With the advent of television and its success in postwar society, listeners became viewers, audio fell victim to video, and the function of radio humor was preempted by its televised competition.During this period there were many reasons offered in explanation for the decline of comedy on the air.As a television comic, however, the clowning and mugging that were pointless on radio became strong assets.Berle entered television with his Texaco Star Theater on September 21, 1948, and within a few weeks he was the most popular entertainer in the nation.
To compound the matter, Berle was forever making asides to his live audience and apparently deviating from the script with spontaneous quips and gestures.
Ironically, the chief catalyst in this development was a comedian whose radio career had been less than spectacular. In the period from 1936-1948, he had appeared on such forgettable programs as Gillette's Community Sing, Stop Me If You've Heard This One, Let Yourself Go, and the quiz show, Kiss and Make Up.
His biggest break in radio, The Milton Berle Show was a personality-driven situation comedy that appeared in the 1947-1948 season. His strength was a physical comedy style involving bodily antics, often with a group of stooges demonstrating their zany eccentricities.
Broadcast comedy did not die in the late 1940s and 1950s.
It simply ceased to be relevant to American society.
What was most important, however, was that Berle's phenomenal popularity stirred other comedians into considering the new medium.