Nowhere is this stronger than the day I was first emailed by Lydia Crowe. It was obvious that she was much more than a fan and her zeal and intelligence became apparent quickly. When I found out the things she was doing at her own blog, I was so excited! Her work was something critically needed. And who needed it? Well, I did, of course - and you all are the recipients of her work.
I'll let her tell you all of the details but she's a fascinating follower of the show and seems to enjoy the show as much as anyone. What she does for fun and with apparent ease - is simply something that she has a natural talent for and it's something that someone like me cannot do with the same ease. What would literally take me hours and hours of work seems to take her less than an hour!
I am biased, no doubt, because Mis' Crowe has lent her talents to to my Vic and Sade websites, And the work she's done and continues to do in support of Paul Rhymer, Vic and Sade and all the websites that I have brought you, is to be admired. And I, for one, am so thankful for her relentless efforts. I know that one day in the future, at least one person will find one of these audio programs transcribed and it will all snowball (out of control and obsessive-like) and they will be fan of the show forever.
______Q. First of all, Mis' Crowe, it's a pleasure to have you do an interview with me. Please tell us a little about your background and your website.
It's a pleasure to be interviewed. I grew up in a small town in Iowa. My educational background is in Hispanic literature & linguistics and foreign language education...but all through college, while I was learning the questionable skill of paper-writing, I always wanted to write a paper about Vic and Sade. I never took a class where it would have been relevant, though. Now that I'm no longer a student, I can write about whatever I want. I was browsing through hashtags on Tumblr and I noticed that practically no one was talking about Vic and Sade, and I thought it would be a great platform for a daily Vic & Sade blog. So I started one where I transcribe and comment on one Vic and Sade episode a day. I also post other little talky-talk about Vic and Sade as it comes up. It is at vicandsade.tumblr.com.
Q. When do you recall first hearing about Vic and Sade?
The first time I heard Vic and Sade was in my parents' car on a road trip. My dad put in some Vic and Sade tapes that my grandma had made. My grandma had ordered these on reel-to-reel from the back of the New Yorker. She copied them onto cassette tapes by putting the tape recorder right next to the reel-to-reel tape player, so you could hear her typing on her typewriter and her budgies chirping in the background of all the episodes! The sound quality was terrible and I wasn't sure what to make of it, but my parents sure seemed to be laughing a lot at it.
Q. When did you first start listening to the show?
The 12 or so episodes we had from my grandma were always kinda floating around in our family, but I didn't listen to them very regularly because the sound was so bad. We had a handful of other episodes taped off of an OTR program on a local radio station, but most of them were from the later series with all the extra characters. Then the internet came. I don't remember when, but one day I looked for Vic and Sade on e-Bay. I think I had been reading the book "The Small House Half-Way Up in the Next Block" at Grandma's house and I wanted to see if there were any other books of scripts available. And someone was selling 300 MP3s on 3 CDs for $10. Like I said, we only had access to about a dozen episodes before this, so this was terribly exciting. I think I was about 14 when I bought these and started listening to them obsessively.
Q. What were your first impressions?
At first, before I was able to appreciate the absurdity of it all, it was enjoyable because it was kind of quaint and comforting and deadpan, and Vic had a funny voice, which was all it took to get me on his side as a child. But I couldn't really understand why my parents were laughing so hard. I think the first episode I heard that made me appreciate the show fully was "Bacon Sandwiches," one of the precious few that we had pre-internet.
Q. What character do you enjoy the most and why?
That's such a hard question! If I had to pick, I guess I'd say Rush. He's a really accurate portrayal of a teenager except without all the cynicism. I love his florid language and his unsinkable enthusiasm and his flair for the dramatic.
Q. What are your feelings about Sade, and women in general during 1932-46?
I think "Vic and Sade" presents an unusually complex picture of women during that time. Although Sade is not well-educated and her principal role is running the Gook household (which she does extremely well), we see a lot of diversity among the female secondary characters. Mr. Erickson's daughter Beulah went to business college. Mis' Appelrot, as much as she is a thorn in Sade's side and a negative "bossy woman" stereotype, is educated and a local political leader (whether the locals like it or not...). I think that the reason Mis' Appelrot is an antagonist is, more than anything, due to the class difference between her and Sade, and her education is a product of that. We also meet several working women at the kitchenware plant, and one of them is even accepted as an honorary "brother" in Vic's lodge. Women run businesses (Mrs. Idler Grice runs the Little Tiny Petite Pheasant Feather Tea Shoppy, and Mis' Keller and Mis' Harris run boarding houses) and live independently. Mis' Neagle, Rush's Sunday school teacher, infamously dabbles in construction work. There's even a story about a couple who gets married and the husband takes the wife's surname instead of the other way around. So although Sade might represent the norm, I think the variety among the secondary characters shows that women were starting to branch out and do many different things in the 30s and 40s. Paul Rhymer certainly does use the novelty of these positions as a joke, but whether it was played for laughs or not, many different kinds of women have a presence in "Vic and Sade." And this has personal meaning to me because my grandmother, who grew up during this time, was the first woman in our family to go to the university (in spite of some disapproval from her family), and she set a great precedent for all of us!
Q. What are a few of your favorite moments and why?
It's really hard to isolate just a few because the show had such consistent high quality. I love the hilarious, rolling-on-the-floor episodes, but Paul Rhymer also had a way of depicting family relationships in a way that was very warm and sweet without being insipid. Things like Rush comforting Sade after Mis' Appelrot upsets her by moving the furniture around. Vic rewarding Rush with $3.80 for his ingenuity after gently breaking it to him that his "dirt in fruit jars" moneymaking scheme wasn't going to work...and Rush nearly bursting into tears. Rush commenting that they're a "contented family," in which "everybody likes everybody." Stuff like that. I like how Rhymer was able to depict a healthy, happy family without making them bland, banal, or unbelievable.
Q: What do you think of all the live characters in "Series 2" and "Series 3"?
Honestly, I have a very hard time listening to these episodes! Part of what made "Vic and Sade" so great, and what elevated it above most radio shows of the time, was that it left so much to the imagination. It was very literary; it depended mostly on words rather than sound effects or over-the-top acting. The acting was very deadpan and understated compared to most radio comedy voice acting, the pace was slower, and the tone was more low-key. The "Series 2" and "Series 3" episodes throw all that out the window; they turn the show into more of an average comedy, with constant gags, slapstick, and cartoonishly funny voices, and that really disappoints me. Vic, Sade, Rush, and Fletcher seem like real people, and by extension, the friends and neighbors they talk about seem real too. Replacing the imaginary characters with goofy caricatures ruins the realism. It's just another example of network demands placing unnecessary restraints on an artist -- Rhymer was being forced to write in a format that was unnatural for his work. I think Paul Rhymer would have thrived in today's climate -- podcasting, artist-owned businesses, and television on demand have greatly reduced artists' dependence on networks, syndicates, and advertisers. Of course, he'd be making a very different show if he were alive in the 2000s instead of the 1930s...but we know it'd be great.
Q: What are your overall impressions of Paul Rhymer's work?
I believe he was a genius. To have written so very many scripts -- one every weekday for over a decade -- and to have maintained such high quality is truly impressive. There are no "bad" episodes of Vic and Sade, at least before "Series 2" and "Series 3." I agree with you that he is one of the most underrated writers and comedians of our time. In my book he's on par with Twain and Dickens, but since he worked in a medium (radio) that has mostly disappeared from our country's cultural landscape, he's been forgotten. That's a real shame.
I live in the Midwest, or "flyover country," and it's kind of a forgotten part of the U.S. too. Places like Iowa and Illinois and Missouri are known for flatness, agriculture, and rural flight. There's so much more to it than that! I have a strong sense of cultural identity with this part of the country and I'm quick to claim writers and artists as "our own." Paul Rhymer is special to me because he seemed to understand Midwest, small-town culture very deeply. The Midwest doesn't capture the public's imagination in the same way as, say, the Deep South or the West -- we just don't have as many troubadours singing our praises. So I really appreciate artists like Paul Rhymer who write so skillfully about the people and places here. (Am I too quick to claim "Vic & Sade" as a "Midwestern thing" when it's more of an "American small town" thing? Maybe! But I'm gonna do it anyway.)
Q: Do you look at the show very seriously or is it simply entertainment?
I look at the show pretty seriously, when I'm not laughing at it. I take all the comedy I like seriously! Finding something that makes me laugh is such a wonderful thing, and then I always want to take it apart and find out everything about it and figure out why it's so funny to me. I still haven't answered that last question but I continue to work on it...
Q: Has Vic and Sade influenced your daily life?
Yes, it has -- mostly by way of the shared language and set of references that I have with all of my friends and family who are Vic and Sade fans. If we're driving along in the country and we see a pile of boards and rubble that used to be a barn, for example, it's really hard for me not to say "I lost my temper, I lost my temper!" Once, when my husband was online trying to find a cheap, no-frills cell phone to buy, I heard him frustratedly shout "Send me a hat size seven and a half!" And, of course, things like "Dr. Sleech," "'Til who laid the chunk," "____ as a horse" and "Somebody knock me over with a feather" are well established in my family's vernacular.
Q: You recently began transcribing the audio and began putting those on the internet. This is a monumental task and a much-needed one. What made you decide to do this?
Well, quite simply, I like transcribing "Vic and Sade"! In fact, I was surprised somebody hadn't done this already, and when I found out how few transcripts there were online, I thought this would be a good way to contribute something new to the fandom. I have a pretty good memory for dialogue (I was in theater before I decided to go into teaching!) so it's not a terribly mentally demanding task, especially given how many times I've listened to most of these episodes. It takes me about half an hour to forty five minutes to transcribe one episode, so long as the audio's good and I'm free of distractions, and I think it's a nice way to relax at the end of the day.
Q. With all the listening you do with the Vic and Sade show and the attention to detail that we assume you employ, what (if anything) stands out about these "new" scripts that perhaps you had not noticed before?
The most challenging parts of these scripts are the parts where people talk over each other and interrupt each other, and these are also the most rewarding parts where I notice the most dialogue I've never noticed before. I haven't done an official count, but I think Vic might be the one who gets interrupted the most due to his propensity to wax philosophical and tell nonsensical stories, and Sade's lack of patience with his rambling. Of course, they walk all over Rush, too. Sometimes I'm so intrigued by these half-sentences and starts and stops that I wish they'd just let each other finish, but then, of course, it wouldn't be "Vic and Sade."
Another challenging/rewarding area is those episodes I rarely listen to because the only surviving audio is so poor. When I actually have to sit down and carefully parse them out word by word, it is almost like having a new episode.
Q: Any last words about Vic and Sade?
It is so hard to explain "Vic and Sade" to people because there's so little to compare it to. There has really never been anything quite like it. A friend of mine linked it to Seinfeld, since it was the original "show about nothing." I'll buy that! The closest thing I've found to "Vic and Sade" is a wonderful BBC radio program called "The Shuttleworths" -- it has a similar absurdity, similar deadpan tone, and finds humor in the quirky minutiae of small-town living in much the same way, but of course, it's a British show and "Vic and Sade" is quintessentially American.
Because it is so hard to explain "Vic and Sade," it is also hard to get people to listen, especially if they associate old-time radio with the kind of slapstick goofiness I mentioned earlier. The best way I've found to get people to listen is to say "give it five episodes." If they don't see the appeal after five episodes, then it's not going to be for them. But most people who "get it" are hooked after two or three. "Vic and Sade" is timeless -- it was as appealing to me as a teenager in the 2000s as it was to my grandmother as a kid in the 1930s -- and I hope that all the hard work fans are doing online now helps to find new fans and keep it alive for the next generation.