No, it's not the grossly underpaid but highly talented guys like Michael Gruber, Danny Balis, and some of the other guys who put in astounding hours for low-five-figure revenues.
It's Craig "Junior" Miller.
Junior is blessed with high intelligence but cursed by not being a good mimic or comedy writer. He is further cursed by sharing his program with two guys that are good mimics, and one of those (Gordon) is both an excellent and prolific writer, and the other (George) has unexpectedly good timing and even weaves some improv around what I expect are some fairly skeletal Gordon scripts.
When you have to come up with a couple of sketches per show, some will inevitably hit and others will miss. I'm constantly impressed at how good this work is, and how consistent it is.
But this is comedy that is played to one listener at a time, over the radio. Comedy is impossible to perform convincingly without feedback.
The feedback is Junior's gift.
He is charged with keeping these sketches going by reacting with laughter. This must be incredibly difficult. He has to provide enough audible yuks to bring the individual listener into the fun as a participant in the hugely dispersed audience, but not overlaugh and draw attention to himself, or sound like an idiot by exhibiting a degree of hilarity that is not justified by the yuk-value of the material. And it has to sound sincere, not merely polite. How often do you laugh out loud when sitting in your home alone watching a comedy on TV, or reading a humor piece? Like, almost never? And how often have you been buttonholed by someone telling you something they think is hilarious, and you feel compelled not to give offense by offering up a few ha-has? And you feel that same dilemma -- show appreciation for the story, be nice to the speaker, but don't overdo it.
I have been listening carefully to Junior's laughing, and I do believe the man is a master. Now the fact is that Gordon is a pretty good comedy writer both for bits and his newspaper column. With all the material he terns out, there is going to be some repetition of motifs and the rhythms and style have become identifiable. But it's still pretty good, and both he and George have become accomplished radio performers. So it's not like it's a terrible burden for Junior to show amusement. But it must be difficult to pitch it correctly gag after gag, bit after bit. He starts out with a gentle chuckle, and as Gordon back-loads the better gags as his scripts careen toward the punch line, Junior's laughing increases in volume and rises in register and concludes with a hearty belly-laugh as the dial-tone clicks on.
It is a performance in itself, and I think it's time he got some credit for it.