Chaplin was extremely nervous about his radio debut, which took place on October 3rd, 1923 at WOR in Newark, NJ. Before going on he paced the studio and continuously mopped his brow. “You can face the camera,” he told J. M. Barnett, director of WOR, “knowing that if you make a mistake, if you slip up, you can try again; you can make over the picture. Think of all the thousands of people out there in the world hanging onto everything I say.” Charlie frowned, mopped his brow again, and said pitiably, “I don’t know what to say, I haven’t prepared a speech.”
Seated before the microphone, he nervously squirmed, gulped, buttoned and unbuttoned his coat. Finally he braced himself and opened his mouth: “My friends, this is all way beyond me. I’m glad you can’t see me—I am nervous as a witch.” He continued: “It is to me ghastly to think of you out there in your homes with Tom, Dick, Katherine, Harry and the baby all gathered around, and me here by this funny little thing perforated with holes (the thing, not I), my knees trembling, my hands tightly clasped.”
In the course of the broadcast, which lasted half an hour, he did some imitations, including an imitation of a jazz band. “I can play any instrument of the orchestra,” he declared, “Just listen.” Then, one by one, he signaled the various members of a jazz band specially engaged for the occasion and made each man do his bit. “Now I’ll play them all at once,” he said, and the orchestra broke into “The Blue Danube.” Chaplin concluded the broadcast by telling the listeners: “If you have nothing else to do, go to see my new picture, which I directed, A Woman Of Paris.”
Afterward, Charlie told the studio director that he “lost nine pounds in fifteen minutes” (due to stage fright) and could sign a statement to that effect.
“As he left the studio, he asked anxiously, ‘Did I talk sense into that thing?’ Then he shook his fist at the microphone, grinned the grin that has earned him a fortune and went on his way.”
Radio Digest, October 27th, 1923
Pictures & The Picturegoer, May 1924