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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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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 28 June 2022

The Commercial Imperative

The Commercial Imperative

Jack Benny, Advertising, and Radio Sponsors

(p.188) Six The Commercial Imperative
Jack Benny and the Golden Age of American Radio Comedy

Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley

University of California Press

Jack Benny ingeniously intertwined the advertising messages of his sponsors into his radio comedy narratives. Although early sponsors like Canada Dry were affronted by the sly, cynical attitude Benny’s joking commercials assailed the product with. Critics and the public and acclaimed the way Benny and his writers, and longtime announcer Don Wilson, brought humor and pleasure to the business of selling products. Sponsors were thrilled with the sales results. The advertising industry found Benny the best salesman they ever found. After his association with Jell-O (that pulled a failing product to great profits), Benny met the challenge of working with an infamous sponsor, American Tobacco, whose harsh ad tactics spawned a barrage of critical complaints. With creative skill, Benny and his writers devised absurdist tactics, the crazy songs of the Sportsmen Quartet and nonsense phrases, which pleased the sponsor yet delighted critics and listeners.

Keywords:   sponsors, “soft sell” advertising, commercials, consumer products, parody, absurdity, profits, critics

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