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Amos & Andy

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Amos & Andy (also rendered as Amos 'n Andy) was a situation comedy popular in the USA from the 1920s through the 1950s.

The show was originated as one of the first radio sitcoms, writen and voiced by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, originating from station WMAQ in Chicago, part of the CBS radio network. It was first broadcast in March of 1928.

The characters were represented as African Americans, or more accurately blackface minstrel show caricatures of African Americans. Gosden and Correll were white actors.

Today Amos & Andy is best remembered for its racist stereotypes of African Americans. However most of the humor of the show came from silly situations, bad puns, and commentary on current events rather than racial mockery. While much of the depiction of African Americans in the show is offensive by today's standards, the characterization is more sympathetic and rounded than that of many other shows of the 1920s which continued to use the old minstrel show stereotypes of the 19th century and did not enjoy the success of Amos & Andy.

The title characters, Amos and Andy, were depicted as being uneducated blacks from rural Georgia and coming north to find work in the big city of Chicago (a format similar to Gosden and Correll's earlier show Sam & Henry). Amos was naive but honest, Andy blustering with inflated self confidence. Other regular characters included "The Kingfish" who was always trying to lure the title characters into get rich quick schemes, and "Lightning", a lazy slow moving Stepin Fetchit type character.

In August of 1929 Gosden & Correll moved the show to NBC which offered them higher pay. At the same time the storyline of Amos & Andy had the title characters move from Chicago to Harlem, New York City, where they were soon joined by the rest of the regular characters.

The program was very popular. Sponsors included Pepsodent toothpaste, Campbell's Soup, Rinso detergent, and the Rexall Drugstore Chain. President Calvin Coolidge was said to be amoung the devoted listeners. Huey P. Long took his nickname of "Kingfish" from one of the characters on the show. By 1931 an estimated 40 million Americans were regular listeners. Many movie theaters began the practice of stopping the films for the 15 minutes of the Amos 'n Andy show and playing the program over the sound system, then resuming the film.

In 1930, RKO brought Gosden and Correll to Hollywood to do an Amos & Andy motion picture. This was entitled "Check and Double Check[?]" (a catch phrase from the radio show). The cast included a mix of white and black performers (the later including Duke Ellington and his orchestra) with Gosden and Correll disconcertingly playing Amos and Andy in blackface. The film pleased neither critics nor Amos & Andy's creators, but turned a tidy profit for RKO. RKO offered Gosden and Correll a contract to do a sequel, which they declined. Years later Gosden was quoted as calling Check and Double Check "just about the worst movie ever".

In 1943 the radio program went from 15 minutes 5 days a week to a half-hour once a week format.

A television version of Amos & Andy produced from 1951 to 1953, with 78 episodes filmed. The tv show used African American actors in the main roles, although the actors were instructed to keep their character's voices and speech patterns as close to Gosden & Correll's as possible.

In 1955 the format of the radio show was changed to include playing recorded music in between skits, and the show remnamed The Amos 'n' Andy Music Hall. The final Amos & Andy radio show was broadcast on November 25, 1960.

African American advocacy groups such as the NAACP and other progressives repeatedly protested Amos & Andy and were a factor in getting it removed from the air, although by the 1950s the popularity of the show was well below its peak in the 1930s.

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