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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: 18 May 2022

Jack Benny’s Turn Towards Television

Jack Benny’s Turn Towards Television

(p.281) Nine Jack Benny’s Turn Towards Television
Jack Benny and the Golden Age of American Radio Comedy

Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley

University of California Press

The new medium of television was to cause Jack Benny much consternation in how to best adapt his iconic radio program after 18 years to the new visual medium. Benny fretted and delayed his entry into New York City-based TV broadcasting until October 1950, meantime remaining radio’s top comic. But industrial pressures to switch networks (in Benny’s momentous move to CBS) and move to television, while trimming radio production budgets, and chasing audiences flocking to TV, pressed Benny to act. Benny struggled against critical expectations, and critical disdain, to find a way to merge the best of his radio narrative to TV’s visual demands. After 18 months of excoriation, critics discovered that Benny was utilizing his silent exasperated looks toward the camera and studio audience to communicate with the TV viewers. The critics pronounced Benny a marvelous TV comic. His program did change significantly in the new medium, but remained a popular favorite.

Keywords:   television, New York City, critics, adaptation, visual comedy, slapstick, liveness, audiences, silence

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