Friday, February 14, 2014


I already spotlighted Jack Benny's birthday in 2012, but he deserves to remembered again. It is hard to believe comedian Jack Benny would have been 120 years old today. His comedy is timeless and is still remembered today. In my humble opinion he was and is one of the greatest comedians of all-time. Benny was born Benjamin Kubelsky February 14, 1894, in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in neighboring Waukegan, Illinois. He was the son of Meyer Kubelsky and Emma Sachs Kubelsky. Meyer was a Jewish saloon owner, later, a haberdasher, who had emigrated to America from Poland. Emma had emigrated from Lithuania.

Benny began studying violin, an instrument that became his trademark, at the age of six, his parents hoping for him to become a professional violinist. He loved the instrument, but hated practice. His teacher was Otto Graham Sr., a neighbor and father of Otto Graham of NFL fame. At 14, Benny was playing in dance bands and his high school orchestra. He was a dreamer and poor at his studies, and was ultimately expelled from high school. He did poorly in business school later, as well as attempts to join his father's business. At age 17, he began playing the violin in local vaudeville theaters for $7.50 a week.

Benny spent the next twenty years in and out of vaudville with minimal success. He bacame known as a great master of ceremonies, and he even went to Hollywood. In 1929 Benny's agent, Sam Lyons, convinced Irving Thalberg, American film producer at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, to watch Benny at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. Benny signed a five-year contract with MGM, where his first role was in The Hollywood Revue of 1929. The next movie, Chasing Rainbows, did not do well, and after several months Benny was released from his contract and returned to Broadway in Earl Carroll's Vanities. At first dubious about the viability of radio, Benny grew eager to break into the new medium. In 1932, after a four-week nightclub run, he was invited on to Ed Sullivan's radio program, uttering his first radio spiel "This is Jack Benny talking. There will be a slight pause while you say, 'Who cares?'..." For the next year 80 years we definitely did care...

1 comment:

  1. When our daughter was in junior high there was an evening when we thought she was using the computer for homework, but when she couldn't stop laughing she had to confess that she was "watching Mr. Benny". Jack's still the best.