Running Gags on Fibber McGee
The Closet at 79 Wistul Vista
A large part of the delight audiences found in the Fibber McGee and Molly Show were the running gags that would appear in almost every show. These elements were usually funny on their own, but thanks to Don Quinn's skillful writing, the gags increased in value the more they were used. Audiences would wait, often guffawing in anticipation to see how the gag would be incorporated into the latest broadcast.
Molly would quip "T'ain't Funny McGee!" in when Fibber tells an especially bad joke, and the phrase would be used by many during the 1940's.
When Fibber makes a phone call he winds up chatting with Myrt, the operator. "Oooohh, is that you Myrt? How's every little thing Myrt?" And Myrt proceeds to tell him about every little thing, but we only hear Fibber's end of the conversation, to great comic effect.
The middle commercial was also a recurring comic element. Announcer Harlow Wilcox would become part of the scene in Wistful Vista. He would then turn whatever the conversation was into a plug for a Johnson Wax product. Over the years Fibber caught on to this and would joke with the audience about it, having nicknamed Wilcox "Waxy" after his seeming monomania.
The most loved and remembered of the running gags is Fibber McGee's Closet. The Closet first appearing in the March 5, 1940 broadcast, "Cleaning the Closet." Fibber needs his dictionary which is in the hall closet. When Molly opens the door she finds herself buried in a mountain of oddments and junk from over the years. Cleaning the closet becomes the plot of this episode, but the Closet managed to hang on for years. Whenever the closet door was opened, it wasn't only a treat for the audience, but great fun for the sound effects men. Quinn was careful not to use the gag twice in consecutive episodes, and he always placed in different spots in the show and varied the length of the gag. "Fibber McGee's Closet" is now part of the American vernacular as a reference to household clutter. The closet gag would close with Fibber's lamenting "I gotta clean out that closet one of these days."
March 5, 1940 "Cleaning the Closet"
The first broadcast to introduce "The Closet" gag
broadcast compliments of Old Time Radio