When We Couldn’t Stand Jack Benny – A running gag series on the Jack Benny Program where radio listeners and special guests shared the many ways they couldn’t stand Jack Benny. The winner received $10,000 in American Bonds.
No one has ever accused Jack Benny of being a visionary (except, maybe, Jack Benny). However, Jack and his merry band managed to raise radio comedy from its vaudeville roots to what many reviews feel is “the quintessential radio comedy show.”
The Jack Benny Show was always a team effort, even if Jack’s character would never admit it. Jack Benny was a comic genius, and no one could have played the character he created as well or duplicated his timing and delivery. The true genius of Benny’s program was always letting the other players shine. Taking a different direction from other vaudeville veterans in radio, Jack never depended upon the technique of heckling his audience or fellow players. In contrast, Jack was usually the butt of his cast’s jokes. How much of this was Jack’s creation and how much can from his writing staff is hard to say. Jack rarely, if ever, gave an interview without acknowledging his writers, even when he disagreed with them.
One bit that Jack wasn’t happy with at first was the “Why I Can’t Stand Jack Benny Contest”. When the writers originally presented the concept to Benny, the contest was “Why I Hate Jack Benny”, but that was a little much, even for Benny’s iron-tough self-deprecation.
The contest began on the first December broadcast of 1945, after a series of running gags involving Jack getting robbed of $10,000. It turns out the robbery was a publicity stunt, and the stunt continues in the contest. Through the weeks of the contest, the program
has several unique episodes and guests, including the first appearance of Ronald and Benita Colman as Jack’s neighbors, and a visit from Louella Parsons.
Jack Benny’s character is even more beside himself with the thought of giving away $10,000 than having been robbed of it. The prizes are various denominations of Victory Bonds. The worst part for Jack is the contest’s “Supreme Judge”, no other than his nemesis, Fred Allen.
Fred Allen takes positive delight in announcing the winners, but probably not as much as Ronald Colman does the following week, when he reads Carrol P. Craig’s winning entry:
He fills the air with boasts and brags
And obsolete obnoxious gags.
The way he plays his violin
Is music’s most obnoxious sin.
His cowardice alone, indeed,
Is matched by his obnoxious greed.
In all the things that he portrays
He shows up my own obnoxious ways.
Enjoy this Jack Benny broadcast from 68 years ago today, Dec 30, 1945: