The Development of Jack Benny’s Character-Focused Comedy for Radio
Jack Benny drew from a successful vaudeville career to adapt his humor to radio form in 1932. Realizing the pressures of creating new program material on a weekly basis, he hires Harry Conn. Benny and Conn develop continuing, quirky characters and “comedy situations” in imaginative spaces away from the microphone, that create a new kind of American humor. Sponsored first by Canada Dry Ginger Ale, Benny and Conn develop their program through experimentation, addition of new character Mary, and turn Jack into the “Fall Guy” who was butt of his cast members’ jokes. Friction with Harry Conn nearly derails the program, but Benny finds new writers and the program hits top radio popularity ratings by mid-decade.
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