Portland Hoffa Was Fred Allen’s Stooge

Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa met on the vaudeville circuit in 1922 and hit it off so well they were married five years later, a union that lasted until his death in 1956.

Back in the 1920s, she was performing as a dancer on Broadway and the vaudeville circuit while he did comedy routines and juggled (badly). Then Portland became Fred’s stooge, as Hilda Cole explains in Radio Stars magazine:

He married her and made her a stooge. His stooge. He made a hoofer into a stooge — and what happened? But wait. Maybe you don’t know what a hoofer is. Well, suh, the sons and daughters of vaudeville call all dancers “hoofers.” And a stooge? That’s the guy planted in the audience to heckle the comedian on stage. Sometimes he has a seat in the first row downstairs. Usually, he is in a box. Or he may be on the stage. No matter where he makes his headquarters, he “feeds” the dumb, oaf-like queries that give the comedian his chance to spring his laugh line. That’s your stooge. Understand?

Hoffa became a stooge, but before she surrendered, believe you me, it took a deal of crafty Allen strategy.

The couple’s comedic partnership found its greatest success on radio. He once called her distinctive high-pitched voice “a clarinet reed calling for help.”

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