Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Open, general discussion of old-time radio and early television
wich2
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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by wich2 » Sat Jul 02, 2016 7:46 pm

>Charlie didn't do any appearances on radio comedy shows (though it's understandable, considering that his most extraordinary talent was pantomime<

He could have done broadcast comedy, though - his fellow Vaudeville/Music Hall b.g. contemporary Buster did.

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Smari1989
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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Smari1989 » Tue Jul 12, 2016 4:46 pm

wich2 wrote:>Charlie didn't do any appearances on radio comedy shows (though it's understandable, considering that his most extraordinary talent was pantomime<

He could have done broadcast comedy, though - his fellow Vaudeville/Music Hall b.g. contemporary Buster did.
I agree it'd have been nice if he did, but I strongly suspect Charlie felt uncomfortable doing appearances in contexts where he didn't have total or close to total control.

OK, I realize I'll be the only one here excited about this, but what the heck -- I'm just now listening to the Jack Benny program of February 14, 1943 (recorded in Canada), and was QUITE taken aback when my Native language, Norwegian, was suddenly spoken (through a representative of the Royal Norwegian Air Force).

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by FrankFay » Tue Jul 12, 2016 5:26 pm

Smari1989 wrote:
wich2 wrote:>Charlie didn't do any appearances on radio comedy shows (though it's understandable, considering that his most extraordinary talent was pantomime<

He could have done broadcast comedy, though - his fellow Vaudeville/Music Hall b.g. contemporary Buster did.
I agree it'd have been nice if he did, but I strongly suspect Charlie felt uncomfortable doing appearances in contexts where he didn't have total or close to total control.
.
I also think Chaplin's voice and vocal delivery, without his face and movements, weren't in themselves all that funny, or even very distinctive. If he'd done it though, I wish he'd have done it with Syd.
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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Smari1989 » Tue Jul 12, 2016 5:37 pm

FrankFay wrote:
Smari1989 wrote:
wich2 wrote:>Charlie didn't do any appearances on radio comedy shows (though it's understandable, considering that his most extraordinary talent was pantomime<

He could have done broadcast comedy, though - his fellow Vaudeville/Music Hall b.g. contemporary Buster did.
I agree it'd have been nice if he did, but I strongly suspect Charlie felt uncomfortable doing appearances in contexts where he didn't have total or close to total control.
.
I also think Chaplin's voice and vocal delivery, without his face and movements, weren't in themselves all that funny, or even very distinctive. If he'd done it though, I wish he'd have dine it with Syd.
Yes, I tend to agree. I think Chaplin had a very PLEASANT voice; like a "perfect English gentleman," if you like. But not "funny" like, say, W.C. Fields (who could make anything sound funny by his way of delivery). Charlie could've probably done his "Hynkel"-character on radio with some success, though.

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Wm. Charles Morrow » Wed Jul 13, 2016 12:34 pm

It’s intriguing to think of Chaplin appearing as a guest star on radio shows such as Jack Benny’s, but I can’t quite imagine how they’d have used him. Generally, with celebrities the writers would take the common public image of the person, and exaggerate it. So, John Barrymore would parody himself as a drunken ham actor, Orson Welles would play the Boy Genius, Errol Flynn would be the lusty skirt chaser, etc. But Chaplin? What would they have used? And what would he have permitted? Somehow I don’t think he’d have appreciated being portrayed as, say, a tight-fisted egotist who dabbled in Leftist politics and had a yen for underage girls.

Hearing him perform music-hall sketches would've been fun -- I rather enjoy his routines in Limelight -- but beyond that, well, his public image presented some challenges, shall we say.
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wich2
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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by wich2 » Wed Jul 13, 2016 7:21 pm

>Hearing him perform music-hall sketches would've been fun<

This kind of material would have been the road to take, I think; and I'd bet that his Stage chops would've come back, and he'd have done just fine in front of a live-in-studio audience (as did Laurel & Hardy, in their Broadcast appearances.)

Chaplin could also have done the Danny Kaye-esque nonsense/patter type songs, ala the one in MODERN TIMES.

-Craig

P.S. - A few on-mic citations for C.C., though not comic performances:
http://radiogoldindex.com/frame1.html" target="_blank

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Donald Binks » Thu Jul 14, 2016 4:43 pm

Talking about silent stars appearing on the wireless - I have memories of a Buster Keaton talkie in which he plays a juggler appearing on the very medium. He does his normal "sight act", but describes it for the benefit of listeners as he is performing it. "I am now juggling 4 balls, now I have thrown another one up....whoops, I dropped it....no, I caught it just in time". I remember at the time I saw this that I was laughing my head off. It seemed such a ludicrous idea - then I thought - there was in actuality something ludicrous - Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy - a vent act who performed over the air on the wireless! :D
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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by CoffeeDan » Thu Jul 14, 2016 11:21 pm

Donald Binks wrote:Talking about silent stars appearing on the wireless - I have memories of a Buster Keaton talkie in which he plays a juggler appearing on the very medium. He does his normal "sight act", but describes it for the benefit of listeners as he is performing it. "I am now juggling 4 balls, now I have thrown another one up....whoops, I dropped it....no, I caught it just in time". I remember at the time I saw this that I was laughing my head off. It seemed such a ludicrous idea - then I thought - there was in actuality something ludicrous - Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy - a vent act who performed over the air on the wireless! :D
That's GRAND SLAM OPERA (1935), one of the shorts Keaton made for Educational Pictures.

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Donald Binks » Thu Jul 14, 2016 11:51 pm

CoffeeDan wrote:
Donald Binks wrote:Talking about silent stars appearing on the wireless - I have memories of a Buster Keaton talkie in which he plays a juggler appearing on the very medium. He does his normal "sight act", but describes it for the benefit of listeners as he is performing it. "I am now juggling 4 balls, now I have thrown another one up....whoops, I dropped it....no, I caught it just in time". I remember at the time I saw this that I was laughing my head off. It seemed such a ludicrous idea - then I thought - there was in actuality something ludicrous - Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy - a vent act who performed over the air on the wireless! :D
That's GRAND SLAM OPERA (1935), one of the shorts Keaton made for Educational Pictures.
Why, thank you! I will have to look out for it. I haven't seen it for years!
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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by FrankFay » Fri Jul 15, 2016 3:23 am

Donald Binks wrote:
Why, thank you! I will have to look out for it. I haven't seen it for years!
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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by CoffeeDan » Fri Jul 15, 2016 3:33 am

Donald Binks wrote:
CoffeeDan wrote:
Donald Binks wrote:Talking about silent stars appearing on the wireless - I have memories of a Buster Keaton talkie in which he plays a juggler appearing on the very medium. He does his normal "sight act", but describes it for the benefit of listeners as he is performing it. "I am now juggling 4 balls, now I have thrown another one up....whoops, I dropped it....no, I caught it just in time". I remember at the time I saw this that I was laughing my head off. It seemed such a ludicrous idea - then I thought - there was in actuality something ludicrous - Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy - a vent act who performed over the air on the wireless! :D
That's GRAND SLAM OPERA (1935), one of the shorts Keaton made for Educational Pictures.
Why, thank you! I will have to look out for it. I haven't seen it for years!
GRAND SLAM OPERA and Keaton's other Educational shorts are also available on this 2-disc set from Kino Lorber. You're welcome!

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Donald Binks » Fri Jul 15, 2016 4:49 am

FrankFay wrote:
Donald Binks wrote:
Thanks a million for the link Eric. I think I enjoyed it as much tonight as I did 40 odd years back. I wonder if Major Bowes took umbrage?
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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by wich2 » Fri Jul 15, 2016 9:07 am

GRAND SLAM is grand fun.

>in actuality something ludicrous - Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy - a vent act who performed over the air<

And Sir Binks, Fred Astaire DANCED there!

http://www.radioechoes.com/the-packard-hour" target="_blank

(The Theater of the Mind was/is a miracle.)

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by FrankFay » Fri Jul 15, 2016 4:11 pm

Donald Binks wrote:
FrankFay wrote:
Donald Binks wrote:
Thanks a million for the link Eric. I think I enjoyed it as much tonight as I did 40 odd years back. I wonder if Major Bowes took umbrage?

I doubt it- Bowes was parodied repeatedly & I suspect he reveled in the free publicity.
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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Smari1989 » Wed Jul 20, 2016 4:45 pm

Listening to Benny's very earliest (1932-34) programs, I have to confess that most of these haven't aged very well at all, IMO, though they're interesting as examples of very early radio. It seems that before the "Benny persona" was established, he and the cast relied principally on mere "joke-telling," rather than the much more character-driven humor of later seasons. It's around 1938-39 that it really starts to get hilarious, IMO (a few unfortunate, time-typical ingredients aside; this has been covered here before).

Audiences must've found the very early programs funny, however, or the show wouldn't have endured.

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Smari1989 » Mon Aug 01, 2016 6:27 pm

Gotta say, the forgotten Frank Fontaine's impersonation of Winston Churchill on the Benny Program dated April 9, 1950 is incredible. God, that was funny. I'd heard the episode before but couldn't remember that part. Again, the late 40s/early 50s must rank as the peak of the Benny Program.

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Paul Penna » Mon Aug 01, 2016 9:27 pm

Smari1989 wrote:Gotta say, the forgotten Frank Fontaine's impersonation of Winston Churchill on the Benny Program dated April 9, 1950 is incredible. God, that was funny. I'd heard the episode before but couldn't remember that part. Again, the late 40s/early 50s must rank as the peak of the Benny Program.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dIIqOWbr04" target="_blank" target="_blank
Fontaine's Churchill bit follows on the heels of Frank Nelson's intro at 19:46 into the program.

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Smari1989 » Sat Aug 06, 2016 12:23 pm

Paul Penna wrote:
Smari1989 wrote:Gotta say, the forgotten Frank Fontaine's impersonation of Winston Churchill on the Benny Program dated April 9, 1950 is incredible. God, that was funny. I'd heard the episode before but couldn't remember that part. Again, the late 40s/early 50s must rank as the peak of the Benny Program.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dIIqOWbr04" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank
Fontaine's Churchill bit follows on the heels of Frank Nelson's intro at 19:46 into the program.
Yes, thanks. I should've pointed that out.

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by LetsPrintThat » Mon Oct 03, 2016 7:04 pm

I'm a little late getting on this train, but characteristically have a couple thoughts to shout from the caboose.

I think there were many times when actors -- and scripts -- weren't there when ON THE AIR light went on. 40-some years ago, Tom Snyder had a terrific "Tomorrow" show with all guests from the golden age of radio -- Jim Backus, Mel Blanc, William Conrad and three or four others. The bulk of their reminiscing was about those times, and the steps they took to get through the next 15 minutes. When it was a missing player, they'd pull someone off the next show, someone trying to do two voices, etc. The bigger problem would be when the scripts ran out of pages with ten minutes still to go -- a clerical error! -- and they had to improvise as well as act. Did anyone else see this show (it was 1975, I think)? I'd love to get my fuzzy-headed recollections filled in!

It always seemed to me that although Rochester was in a subordinate position to Benny, it was he who really ran things, Benny thought he was the boss, but Rochester steered the best course. I'm not sure here, but wouldn't racial stereotyping serve to heighten the comedy? (Not that I'm advocating or excusing it.)

Also, during the height of their faux-feud, Fred Allen zinged Benny and Benny retorted: "You wouldn't have said that if my writers were here!"

Most of all, though, I always consider Benny to be the absolute trunk of the 20th Century comedy tree. So many comedians learned their comic timing from him -- silence, in every other sphere of radio and television, is poison -- and none bigger than Johnny Carson, who acknowledged flat-out that everything he knew he got from Benny. I'm sure there're some you can't trace back, but not many.

Thanks for letting this newbie pontificate all over the place!

--Harry

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by wich2 » Mon Oct 03, 2016 9:14 pm

Welcome aboard, Harry!

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Gumlegs » Sun Oct 16, 2016 12:24 pm

I don't think it's the one you asked about, LetsPrintThat, but it's in the ballpark:

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Ray Faiola » Wed Oct 19, 2016 4:47 am

I recently got to the end of the Benny radio run and finished off by listening to the rehearsal recordings from 1953-55. In addition to hearing how Benny would stop and refine a joke or a bit, it's interesting to hear his secretary, Jeannette Eymann, stand in for Mary Livingstone. Jeanette would actually perform during the taping and then Mary's solo recorded voice would be cut-in. By 1954 Mary's nerves had finally gotten the better of her and she could no longer appear before an audience. They didn't do this on too many shows as Mary's energy was obviously way below the actors who were "in the moment" and Mary simply didn't appear on many of the final season shows. Bob Crosby, while still announced as part of the cast, also vanished from most of the Jan-May 1955 shows.
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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Chris Snowden » Sun Oct 23, 2016 5:30 pm

Smari1989 wrote:Listening to Benny's very earliest (1932-34) programs, I have to confess that most of these haven't aged very well at all, IMO, though they're interesting as examples of very early radio.
Yes, partly that's because the foundations of the show's greatest period hadn't been established yet--- key cast members hadn't come along, and personalities hadn't yet been defined beyond wisecracking--- and partly because the earlier scriptwriters just weren't as good as those who replaced them.

The show's quality picks up noticeably from 1943 forward, when chief writers Bill Morrow and Ed Beloin move on, and a new team begins taking shape: Sam Perrin, Hal Goldman, Al Gordon, John Tackaberry, etc.
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Smari1989
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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Smari1989 » Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:03 pm

Chris Snowden wrote: The show's quality picks up noticeably from 1943 forward, when chief writers Bill Morrow and Ed Beloin move on, and a new team begins taking shape: Sam Perrin, Hal Gordon, Al Gordon, John Tackaberry, etc.
I agree the show was at its peak from the mid-40s on, but I do think there are many funny episodes to be found as far back as 1937 or so as well (for that matter, I much prefer the Jell-O commercials over Lucky Strike).

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Smari1989 » Thu Aug 17, 2017 3:48 pm

From the March 2, 1941-show:

The gang is on a mountain trip, when suddenly they see something rumbling in the bushes, and fear it to be a fierce animal.

JACK: OH ROOO-CHESTEEEERRR!

ROCHESTER: YEEE-EESSS, BOOOOSSSS?

JACK: GO AND SEE WHAT'S IN THOSE BUUU-UUUSHEE-EES!

ROCHESTER: LET-IT-REMAIN-A MYYYY-STERYYYYYY!

:lol: :lol: :lol:

I love the Jack Benny program. A relief from the world's many worries, now as back then.

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Smari1989 » Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:07 pm

I'm currently reading Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley's book JACK BENNY AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF RADIO COMEDY, and I heartily recommend it. Although much of its basic info will be known to Benny's fans, the book covers certain aspects of his show (and the social-economic climate(s) in which it was made) more indepth than I've read before; especially as far as Rochester's story is concerned. Interesting stuff.

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Smari1989 » Tue Mar 27, 2018 1:22 pm

Just made this post at another board, but thought I might add it here as well...

I just listened to the March 11, 1945-episode of Jack's program, the episode where we get to hear how (supposedly) Jack "found" his valet, Rochester -- and something struck me. The story goes that Jack in 1936 had a car accident with Rochester, who at that time worked as a taxi driver. Jack blamed Rochester, of course, and a settlement was finally made in his favor; the taxi company agreed to release Rochester from his duties and have him become Jack's valet. The story is of course pure fiction, but what caught my attention was this: this is more or less the exact plot which Jerry Seinfeld used in season four of Seinfeld, when he pitched an idea for a sitcom pilot to NBC--Jerry is victim of a car accident and the court rules that the careless driver must serve as his butler. Could this be a coincidence? I guess so, but it's still striking. Though a huge fan both of Jack and the Seinfeld show, I never heard this connection being made before.

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by FrankFay » Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:37 pm

Smari1989 wrote:Just made this post at another board, but thought I might add it here as well...

I just listened to the March 11, 1945-episode of Jack's program, the episode where we get to hear how (supposedly) Jack "found" his valet, Rochester -- and something struck me. The story goes that Jack in 1936 had a car accident with Rochester, who at that time worked as a taxi driver. Jack blamed Rochester, of course, and a settlement was finally made in his favor; the taxi company agreed to release Rochester from his duties and have him become Jack's valet. The story is of course pure fiction, but what caught my attention was this: this is more or less the exact plot which Jerry Seinfeld used in season four of Seinfeld, when he pitched an idea for a sitcom pilot to NBC--Jerry is victim of a car accident and the court rules that the careless driver must serve as his butler. Could this be a coincidence? I guess so, but it's still striking. Though a huge fan both of Jack and the Seinfeld show, I never heard this connection being made before.
It's possible that Jerry Seinfeld is a Jack Benny Fan, but I vote for coincidence. I've seen and heard other stories where one man has to work off a debt to another through service.
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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by wich2 » Wed Mar 28, 2018 2:06 pm

FrankFay wrote:
Smari1989 wrote:I just listened to the March 11, 1945-episode of Jack's program, the episode where we get to hear how (supposedly) Jack "found" his valet, Rochester ... what caught my attention was this: this is more or less the exact plot which Jerry Seinfeld used in season four of Seinfeld, when he pitched an idea for a sitcom pilot to NBC ... Though a huge fan both of Jack and the Seinfeld show, I never heard this connection being made before.
It's possible that Jerry Seinfeld is a Jack Benny Fan...
Or maybe even more likley - that Larry David is. I think it's entirely possible, Smari.

I also heard and enjoyed that episode not long ago. But you left out the famous - and funny! - guest stars that Rochester works for!

-Craig

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Re: Jack Benny, and his contemporaries

Unread post by Jim Roots » Thu Mar 29, 2018 5:13 am

wich2 wrote:
FrankFay wrote:
Smari1989 wrote:I just listened to the March 11, 1945-episode of Jack's program, the episode where we get to hear how (supposedly) Jack "found" his valet, Rochester ... what caught my attention was this: this is more or less the exact plot which Jerry Seinfeld used in season four of Seinfeld, when he pitched an idea for a sitcom pilot to NBC ... Though a huge fan both of Jack and the Seinfeld show, I never heard this connection being made before.
It's possible that Jerry Seinfeld is a Jack Benny Fan...
Or maybe even more likley - that Larry David is. I think it's entirely possible, Smari.

I also heard and enjoyed that episode not long ago. But you left out the famous - and funny! - guest stars that Rochester works for!

-Craig
Having just finished the DVD of the most recent season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, I vote for Larry David being the Benny fan. (It's well-known Jerry was an Abbott and Costello worshipper, too.) There are quite a lot of similarities in their approach to comedy. The main difference, of course, is that Larry's character is completely lacking in Jack's more humanitarian traits. Both are great comedians who produced a seismic shift in American comedy.

Jim

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