Sunday, December 26, 2010
Another great comedian, Jack Benny, died on this day in 1974.
Benny was a master of comic timing and probably made the most of the fewest number of words of any comic ever.
His masterpiece was the routine featuring the robber, who, confronting the miserly Benny, says, "Your money or your life."
What seems to be two or three minutes of silence follows -- it is actually 10 seconds or so. Finally, the robber says, "Well?"
"I'm thinking it over!" Benny says.
Benny was also famous for his miserable violin playing. In 1949, he served as emcee at Harry Truman's Inaugural Ball. Truman, who also died on December 26 (1972), was good friend. When he arrived at the White House for the event, a guard pointed to his violin case and asked, "Mr. Benny, what do you have in there?" As a joke, Benny whispered back, "It's a Thompson sub-machine gun." The guard replied, "Oh, that's a relief. I was afraid it was your violin".
At Jack Benny's funeral, his pal George Burns began the eulogy but broke down. Bob Hope rose to the podium in a shaky voice and honored the comedian by reading: "For a man who was the undisputed master of comedy timing, you'd have to say that this was the only time when Jack Benny's timing was all wrong. He left us much too soon."
Benny left an estate estimated at $4 million. His will stipulated that a red rose be delivered to his wife, Mary Livingstone, each day until the day she died, nine years later.