Monthly Martha!

NBC tried to make it easier on their comedy stars through programs like FOUR STAR (later ALL STAR) REVUE and THE COLGATE COMEDY HOUR.  On these series, top performers would appear once a month or even less often, giving them more time to work on their shows and-- hopefully--  preventing burn-out.  (Certainly, those comics who did front a weekly live program could find the strain to be debilitating: In December of 1954, Variety noted that, in the space of one week,  not one but two top comedians “were simultaneously floored by illness brought on by fatigue and overwork.”  Milton Berle collapsed after his weekly show signed off and Red Buttons was sent to the hospital after falling ill during rehearsal.)

It was also hoped that the rotational system would minimize another problem for the comics: overexposure.  As one columnist noted in 1957: "The very power of TV—to make a person a recognizable face in the home—is also the comedian's constant handicap.  At the very time the comic is trying to make people laugh he must do battle against humor's deadly enemy, familiarity.  It is not an enviable lot."  

Among the performers who took advantage of this once-a-month setup were Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Eddie Cantor, Abbott and Costello, Jack Carson, Fred Allen, Tallulah Bankhead, George Jessel, Donald O'Connor, Ed Wynn and Bobby Clark.

From 1951 onwards, Martha Raye was a mainstay of the FOUR STAR/ALL STAR REVUE series; by January, '54 she was essentially the only comic left in the show's rotation.  At this point, her program was re-christened THE MARTHA RAYE SHOW and continued to be seen on roughly a monthly basis until cancellation came in mid-1956.

Martha Raye with Ray Bolger (left) and Milton Berle.

Martha Raye with Ray Bolger (left) and Milton Berle.