I never met him, I never saw him, but I consider him one of my favorite people in the world. He ruined the modern sitcom for me, and I thank him for that. He made me appreciate the double-take, timing, sarcasm, and laughing at yourself. Hell, I stole a joke from him that took my best friend TEN YEARS to get. It probably would have been less, but she’d never see his TV show. While my own personal humor is crass, a bit rude, and sometimes foul, Jack was smart. He was wit, he was clever and above all he was 39.
When I was 7 or so, and my father and I were living in Del Mar, the radio station KNX 1070 (on your AM dial) had a late night program where they aired old time radio. And Saturday night at 9pm was Jack Benny, followed by (99.9% of the time) Burns & Allen. I was the only 8 year old who would, could and did quote their lines. I had a great Benny imitation accent. I was the only kid who even knew who they were. I plan to stop aging at 39 not because I fear 40 (Dad, that means you), but because someone should have the knowledge of why it’s funny when they do it.
I own all the recordings known to exist of his radio show. I know many of his bits by heart. I watch his TV show when it airs. I own two books about him, one by him and his daughter and one by his wife, Mary Livingstone. And while I’m sure I know more about him than most people (I know about his marriage and I’m fairly sure why it was troubled), I know he wasn’t perfect. He was a human.
Every time I hear ‘Hello again, this is Jack Benny’ I’m happy. So to those of you who knew him, you are lucky, lucky people, and I will be forever envious. And to those who don’t, all I can say is this.
Trust me, those Benny fans out there are laughing with me.