AVM

American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2010 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 38

Olsen & Johnson

Ole Olsen 1892 - 1963

Chic Johnson 1891 – 1962

 

For decades Olsen & Johnson held the Broadway record for a long run with Hellzapoppin, a show that opened in 1938 and stayed on the Main Stem for 1400 performances. Adding their next two shows to the total, Olsen & Johnson captivated Broadway audiences for nearly six out of the seven years between 1938 and 1945. One hellzapoppin’ record.

Success was not overnight.  They spent thirty years in vaudeville learning all the tricks. They were down-to-earth entertainers whose only goal was to entertain and get folks to laugh. They never were able to transfer their stage success to movies, radio or television. The TV screen was too small to capture the mad, three-ring circus antics of an O&J show; the movies demanded a narrative and Ole and Chic didn’t favor story lines and radio was out because you had to see them to believe.

Olsen’s & Johnson’s revues provided the last hurrah and hearty hah-hah for vaudeville. Although nearly forgotten, they have had a deep and long-lasting influence in American comedy.