Jack Benny

Since I got satellite radio I’ve found myself listening mostly to the “radio classics” station - everything from The Lone Ranger and Have Gun, Will Travel to old Ray Bradbury sci-fi dramas.

I’m particularly enjoying the comedies, and among those Jack Benny has really been standing out. I’d never really known Benny as anything other than the name of some old-time comedian, but listening to his old shows has been a hoot. I find myself kind of gently amused by the likes of Bob Hope, Burns & Allen, etc, but Benny is the only stuff I really laugh out loud to. It’s amazing how much comedic mileage they manage to get out of the single joke about him being tight with his money, and beyond that there is some surprisingly sophisticated comedy going on.

Anyway, just wondering if there were any other Benny appreciators out there, and if so if they had any of his movie/TV stuff to recommend.

I remember seeing him on a “Lucy Show” rerun as a kid and being blown away. I just loved all the “Vault” stuff, and his crazy miser stuff.

This is the movie that I ended up being pointed too back then. I wasn’t that impressed, but I was 11.

I don’t have any specific suggestions, but collections of his TV show are out on DVD. Benny’s trademark deadpan look around still makes me laugh even though I’ve seen it ten billion times.

Benny was a genius of self-deprecating humor. Having his actual persona be ridiculed (Andy Griffith was Andy Taylor, Jack Benny was Jack Benny) seems completely alien today, as savaging others is the primary source of contemporary comedy.

Favorite Benny bit: He’s being robbed at gunpoint. “Your money or yer life!” Pause. “Well?” Pause “I’m thinking it over!”

Oh, Benny was a fucking God! He had a TV show in the 50’s that was actually not too bad, so if you can find it in those cardboard DVD’s that sell at the dollar tree, pick up a copy.

Benny had a running rivalry with Fred Allen, another comedy show host, and the two would frequently appear on each others shows. When Jack shows up on Allen’s show, some very funny bits were to be heard. I’d recommend listening to any Allen shows on which Benny appeared.

One episode in particular had Allen testing out a new game show, and Benny, being the money grubber he was, sneaks on and poses as a contestant in order to win the prizes.

My favorite Benny episode saw Jack and Rochester (his politically incorrect assistant) trying to board the Chief, a train bound for IIRC L.A. So many great bits! A fellow approaches Benny and asks which train he’ll be taking, in a rather gangster-ish voice. Benny says he’s riding the Chief and the stranger says “Uh uh,” as if he’s got a hot tip on some other train. Then there’s the train announcer who goes to pieces trying to find someone to ride the train to Annahiem, Azuza, and Cucamonga. Doesn’t anybody want to go to Anahiem Azuza, and Cucamonga? Anyone? Please, just someone to keep the conductor company!

Obviously, Disneyland hadn’t been built yet…

Jack Benny is really the only radio personality that holds up in today’s world. Even the venerable Abbott and Costello show is remarkably hard to listen to, thanks to the plethora of lame word-mixing gags.

I just read an anecdote about when Benny appeared on “The $64,000 Question”. Apparently he got the first question right, took the $64 and quit.


Benny was one of the comedians I grew up listening to, thanks to my dad’s love for old radio comedy and serials. Just this weekend driving to and from Vegas, I got a laugh driving through Rancho Cucamonga. I especially loved when the announcer would just say “Cuc…” and then follow up (sometimes minutes later) with “…camonga!”

I’m a huge OTR fanatics, with gigabytes and gigabytes of programs. One of the things I’ve realized in listening to all these old classic is how over-rated Bob Hope was and how under-rated these days Jack Benny is. One thing that Benny did was give everyone else a majority of the best lines. The great quote he gave when asked about that was that if the lines were funny it didn’t matter if he gave them to his guests and his cast, the next day all people would remember was that the Jack Benny show was funny.

If you read much you’ll find that Benny was the classiest and most generous show person of his era. Great stuff.

There are some online radio stations that play OTR on Live365

An MP3 of these shows would be great. Anyone run across any?

Here you go, a great Jack Benny site and lots of links and info:


Great link, Alex.

The first show I heard, the one that hooked me, is the one where he and his friends are travelling home from a day at the races and Benny is the only one who didn’t win money; he lost $4.75. He’s trying not to obsess about it, but he can’t let it go; when somebody asks him the time, he says “4.75.”

There’s just something about the way he says “Hmmm” that cracks me up, I can’t explain it.

If you want to delve into other OTR shows, check out:


Yes, the Hmmm line is wondrous. Always sounds like he’s scheming and conspiring.

Mary’s a pistol too. At one point, the entire cast is discussing opera at length for about two or three minutes, Jack is silent. When he finally opens his mouth to say “Well, I think…” Mary cuts him right off and says “Oh, shut up Jack.” The crowd went ugly, and they couldn’t even continue the show due to the laughter from the audience.

His Maxwell is cool too. He’s got this ancient crank-started Maxwell car, made by the coffee company which, at the time of the radio show had already long given up making cars. The car is portrayed by a clunking calliope of cacophonous clattering, and of course, Benny tries to sell it to anyone who even hints that they’re thinking of purchasing an automobile.

It’s an easy gaggle of pre-knowledge for the jokes. It was a large cast, but everyone had something about them that could consistently be made fun of. If you knew this attribute, you were in on the gag, making it funnier. Jack’s cheap. Don’s fat. Mary’s a slut.

What’s the deal with Dennis, the high-pitched kid who likes to stick his head in the Mixmaster?

Also, I love Rochester. I feel a bit guilty about laughing along with his stuff since it’s all so horribly un-PC these days, but I guess it’s mitigated by the fact that all of Rochester’s jokes come at the expense of Jack, not himself.

Rochester’s like Chewbacca. Dennis is kinda low point on the show. He’s… trying sometimes, i think. Sings alot, doesn’t he? Or am I confusing him with Skinny Ennis?

My memory is all foggy cause it’s been years, but wasn’t there something about Jack buying cheap ties and suits?

Have you heard the episode with Bogart? And Jack’s gonna kiss Lauen Bacal? Brilliant. Smithsonian had a buncha CD collections it put out that are always in bargain book stores like Half Price Books and any outlet type store.

Another oldtime radio highlight:

“C for Comedy, A for Abbott, M for Maxwell, E for Ennis, and L is for Lou Costello! Put them together and they spell: Camel!”

Heh, some of the old commercials are hilarious. In particular, I remember one on one of the Jack Benny shows that was an advertisement for an appetite suppressant called Aids.

“If you need to lose weight, and lose it fast, try Aids!”

Some more of Benny.

“I’m an old newspaper-man myself, but I quit because I found there was no money in old newspapers.”

“I’m living in a very modest place. I have a room over-looking beautiful Claridge’s Hotel. I thought it was better than paying Claridge’s prices and overlooking the dump I’m living in.”

“Nothing funny happened to me on the way to the theater tonight, so good night.”

“I don’t deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don’t deserve that either.”

I’m a huge old-time radio fan, too. I’ve bought a pile of CDs from OTRCat. Cheap, good quality, huge library, nice guy runs the site. The OTRCat Jack Benny collection, for instance, is 11 CDs and includes 863 shows! Each disc is something like 33 hours long.


Not so much into the old comedy myself, though I always liked the Benny TV show, and I’m a huge Jackie Gleason fan. I love the thriller and horror shows. Nothing beats Lights Out. Arch Oboler was a radio genius. And Suspense (which I’m still working on after three years, as the OTRCat collection includes 940 shows!). And even The Shadow, once you start to appreciate the cheese and the fact that they redid the same plot every week.

I am so ordering those CDs.