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Kermit Schafer (24 March 1914 – 8 March 1979) was an American writer and producer for radio and television in the 1950s and 1960s. He is best known for his collections of "bloopers"—the word Schafer popularized for mistakes and gaffes of radio and TV announcers and personalities.
Bloopers came into prominence in 1931, when radio announcer Harry Von Zell mispronounced the name of then-President of the United States Herbert Hoover as "Hoobert Heever" on the air, but Schafer's is believed to be the first attempt at collecting and presenting them. Other similar famous finds of Schafer's include ABC correspondent Joel Daly intoning, "The rumor that the President would veto the bill is reported to have come from a high White Horse souse," and veteran radio host Paul Harvey breaking into uncontrollable laughter at a story about a pet poodle.
These were collected and released in LP audio collections such as Pardon My Blooper! and Your Slip is Showing, which were briefly popular in the 1960s. A movie version also entitled Pardon My Blooper was released in 1974. These led the way for such later TV shows as TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes, hosted by Dick Clark. Schafer himself gained minor celebrity under the nickname The Blooper Man.
Criticism and controversy
Schafer has come under criticism from TV and radio historians who have noted his deceptive presentations in his albums. If Schafer could not obtain an actual audio recording of the event (as many of these bloopers occurred live and were not always transcribed onto recordings), he would simply hire actors and recreate the event—without offering any disclaimer. This led to some misrepresentations. For example, the blooper by Harry Von Zell described above was not recorded, so Schafer recreated it. Had Von Zell's mispronunciation occurred as the President was being introduced to an audience, as presented by Schafer, it would have been highly embarrassing. However, Von Zell's blooper occurred at the end of a brief presentation in honor of the President's birthday, which, while still embarrassing, was not quite as mortifyingly since President Hoover was not present.
Schafer is historically remembered for an unwittingly libelous dramatization of an incident that never happened. In his vinyl record Pardon My Blooper!, Volume 1, Schafer replicated the famous radio show host "Uncle Don" Carney, who broadcast on WOR in New York City to millions of children from 1928 to 1947. In Schafer's brief drama, Uncle Don mistakenly believes his microphone is off, then utters a contemptuous indecency.
Schafer's motivation to recreate Uncle Don included widespread popular rumors, some surprisingly misremembered testimony, and a contemporary, though probably false story in Variety about one of Uncle Don's many imitators. On April 23, 1930 Variety reported that "about two weeks ago" an unnamed children's bedtime story announcer at an unnamed station in Philadelphia had blurted out—after the show had concluded and he believed the mic power was off—"'I hope that pleases the little b_______'" (sic). But—Variety claimed—the mic was open, the Federal Radio Commission was listening, bundles of complaining telegrams arrived, and the announcer was fired. Indecent language used in front of women and children carried great opprobrium in 1930, yet this stunning story did not appear in Philadelphia newspapers.
Again, no audio existed, so Schafer recreated this blooper. Schafer's "Uncle Don" segued from a gentle goodbye song to the children, then misopedically declared, "We're off? Good, well, that oughta hold the little bastards!" There is absolutely no factual evidence that Uncle Don ever said this, and Schafer's false recording perpetuates an unflattering urban legend that the real Don Carney spent his life denying.
Another example of a recreated blooper stemming from a second-hand report is that of a Canadian announcer stating "This is the Dominion network of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration," which utilized one of Schafer's voice actors. This alleged error has also passed on into urban legend in Canada, although it has never been confirmed as to whether it ever occurred. (Verifying it is nearly impossible as the announcer alleged to have made the error has never been identified.)
Not all of Schafer's bloopers were recreated; one of his Pardon My Blooper albums, for example, included a rare outtake from a 1939 Bing Crosby recording session for "Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams" in which Crosby good naturedly starts swearing at his producer for changing the arrangement of the song he was singing. By the 1950s and 1960s transcribed recordings had become more commonplace, particularly for news broadcasts, so Schafer was able to include genuine recordings of some broadcasters, particularly the aforementioned Paul Harvey and Lowell Thomas, the latter being featured on several occasions.
After his death, Schafer's title of "Keeper of the Bloopers" was passed to Dick Clark, who hosted and produced a long-running series of blooper specials (and a weekly program) beginning in the early 1980s. When Clark picked up the mantle, recordings of bloopers were far more easily obtainable, and in fact were often provided willingly by the producers of films and TV shows as a way of promoting their product. Clark also followed in Schafer's footsteps by releasing an album of bloopers from radio broadcasts. Clark's TV blooper shows always carried a dedication to "Kermit Schafer, Mr. Blooper", and the success of Clark's program led to the development of many imitators which continue to be broadcast as of 2008, and the inclusion of "blooper reels" on DVD releases of TV shows and films has become commonplace.
Seven Pardon My Blooper albums were released in the late 1950s-early 1960s on Jubilee Records. Schaefer also issued blooper compilation albums for Kapp Records in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many of these recordings would be reissued in the 1970s by K-Tel Records. 1970's compilations were also issued on MCA records; BEST OF THE BLOOPERS in 1973, and a six-volume ALL TIME GREAT BLOOPERS set to mark the 25th anniversary of the first blooper record in 1977. Volumes 5 & 6 contained some previously unreleased material.
Schaefer also produced non-blooper comedy albums, among them Jubilee releases for Will Jordan and Peter Wood in the 1960s and CITIZEN'S BLOOPERS, a spoof of the then-current CB craze in 1977.
Schaefer also edited a number of books transcribing bloopers, with some books covering certain themes such as bloopers from classified advertising and television broadcasts.