Audio Drama Wiki

Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel is a situation comedy radio show starring Groucho Marx and Chico Marx, and written primarily by Nat Perrin and Arthur Sheekman. The series was originally broadcast in the United States on the National Broadcasting Company's Blue Network beginning November 28, 1932, and ended May 22, 1933.

The program depicts the misadventures of a small New York law firm, with Groucho as attorney Waldorf T. Flywheel (a crooked lawyer) and Chico as Flywheel's assistant, Emmanuel Ravelli (a half-wit who Flywheel uses as a fall guy). The series was originally titled Beagle, Shyster, and Beagle, with Groucho's character named Waldorf T. Beagle, until a real lawyer from New York named Beagle contacted NBC and threatened to file a lawsuit unless the name was dropped. Many of the episodes' plots were partly or largely based upon Marx Brothers films.

BBC adaptation[]

BBC's Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel

BBC's  Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel

In 1990 BBC Radio 4 aired a version of Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel. Michael Roberts and Frank Lazarus performed the lead roles of Flywheel and Ravelli, wearing make-up and clothing similar to Groucho and Chico. The regular cast also included Lorelei King in all the female roles, Graham Hoadly as many of the other male characters and guest-starred Spike Milligan and Dick Vosburgh. The scripts for the BBC series were adapted for a modern British audience by Mark Brisenden and were produced and directed by Dirk Maggs. Each episode incorporated material from two or three different original episodes, and occasionally included additional jokes from Marx Brothers' films.

Commenting on the series, Maggs has said it was his favorite among the comedies he had directed, and described how they were performed.

The great thing about audience shows is doing the effects live on stage. BBC Radio Light Entertainment tended to have the effects operator hidden away behind curtains so they wouldn't distract the audience! A few Light Entertainment Producers like me have reasoned over the years that the spot effects are part of the entertainment so we brought the operator out front. And in the case of Flywheel we dressed him or her up as Harpo! Michael Roberts who played Groucho came out with such good ad libs that I was always happy to cut scripted gags to keep them. One great one was when he and Frank as Flywheel and Ravelli find themselves in a pigsty – the rest of the cast pushed in to make pig voices – and Mike ad libbed, "Imagine – two nice Jewish boys surrounded by ham" – it brought the house down.

Six episodes were performed and recorded at the Paris Theatre and aired weekly between June 2 and July 7, 1990. The success of the first series led to another two being commissioned. The second series aired from May 11 to June 15, 1991, and the third from July 11 to August 15, 1992. The first series was made available by BBC Enterprises on a two-cassette release in 1991, but the second and third series were not.