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Jack Benny and the Golden Age of American Radio Comedy$
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Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520295049

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520295049.001.0001

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Becoming Benny

Becoming Benny

The Development of Jack Benny’s Character-Focused Comedy for Radio

(p.21) One Becoming Benny
Jack Benny and the Golden Age of American Radio Comedy

Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley

University of California Press

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.

Keywords:   vaudeville, master of ceremonies, characters, situations, dialogue, jokes, stooges, political humor, sponsors, advertising agencies, liveness, immediacy

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