- Published on Friday, 18 December 2015 12:00
Back in the late 1980s, Chicago radio host Mike Nowak thought it would be fun to hear the classic 1946 holiday film "It's A Wonderful Life" on the radio. This was when the film was still in the public domain and no fees would have to be paid for airing it. However, without the visuals, it seemed unlikely that any radio listener would sit through the 130 minute production. What Nowak did was to take the key audio parts of the iconic film and edit it all down to just over 10 minutes. He called it "It's A Wonderful Slice Of It's A Wonderful Life." Nowak's edited "It's A Wonderful Life" audio was a huge hit with the WGN Radio listeners each December. However, by the mid 1990s, Republic was able to once again reclaim the copyrights to the public domain film and its audio, which meant permission and fees needed to be obtained in order to play it on the radio.
In the meantime, Nowak, a local actor as well as radio host, took his edited audio and created a stage script. Thinking the audio was a fun hit, performing it live would be even more fun. From that script, he would perform "It's A Wonderful Slice" live on stage, both solo and with his actress friend Kathryn Gallagher, with each rapidly changing voices, hats, props, and lines, and cracking up audiences.
Unable to play his film's audio on the radio, he decided to bring his stage version of it to the airwaves, which again would be difficult without the visuals. Since audiences could not see the changing of hats and the facial expressions, Nowak decided he would go for speed, attempting to perform the bit in under 10 minutes. He began performing "It's A Wonderful Slice Of It's A Wonderful Life" live on WGN-AM in 1999. He has repeated this task many years since then on WGN-AM and WCPT-AM.
This audio clip is Nowak and Gallagher's performance of "It's A Wonderful Slice Of It's A Wonderful Life" as heard on WGN-AM on December 24, 1999. (Running time: 12:08)