Minerva Pious

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Pious with radio actor Charlie Cantor in 1941.

Minerva Pious (March 5, 1903 – March 16, 1979) was an American radio, television and film actress. She was best known as the malaprop-prone Pansy Nussbaum in Fred Allen's famous "Allen's Alley" current-events skits.

Born in Odessa, Czarist Russia, she spent the majority of her life and career in New York City. She worked extensively as a radio comedienne, obtaining her first regular job as part of Allen's Mighty Allen Art Players in the 1930s when Allen hosted the hour-long Town Hall Tonight.

Allen's Alley[edit]

The Allen's Alley cast (l to r): Fred Allen, Kenny Delmar, Minerva Pious, Peter Donald, Parker Fennelly.

Playing a number of dialect roles in Allen's clever news spoofs and various other satires, Pious developed them into the Russian-Jewish housewife Mrs. Nussbaum by 1942, the year in which Allen's news spoofs finally developed into the "Allen's Alley" routines.

Pious became a fixture in the routines until Allen's show ended in 1949. Invariably, she greeted Allen's knock on her door with her Yiddish "Nuuuuuu," then answered Allen's cheery "Mrs. Nussbaum!" with lines like:

"You are expectink maybe Veinstein Chuychill?"
"You are expecting maybe Cecil B. Schlemeil?"
"You are expecting maybe Tulalulalula Bankhead?"
"You are expecting maybe Dinah Schnorra?"
"You are expecting maybe Hoagy Carbunkle?"

Pious's portions of the "Alley" segments usually involved one or another joke at the expense of Mrs. Nussbaum's never-heard husband, Pierre. In one episode, Pierre had a bad cold, and one of the remedies involved vegetables of all types. According to Mrs. Nussbaum, the vegetables included "Carrots, stringle-a-beans and rutta-bagels." Her distinctive accented voice and Jane Ace-like knack for malaprops made her a series trademark.

Other radio[edit]

Pious was often invited to play Nussbaum on other radio programs, such as The Jack Benny Program (inviting him to her new restaurant: "We feature soft lights and hard salami") and Duffy's Tavern. She was cast in the radio plays of Norman Corwin (especially playing a Brooklynese crime solver in Murder in Studio One) and on the Columbia Workshop. In addition to comedy routines on Kate Smith's series, she was heard on shows hosted by Ed Wynn and Bob Hope, along with roles on The Goldbergs and the soap opera Life Can Be Beautiful. "Minnie could do a million things," remembered Fred Allen Show writer Bob Weiskopf to author Jordan R. Young in The Laugh Crafters, a book gathering interviews with vintage radio comedy writers. "Nice lady. She had a physical affliction—she had a bad hip, a severe limp. She was very concerned about television; she never worked very much. But radio was fine."[citation needed]


The hip condition didn't stop Pious from making several television appearances anyway, on shows such as The Colgate Comedy Hour and The Chevrolet Television Theatre. She appeared briefly in the television soap The Edge of Night in 1956, playing a landlady.[citation needed]


Her few film credits included playing Mrs. Nussbaum on camera in Allen's It's in the Bag! and a featured voice role in Pinocchio in Outer Space. She had small roles in the films Joe MacBeth (1955) and Love in the Afternoon (1957).[1]


Minerva recorded with Bud Freeman a skit based on Noël Coward's Private Lives called "Private Jives" for the Commodore Records label in 1938. Also on the record were Joe Bushkin (piano and trumpet) and announcer Everett Sloane. The record, according to Commodore, sold only 150 copies, all to friends of the artistes!


  • Robert Taylor. Fred Allen: His Life and Wit. Boston: Little, Brown, 1989.
  • Jordan R. Young. The Laugh Crafters: Comedy Writing in Radio and TV's Golden Age. Beverly Hills, California: Past Times Publishing, 1998.


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