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Jack Benny Edit Profile

also known as Benjamin Kubelsky

actor , comedian

Jack Benny was an American radio, TV, and film comedian, who made a trademark of his meanness and “slow burn.”

Background

Benny, Jack was born on February 14, 1894 in Illinois, United States. His father operated first a saloon and later a dry-goods store; as a boy, he helped out in the store.

Education

Benny studied violin and entered vaudeville at seventeen, using his violin as a stage prop. This unpromising career was interrupted by World War I and during his service in the U.S. Navy, his comic talent came to light.

Career

Upon his return to civilian life, he reentered vaudeville.

He made his first film appearance in 1929, but gained stardom on radio and later repeated his success on television. Among his best films were "Charley's Aunt and George Washingto"', in "To Be or Not to Be", Benny played the role of the head of a Polish theater troupe, who becomes involved in espionage during World War II.

Benny’s radio program began in 1932 on NBC. From 1934 to 1936 the program led the popularity polls and after that it was seldom out of the top ten. Benny continued on radio until 1955, switching to CBS in 1948. His television program, “The Jack Benny Show,” began as an occasional special in 1950 and continued as a biweekly and then weekly until 1965.

Benny created a continuing-sketch comedy, in which he represented himself as an aging and pompous bachelor, who was also a miser and a self-deprecating violin player. For his more than forty years on radio and television, he surrounded himself with the same troupe of supporting players: his wife, Mary Livingstone (married 1927); Eddie “Rochester” Anderson as a black valet; announcer Don Wilson; band leader Phil Harris; and comedian Mel Blanc (known also as the voice of Bugs Bunny).

He was neither a joke teller nor a slapstick comedian. His created character was the source of his humor and the butt of insults, made even funnier by the Benny catalog of stock mannerisms and responses that became comedy motifs to be savored week after week: a martyrlike stare with chin resting on hand, three fingers on the cheek, facial expressions of disbelief or frustration, and the utterances “Well!,” “Hmmm,” and “Now cut that out!” and the perfectly time pause.

Benny’s shows were filled with familiar trappings: an antiquated Maxwell car and the violin, on which Benny regularly turned in an inept performance of “Love in Bloom.” His annual celebration of his thirty-ninth birthday became famous and he maintained a mock feud with fellow comedian Fred Allen.

From 1965 he limited himself to a few specials a year, and his final show, “Jack Benny’s Second Farewell,” was broadcast in 1974.

Views

Quotations: THE HUMOR OF JACK BENNY

• A cannibal is a man who goes into a restaurant and orders the waiter.

• Hold-up Man: “Your money or your life!”

Benny: “I’m thinking it over!”

• Give me my golfclubs, fresh air and a beautiful partner and you can keep my golf clubs and the fresh air.

Membership

Served in the United States Navy, World War I. Club: Friars.

Connections

Married Mary Livingstone (actress), January 25, 1927.

father:
Meyer Kubelsky

mother:
Emma (Sachs) Kubelsky

spouse:
Mary Livingstone

References