I thought I knew everything. But until I read Mike Sacks’ terrific new book about comedy writing called “Poking a Dead Frog,” I had never heard the name Peg Lynch. Even though in her day she was a huge star.
She was a comedy performer on radio and later television in the 1940 and 1950s. But her even larger talent was as a writer. She claimed to have singled-handedly written more than 20,000 scripts for her enormously popular series “Ethel and Albert.” That’s not a typo. 20,000.
At one point, she was writing two 15-minute shows everyday. (I got anxious just writing that last sentence.) Apparently, her bosses didn’t know the meaning of the word re-run.
A Minnesota native, Peg Lynch died Saturday at her home in Becket, Mass. She was still writing comedy at the age of 98.
Lynch graduated from the University of Minnesota, then worked for a local radio station in Rochester, Minn., where she interviewed celebrities such as Knute Rockne and Ernest Hemingway, who came through the Mayo Clinic where her mother worked as a head nurse. Peg wrote commercial copy and farm news and eventually entertainment programs.
In 1937 — long before “Seinfeld” — she, too, began writing a “show about nothing,” “Ethel and Albert.” Long on conversation between a married couple, but with less in the way of “action,” over the years it would be heard on ABC, CBS and NBC radio and, for a time, seen on television.
Unheard of today, of course, she wrote every word of every script herself. Peg Lynch was one of the first women to write, star in and own her own comedy series. It goes without saying, I guess, but she was something.