Friday, March 13, 2015

Sunday Nights at Seven: The Jack Benny Story by Jack Benny and his daughter Joan (1990)

I've been listening to (and enjoying immensely) some of Jack Benny's radio programs from the 1930s and '40s on Spotify.  The entire show is really genius. I was surprised at how some of the tropes and concepts I considered modern are found in this radio show from the golden age.  It's a show about a show (like 30Rock); the characters break the third wall all the time (House of Cards); they break characters constantly and make each other laugh (Carol Burnett).  There are running gags and adlibs that are hilarious, catchphrases, actors playing versions of themselves.

So that's the show; this is supposed to be about the book.  It was good.  Not great, but good.  Plenty of stories of old Hollywood, although there could have been more.  This kind of biography, though, isn't going to have all that much scandalous tales.

I read recently that the Burns (George and Gracie) adored Jack Benny and hated his wife.  That's an example of something NOT found in this book.   I wanted a book like the Bob Hope biography that I read recently, that included Bob's halo and warts.  That's not this book.

Sunday Nights at SevenSunday Nights at Seven by Jack Benny
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jack Benny was a comedic genius, and if you haven't listened to his radio program, find a way to do so immediately. So much modern comedy owes a huge debt to Jack Benny.  That said, this book was kind of a snore.  I wanted a book like Hope: Entertainer of the Century, in which Zoglin both showed Bob Hope's halo and his warts in one big, juicy biography. Jack Benny certainly deserves the same treatment - I think his comedy has far more reach and is far more modern than Hope's; this book isn't going to give you any warts though, and doesn't do much to pick apart what made Jack Benny tick.  It's an interesting book, but just that.

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