Concept

The Jack Benny Program

Résumé
The Jack Benny Program, starring Jack Benny, is a radio and television comedy series, which ran for more than three decades and is generally regarded as a high-water mark in 20th-century American comedy. He played one role throughout his radio and television career, a caricature of himself as a minimally talented musician and penny-pincher who was the butt of all the jokes. The show's producer, Hilliard Marks, was the brother of Benny's wife, Mary Livingstone. On both television and radio, The Jack Benny Program used a loose show-within-a-show format, wherein the main characters were playing versions of themselves. The show often broke the fourth wall, with the characters interacting with the audience and commenting on the program and its advertisements. In his first years on radio (c. 1932–1935), Jack Benny followed the format of many other radio comedians, standing at the microphone, telling jokes and stories, and introducing band numbers. As the characters of Jack and his cast became more defined, the show took on a "variety show" format, blending sketch comedy and musical interludes. The show usually opened with announcer Don Wilson doing a commercial for the sponsor (e.g. Jell-O or Grape Nuts Flakes), accompanied by a musical number from the orchestra. Wilson would then introduce Jack Benny as the "Master of Ceremonies," and banter with him. Gradually, the rest of the cast members – including Mary Livingstone, bandleader Phil Harris, and tenor Kenny Baker or Dennis Day – would "walk on" to join the conversation. The banter between Benny and the regulars generally covered the news of the day, Jack's latest exchange in his ongoing feud with Fred Allen, or one of the running jokes on the program, such as Jack's stinginess, his age, or his vanity, Phil's habitual drunkenness, egotism, or illiteracy, Don's obesity, Dennis' stupidity, or Mary's letters from her mother. As the show progressed, Jack might be interrupted by a phone call from his valet, Rochester (Eddie Anderson), reporting some problem at Benny's home (e.
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