Friday, June 12, 2009

Jack Benny: Your Money or Your Life

Here's what you have to know to appreciate the comedy of Jack Benny:

1. Jack Benny is cheap.
2. Jack Benny plays the violin badly.
3. Jack Benny is 39.

That'll do it; armed with those three facts, the sound of his voice, and/or the sight of his face, you are now fully equipped to enjoy Jack Benny. You're in. (In real life, Jack Benny wasn't cheap at all, and he was only 39 for one year. His violin playing is a matter of taste.)

The most legendary Jack Benny joke, which took place on his radio program on March 28, 1948, was an exchange between Benny and a mugger. (This particular joke deals with the first item on the above list.) The line became so famous that a myth sprung up about the length of the laugh which followed it; many people who think they know what they're talking about go around saying that this was the longest laugh in the history of radio. As Laura Lee Leff, President of the International Jack Benny Fan Club, has proven, it was not even the longest laugh in the history of the Benny show. And anyway, it's really two laughs, not one.

All of this is entirely beside the point, which is that you are about to hear one of comedy's golden moments. In this episode, whose official title is "The Stolen Oscar," Jack is visiting the home of actor Ronald Coleman, and asks if he can borrow his Academy Award.


You can listen to the entire program, and many, many other treasures from the golden age of radio, at Old Time Radio Perk.


  1. What a great talent Jack Benny was! Just as funny today, as 60 years ago. Please check out the Jack Benny Fans group on Facebook and join in the discussions as well.

  2. Jack Benny always said that "Your Money or Your Life" routine was probably quoted more than any of his other routines. It showed his sense of timing, waiting for the question to be repeated, before springing the gag. Actually, the line came from one of the gag writers who was slow in coming back with a punchline thrown to him from another writer. He said, "I'm thinking it over" as if you might say, "Don't Rush Me." In this particular situation, it fit Jack's comic persona perfectly. My favorite JB routine is the Christmas shopping episode done every year where Jack keeps changing his mind about buying a present for Don Wilson. Mel Blanc was perfect as the harried clerk and undoubtedly there were listeners who could sympathize with him if they had worked in a store at Christmas time. I hope that the writer who wrote that gag received ample compensation, It was a classic.

  3. jack benny is so darn funny!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!