Sunday, 5 March 2017

He Has Nine Gags

How different was Jack Benny on TV than the Jack Benny in real life? Quite a bit, actually. In fact, Jack gave seemingly countless interviews telling that to people.

Here’s one of them from a feature column that appeared in newspapers starting April 20, 1956. Vernon Scott interviewed Jack a number of times during the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. This may be Scott’s first, though he may have written about Jack earlier without a byline, or a search of earlier papers on-line may have been hampered by text that got garbled during scanning.

Benny Confesses His 'Legend' Is a Fraud

United Press Staff Writer
Jack Benny admitted this week he's the biggest fraud in show business.
The master comedian says he has based his "on-stage" character on nine gags which, through the years, have become fact to millions of Benny fans.
For instance, few people know that Jack has never worn a toupee. He doesn't need one. But almost everybody he meets inspects his scalp for signs of a dome daily.
"NOT LONG ago I filmed a show with Bing Crosby, George Burns and Rochester," Jack recounted over a highball at Romanoff's. "Suddenly it occurred to me that all three of them wear toupees. But they don't advertise the fact."
Another Benny standby is his ghastly violin-playing. Jack is an accomplished musician who plays the fiddle very much better than he's ever demonstrated on his CBS-TV show.
He never owned a Maxwell nor lived next door to Ronald Colman. Both gimmicks, though, are sure-fire laughs and strictly fiction.
"MY FEUD with Fred Allen was another fraud," Jack admits. "He was one of my closest friends. We started sniping at one another, and when it got laughs we kept it up. That's how all my running gags started.
"Even in vaudeville I never told one-line jokes. I always had a routine and stayed pretty much with one story. But from the beginning, I was the underdog."
Benny's greatest fiction is he's the biggest fraud ms penny-pinching. Actually, his generosity is one of the worst-kept secrets in Hollywood. He never fails to contribute to charitable causes. Yet he tips twice as much as anyone else to avoid being called a skinflint.
His age is another hilarious element of Jack's other Benny.
Jack's gotten more yaks with the 39-year-old routine than any other. Out of character, he doesn't hesitate to talk about his real age, 62.
"One of my funniest gags was the treasurer bit with the Beaver Patrol," Jack grinned. "I don't know why, but people get a terrific kick out of an adult being mean to little kids."
Finally, Jack has drawn hundreds of laughs from boozing band members on his show. None of the musicians, to his knowledge, ever showed up for the program with a load on. Even his standing joke about "The Horn Blows at Midnight" is a phony. The picture made money.
"I'm not a complete fraud," Jack concluded. "Some things are true—like finding Mary (Livingstone) in the May Company.
"It's been fun building up the character I portray, but I've given up trying to convince people it's not the real me."

1 comment:

  1. As noted in the past it's the variety is what contributed to Jack's longevity -- because Jack and his writers had developed so many different personality flaws, something could be brought in which hadn't been used for months but that through past use, the audience was already familiar with and enjoyed (which tied in with the ability to bring on semi-regulars on only an occasional basis as to not wear their routines with Jack thin, to the point he could even do routines with guest stars, like the Colemans or the Stewarts).