In Praise of Jack Benny (and JELL-O)

Welcome to another Wildcard! February 14th is a special day — not only is it the most romantic of holidays, it’s also the anniversary of Jack Benny’s birth! To celebrate, we must listen to a few of his classic episodes. Now, I’m a big fan of Benny and his series (particularly on the radio) and one day Wildcard Wednesdays will ideally see season-by-season coverage of his best offerings. But until that time comes (hint: this summer), I’ll tantalize you with a few of my favorites, all of which in today’s post come from 1940, when the show was still sponsored by Jell-O. (While the Lucky Strike years are largely credited with developing the situation comedy as we know it, the earlier Jell-O programs have a delicious looseness and sense of slaphappy fun that I find unmatched.) Happy 39th birthday, Jack!



01) “Leaving For Yosemite” (Aired: 02/04/40)

This is the first of a month-long story in which the core cast vacations in Yosemite — a great mini arc that gives the characters a lot of fun stuff to play!

02) “Arriving At Yosemite” (Aired: 02/11/40)

The second part of the arc is probably the strongest of the four, with the funniest and most-laugh-out loud moments — listen and see if you agree!

03) “In New York Preparing For The Premiere of Buck Benny Rides Again” (Aired: 04/21/40)

Benny and the cast are in New York for the premiere of Buck Benny Rides Again and, again, going on location provides the show with a sense of jovial fun!

04) “Buck Benny At The Paramount Theater” (Aired: 04/28/40) 

The cast is so loose and giddy in this offering, making plenty of mistakes and enjoying the heck out of them — an infectious and really funny episode!

05) “Phil Tries To Collect A World Series Bet” (Aired: 10/13/40)

As the second episode of the season, I have to say that this one of the funniest installments of the show I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing — riffing off the events of the less enjoyable premiere while employing a looseness of feeling that’s belied by a tightness to the comedy. Really underrated offering!

06) “Jack Is Held Up On The Way To Don’s House” (Aired: 11/24/40)

This is the start of a hilarious arc in which Don invites the gang over to his house to meet his new bride, without telling her. While outside waiting for his cue to enter, Jack is mugged!

07) “Jack Catches Cold At Don’s House” (Aired: 12/01/40)

In the second part of the arc (maybe even funnier than the above), Jack is bedridden with a cold — lots of laughs (and some good Frank Nelson moments)!

08) “Don Is Mad And Walks Out” (Aired: 12/08/40)

Jack and Don are still feuding in the continuation of the story that’s played through in the prior two offerings — lots of well -written fun (as usual)!



Come back next Wednesday for another Wildcard post! And tune in on Monday for one more Jerome Kern musical!