Who doesn’t love a blooper? In today’s tape-and-replay world, few mistakes make it through editing — although enough that IMDB gives them a category — but bloopers are so popular that cartoons manufacture fake bloopers for the audience. Back in the days of live broadcasts the time was ripe for real, uncensored mistakes on the air. When I was growing up, Dick Clark and Ed McMahon were the kings of bloopers, but they owed their show to the original king of bloopers, Kermit Schafer.
Schafer was a New York radio producer who started compiling the funny things he heard on the radio in a column for Coronet Magazine, and due to the column’s popularity he put them out both in written form and on records. Far more than just a radio-man, Schafer squeezed every bit of marketability out of his albums, resulting in dozens of versions of his records and books.
As with any collectible, the rarest are the early editions — in the early 1950s, Schafer first compiled his bloopers and released several editions on the Jubilee label. Jubilee was known for its risque humor, and Schafer fit right in — his albums became a constant seller for the label. Jubilee released the bloopers in several formats, from early 10″ albums to 12″ vinyl, along with a few 45rpm singles. In 1953, Schafer released Your Slip Is Showing, a text compilation of many of the bloopers found on the records.
I’ve picked up these albums whenever I encounter them and I’ve yet to hold an early issue in my hands…but that’s not to say I haven’t heard or read most of the bloopers, or at least the best ones. The Jubilee albums from the 1950s were reissued in different formats or re-edited into different ‘new’ editions well into the 1970s. One of the most common reissues I’ve seen are the Brookville 2-LP sets that were sold on television. These records have the same characteristics as a lot of ‘as seen on TV’ albums in the seventies: they came in a generic sleeve, printed on heavy paper rather than actual cardboard, and the vinyl is thinner than earlier records.
A little murkier still are other reissues made during the 1960s on Schafer’s own label and distributed as “Bloopers Inc.” Sometime during the 1950s, Schafer relocated from New York to Florida and turned his blooper empire into a full-fledged business. These, too, reuse earlier content while adding new bloopers as they arrived. In preparing for this article I listened to several of the albums I own, and they went in and out of duplication: a few “new” ones (possible culled from other compilations), then a few I recognized from another album, then some unfamiliar, then another from a third album, and so forth. Because none of these albums are dated, it is difficult to determine which is the ‘original’ and which is a reissue or re-edit. All sources point to the Jubilee versions being first, although some Jubilee editions have the same catalog number as the Bloopers Inc. editions. The style and content of the Bloopers Inc. editions is much newer, and would point to those coming second. The Brookville editions were definitely some of the latest, if not the last, editions, and from what I can glean from the information at hand the Brookville were complete reissues with no new content.
Kermit Schafer claimed all his album content was original — but he was stretching the truth a bit. He had started his bloopers fascination as a writer, and in the early days of radio recording was not something quickly, cheaply, nor easily done. Yet, Schafer Had clean, distinct recordings of these 1920s announcers flubbing their lines: Schafer used actors to re-create bloopers that had been heard on the radio. From other accounts, it sounded like the recreations were few and far between, but when I’ve listened to the recordings it would seem that the majority of bloopers are re-creations. While Schafer claimed he wasn’t manufacturing anything that didn’t happen, in one famous case he did. Going off a “first-hand” rumor, without verification, he attributed a rude on-air comment to a children’s show host, sparking an ongoing urban legend — one that’s hard to disprove now that there’s a ‘real’ recording of the event. There’s a recording of Schafer’s version of the fake show ending on the Snopes page linked above, but it appeared on one of the earliest volumes and it wasn’t on any of the later editions I own, which may indicate that it was removed once it was proven false. For its pop-culture influence, that disc is one of the more remarkable of the numerous, interchangeable releases in Schafer’s blooper series.
Bloopers have an ephemeral appeal on their own, but Schafer made some ephemera of his own. Schafer had started out writing a blooper column, but didn’t stop once the albums took off — Schafer’s column appeared in numerous magazines and was syndicated around the US. As his popularity grew, Schafer added a fan club to his repertoire, dubbing his followers the Blooper Snooper Club, complete with lifetime membership certificate (as seen on the left). Schafer also held live Blooperama shows at nightclubs and on the lecture circuit — which no doubt came with fliers, programs, and autographs. And, lastly, Schafer presided over his own Blooper Awards, giving out statuettes of Mike and Ike (his mascots, seen on nearly every cover) to the performers unlucky enough to have been caught in their mistakes. These statuettes must still be around someplace, the firmest proof that, even if it’s a screw-up, you can still get an award for it.
Schafer’s series began to die out in the 1970s as he grew into his retirement years, and Kermit passed away in 1979. His bloopers weren’t forgotten, though: he appeared in the credits of Dick Clark’s blooper show as the King of Bloopers.