Sunday, 3 November 2013

Jack's Jokes

Today, if you want to check out a bunch of quotes, especially from popular culture, you can go to any number of web sites. Back in the 1940s, it wasn’t so easy.

Fans of the Jack Benny got a hand in this matter from syndicated columnist John Crosby in this column that first appeared in newspapers on April 21, 1949. This isn’t a “greatest hits” list; Crosby simply passed on some things he had heard in radio shows over the last little while.

Benny Joke Sets Record For Variety
Jack Benny hasn't, as it is sometimes rumored, only one joke on his show. He has quite a few. But the changes run on his No. 1 Joke, the elder statesman of the jokes over there, are miraculously variegated. It seems incredible that one joke could be put in so many different contexts, but the writers manage. I have a little file of jokes on Jack Benny's stinginess that I've collected over the years, and I thought I'd pass them on for the sake of posterity.
Benny: Rochester, maybe you ought to go back to that golf course and look for my ball.
Rochester: Boss, why don't give up? We'll never find it.
Benny: Give up? Rochester, suppose Columbus gave up. He never would have discovered America. Then what would have happened?
Rochester: We'd be looking for that ball in Spain.
Professor: Monsieur Benny, you haven't paid me for your violin lesson.
Benny: How thoughtless of me. Have a chair.
Professor: You gave me a chair last time. Today I want the money.
Jimmy Stewart: No, Jack, I'd feel better if I paid the luncheon tab.
Benny: Well, if your health involved, okay.
Benny: Here's a nickel, Rochester. Telephone Phil Harris for me.
Rochester: Oh, boy! Look at the buffalo gulp for fresh air.
Rochester: Oh, oh. I dropped the nickel Mr. Benny gave me to phone. Doggone it, I can't see it anywhere.
Benny: Here it is. It rolled back to me.
Mary: For heaven's sake, Jack, why should you be worried? You must have millions of dollars down in your vault.
Benny: I know but I don't want to break up the serial numbers.
I've got others but I'd like to hurry along to another standby of the Benny show, the Maxwell joke.
Benny: Rochester, you know that picture of my Maxwell that hangs in the den? That's the first car I ever owned.
Rochester: That's the first car anyone ever owned.
Rochester: Why don't you trade in the old car for a newer model?
Benny: What for? This car takes us where we want to go.
Rochester: I know, but look how much older we are when we get there.
There are other jokes on the Benny program. There are actually three Phil Harris jokes—his illiteracy, his insobriety and his wife. And there's the Dennis Day joke.
Dennis (entering his house): Mother! Oh, Mother!
Voice: Your mother isn't here.
Dennis: Who are you?
Voice: Your Father.
And there are odd jokes on that show, too, jokes that fit into no special category.
Benny: Phil, tell me, what did 10 doctors do about your headaches?
Phil: Plenty. First they gave me a complete physical. Then they gave me all the allergy tests. Then they checked my reflexes. Finally they psychoanalyzed me.
Benny: And did they find out why you have headaches.
Phil: Yeah, my band plays too loud.
Just one more joke, the Benny age joke, and you'd better appreciate it, too. These are $1,000-a-week writers and there are four of them and the above is a two-year collection, representing roughly $160,000 worth of brains.
Benny: Gee, this is a nice picture of me, isn't it? And it's in color.
Rochester: It would be even nicer if your eyelashes weren't gray.
Benny: My lashes aren't gray. It's just that my eyes are so blue they pick up lint.
It's a crime to put these jokes in print. They were written to be spoken with the expert inflections of Benny and the rest of his skillful cast. Still, every year I have to review Benny in some different way and this is the only thing I can think of this year. Reviewing Benny every year is almost as hard as thinking up a new joke about Benny's stinginess.

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