one coming up is going to be a Halloween one, I’m definitely interested in seeing if I can challenge myself to make a spooky type of voice,” Campbell said.

Meredith Pallo, a sophomore telecommunication major, had a minor speaking role in “Blues For Johnny Raven,” but her main duty with the program was providing various sound effects for the shows.

Unlike most modern productions where sound effects are provided via an electronic sound board, all of the sounds from the Good Humor Radio Hour are natural. Pallo said that this method, while more challenging, is much more engaging than simply pressing a button for sounds.

“There’s certain things with physical elements that you have to get just right, and that can be a little difficult versus just pressing a button to queue up a tape in the background, but I do think it’s a lot more fun to work with the items physically versus just pressing buttons,” Pallo said.

According to Owens, Good Humor Radio Hour has been a great success with each show they’ve done, and more people want to get involved.

“People want to get involved in it because there are a lot of actors out there who have great voices, but might not be able to get on a stage and act, but for radio, you always have the script in hand, so it’s really an exciting way of doing a production,” Owens said.

YSU students who want to get into voice acting or radio in general can find an opportunity with future productions from the Good Humor Radio Hour to make their voices heard across the airwaves in Youngstown.