Jack Benny accomplished major achievements in 23 years on the radio. Adapting his performance from vaudeville, he brought the progenitor of stand-up comedy to the new broadcast form through the position of the master of ceremonies, and he and Harry Conn invented the situation comedy format, which was dependent for laughs on humor stemming from characters and dialogue, not stand alone laughs. Benny incorporated advertising messages into his humorous narrative more successfully than any other performer. And he was instrumental in making radio the nation’s most powerful mass medium, all while depicting the character of “The Fall Guy” or schmo, a Yiddish character thoroughly assimilated into American culture. Benny was indelibly tied to the best features of his radio career and persona as he maneuvered the upheavals of American entertainment culture in the 1960s and early 1970s. The genius of Jack Benny’s radio humor is increasingly spread today through new media - websites sharing 750+ Benny broadcasts, satellite radio and podcast programs, and digitization of entertainment trade journals and archival sources.
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