1. Fred Allen made him one of the most popular and forward-looking humorists in the Golden Age of American radio.
2. Fred Allen was honored with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for contributions to television and radio.
3. Born John Florence Sullivan in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Irish Catholic parents, Allen barely knew his mother, Cecilia Herlihy Sullivan, who died of pneumonia when he was not quite three years old.
4. Allen took piano lessons as a boy, his father having brought an Emerson upright along when they moved in with his aunt.
5. He learned exactly two songs – “Hiawatha” and “Pitter, Patter, Little Raindrops” – and would be asked to play “half or all my repertoire” when visitors came to the house.
6. He also worked at the Boston Public Library, where he discovered a book about the origin and development of comedy.
7. Enduring various upheavals at home , Allen also took up juggling while learning as much as possible about comedy.
8. Some library co-workers planned to put on a show and asked him to do a bit of juggling and some of his comedy.
9. He took a later job in 1914 at the age of 20 with a local piano company, added to his library work, and appeared at a number of amateur night competitions, soon taking the stage name Fred St. James and booking with the local vaudeville circuit at $30 a week, enough at that time to allow him to quit his jobs with the library and the piano company.