IJBFC Chat - November 1, 2009

(Name of message originator in [] brackets at the beginning of each line)

[Maxwell] Hey Brad!

[Brad from Georgia] So how was Halloween? It rained and we didn't have a single trick or treater. First time in years.

[Maxwell] Hiya boss!

[Laura Leff] Hi folks!

[Brad from Georgia] Hi, LL!

[ed] hi LL

[Maxwell] We had a lot more than last year (when we had none).

[Laura Leff] It was beautiful here. We went to a very nice open house of a friend of mine and had a good time.

[Brad from Georgia] We stayed at home and listened to the rain.

[ed] I had over 20+ kids ran out of candy at 7:30

[Laura Leff] His house has a great view of the ocean, and we watched the sunset over the Pacific.

[Maxwell] Yesterday was our first rainless day in a week, I think.

[Brad from Georgia] My birthday was last Tuesday; my son just remembered tonight and called me to apologize for having forgotten it. I felt like Jack!

[ed] same here max

[Laura Leff] Any Beverly Hills Beavers?

[Laura Leff] Mazel tov, Brad!

[Maxwell] Our trick or treating hours were from 3:00-6:00 p.m. Kind of takes the fun out of it....

[Laura Leff] I saw a lot of kids out in costume during daylight hours...when did that change happen?

[Brad from Georgia] We were in Key West last weekend and watched the sun set in the Gulf from Mallory Square. Key West was very warm and drunk.

[ed] ours was 4-8 turned on front porch light and the kids came up in seconds

[Maxwell] I think in the '80s or '90s.

[Maxwell] At least around here.

[Laura Leff] Key West was drunk or you were?

[Brad from Georgia] Key West. I don't drink myself.

[Laura Leff] That would be difficult.

[Maxwell] You should never drink yourself. You should drink liquids.

[ed] tasty

[Brad from Georgia] It was the beginning of the Key West Fantasy Fest.

[Maxwell] So you fantasized about drinking yourself, then....

[Laura Leff] How's the new book doing?

[Laura Leff] I think it's supposed to be out by now, is that right?

[Laura Leff] (A hush falls on the room)

[Brad from Georgia] Lots of good seafood down there, though. And six-toed cats. I suppose the new books doing OK; they never tell me! It's gotten good reviews, especially a starred review from School Library Journal.

[Laura Leff] That question was for Brad.

[Laura Leff] Great...congrats!

[Maxwell] Cool!

[Brad from Georgia] I'm currently working on a spec (non-contract) book called "Bridget Berg is Queen of the Elves?"

[Laura Leff] Hey, here's a question for the room (which I may repeat later)

[Maxwell] Well, is she or isn't she?

[Laura Leff] Brad - Sounds like Pan's Labyrinth

[Brad from Georgia] Contemporary fantasy. Bridget is part Irish, part Jewish, and part fairy, though forty generations removed....

[Laura Leff] Has anyone here gotten the specials from 1966 on and watched them recently?

[Laura Leff] Brad - Well, that sounds like ME!

[Brad from Georgia] I watched the Birthday Special to see Eddie Carroll!

[Laura Leff] Brad - OK...now, you don't remember anyone playing Mission Impossible, do you?

[Brad from Georgia] Hmmm...no.

[Laura Leff] OK, neither do I.

[Brad from Georgia] You mean playing the theme song?

[Laura Leff] Supposedly someone thinks that the Kane Triplets were on a Benny special playing "Mission Impossible". (Yes, the theme.) But it doesn't ring a bell for me.

[Laura Leff] I guess this would be a question for Kay.  

[Brad from Georgia] Not for me, either.

[Maxwell] If anybody knows, Kay would.

[Laura Leff] I'm wondering if it might have happened on another celebrity's show, like Bob Hope.

[Laura Leff] Or even that Jack was a guest on that show.

[Laura Leff] I know Jack did "The Fugitive" on a Bob Hope special.

[Laura Leff] But I don't think it was done on a Benny special.

[Laura Leff] OK, good. So it's not like, "Laura you silly goose, it was so-n-so..."

[Laura Leff] Thanks

[Brad from Georgia] Let's see...MI began in 1966. Hm. Maybe Leonard Nimoy would know.

[ed] or steven hill

[Brad from Georgia] Somebody call Kay!

[Laura Leff] Well, what thoughts on the show for tonight?

[Maxwell] ed, you took the words right out of my mouth.

[ed] except on sundays

[Brad from Georgia] One of those early ones where Jack's character is still like ungelled Jell-O. Pleasant, but Mary's "dumb" character is grating.

[Maxwell] What's grating?

[Maxwell] Yeah, that did get to be annoying.

[Laura Leff] Carrots grated into Jell-O

[Laura Leff] Welcome back to the Harry Conn years.

[Brad from Georgia] I thought the endless repetition of "What's xxxx, Jack?" was just annoying.

[Laura Leff] Makes you wonder how they'd handle both her and Kenny being "dumb".

[Brad from Georgia] Mary worked much better when she settled into the wise-cracking dame character.

[Laura Leff] Which she did to a degree in the skit

[Maxwell] The world already had Gracie Allen and Jane Ace.

[Laura Leff] And I think that's why they went in that direction originally

[Laura Leff] How many "smart" women comedians were there?

[Brad from Georgia] Kenny sort of oscillated in this show, too. Partly a tentative Dennis Day "Yes, Please?" characterization, and then suddenly brash: "Sing, Kenny." "Okay, Benny."

[Laura Leff] He did have a lovely voice, though.

[Laura Leff] Let's think about this for a minute...what female types were there in 1935?

[Maxwell] Kenny Bakers voice came through the courtesy of Mervyn Leroy Productions.

[Brad from Georgia] I didn't think the final skit was well suited to Jack, though. He doesn't do overbearing very well.

[Laura Leff] The dumb girl, or "pest girl" as the ads called Mary.

[ed] dennis was the perfect foil even better that baker

[Laura Leff] The mother

[Brad from Georgia] LL--Well, there was the Funny Lady herself, Ms. Bryce; and Mae West, of course.

[Laura Leff] The girlfriend

[Laura Leff] Who was usually dumb

[Laura Leff] Or just quiet and supportive

[ed] mae west was off radio from 1937 to the mid 40's

[Brad from Georgia] The wise-cracking, brash dame.

[Laura Leff] The Sapphire-type...kind of loud, bossy wife

[ed] to hot for radio

[Maxwell] I'd say most women comedians (or comediennes back then) were "dumb Doras" back then.

[Brad from Georgia] Well, if it's too hot for radio, she could always take off a few clothes. Who's to know?

[Laura Leff] Who was doing the wise-cracking brash dame at the time other than Mae West and Sophie Tucker?

[Brad from Georgia] Ann Sothern.

[Maxwell] Jean Harlow

[Laura Leff] OK, good point.

[Laura Leff] Do you think Mary could have carried that off?

[Laura Leff] Her ultimate character was more of a flat, puncturing type.

[Brad from Georgia] I dunno. She did a good Mae West voice.

[Maxwell] She was the pin to Jack's balloon.

[ed] there is one i can't remeber her daughter played on the TV show "Soap"

[Maxwell] Judy Canova

[ed] remember

[ed] oh yes she was a dumb dora

[Brad from Georgia] Judy Canova was more of the hick type, wasn't she?

[Laura Leff] Yeah, what Brad said.

[Maxwell] Brad, that's how I'd classify her, too.

[Laura Leff] Brash, but sort of rubeish.

[Brad from Georgia] Jest a girl whut cain't say "no".

[ed] she was funny though

[Brad from Georgia] Yes, she was!

[Maxwell] And a pretty darn good singer, too.

[Laura Leff] I remember hearing a show where she and Jack were working together...odd mix.

[Brad from Georgia] I listened to a "Fibber McGee and Molly" right after listening to tonight's show, roughly the same era. Molly had sort of a Mary Livingstone vibe in that particular episode.

[Laura Leff] How so?

[ed] another one that comes to mind is my friend irma

[Brad from Georgia] She kept pricking Fibber's ego and cracking wise about his supposed achievements.

[Laura Leff] Ah, more the later ML.

[ed] marie wilson

[Brad from Georgia] Yes, that's what I meant--the classic Mary.

[Laura Leff] I always thought Marie Wilson was one of the ultimate "dumb Doras".

[Maxwell] LL ditto.

[Brad from Georgia] So what's the origin of "Dumb Dora?"

[ed] her poor friend jane (cathy lewis)

[Maxwell] Brad, as far as I know it was a vaudeville expression for any dumb female act.

[Maxwell] Don't know where it originated, though.

[Brad from Georgia] Ah, just looked it up--it was a pre-Blondie comic strip by Chic Young.

[Laura Leff] I'm sure the "dumb female" must go back in theatre for hundreds of years...

[Laura Leff] Oh, the specific name. Got it.

[ed] ah another one penny singleton

[ed] and dumb dagwood

[Laura Leff] So of all these types we've named that were in common use at the time, could Mary have done any of these?

[Maxwell] I'd say there's one difference between Mollie and classic ML. Mollie was married and still supportive of Fibber, even while she'd puncture his balloon when he deserved it (every week).

[Brad from Georgia] Comic strip reminds me: one gift my wife gave me for my birthday was a copy of the 1937 Jell-O cookbook "starring" cartoons of Jack and Mary narrating real groaners of jokes.

[Laura Leff] Yes, definitely not Beloin-Morrow stuff.

[Brad from Georgia] I think Mary's talents were very narrow--good in a certain groove, but she didn't have as much acting ability as Dennis, say.

[Laura Leff] Sort of like the gag at the end of tonight's show about "You can't cancel the elephants...and elephant never forgets!"

[Maxwell] Maybe the Jell-O cookbook was Harry Conn's revenge.

[Laura Leff] Could be...probably more likely some wanna-be comedy writer at General Foods...

[Laura Leff] or the ad agency

[Laura Leff] OK...BRB...

[Maxwell] Most likely the ad agency.

[Brad from Georgia] JacK: Mary, I can't imagine why Jell-O is like a man whose chair has been pulled out from under him. Mary: Because it sets faster!

[Maxwell] That has ad agency written all over it.

[Brad from Georgia] Jack: Mary, why is Jell-O like snow falling in Hot Springs, Virginia? Mary: Because it dissolves in water.

[Brad from Georgia] We don't need any more, do we?

[Laura Leff] Aw...and I just grabbed my copy to do that...

[Laura Leff] Oh well.  

[Laura Leff] Jack: I can't guess, Mary! Why is Jell-O like a fellow with two steam yachts? Mary: Because it's EXTRA RICH!

[Maxwell] As a chemistry teacher, I protest! Snow can't dissolve in water because snow IS water!

[Laura Leff] OK, I did my part.

[Brad from Georgia] I think I will prepare the tart cranberry Jell-O salad for Thanksgiving, though. It looks like such a grand dessert, shimmering with color and filled with fruity goodness.

[Laura Leff] Let's find some really disgusting recipe in here, what say...

[Maxwell] Nobody ever uses the word "grand" anymore to describe something really good.

[Laura Leff] Ooh...jellied waldorf salad.

[Maxwell] I don't like waldorf salad to begin with, so I'm already disgusted.

[Laura Leff] Lemon Jell-O, hot water, 4t vinegar, 1/2t salt

[Brad from Georgia] The Calfornia Special's kind of nauseating. Cherries and pimentos.

[Laura Leff] 1c diced celery, 1c diced apples, 1/4c pecan meats, 1/4c mayonnaise

[Laura Leff] Jellied Loganberry Cooler...where can you get logaberry juice any more?

[Maxwell] You have to squeeze it from the loganberries yourself.

[Laura Leff] OMG...supper salad ring

[Brad from Georgia] About the show . . . I did think the changing names of Jack's character in the skit was sort of amusing. But now I don't remember what the names were!

[Laura Leff] 1 pkg lime jell-O, 1c hot water, 1/8t salt

[Brad from Georgia] For my writers' group meeting on Halloween, I made green deviled eggs. Someone else brought the ham.

[Laura Leff] 1 1/2c grapefruit sections, 1 cup grapefruit juice and water, tuna fish salad

[Maxwell] Was the ham green, too?

[Maxwell] EEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[Brad from Georgia] Gag, Laura. No, regular pink ham.

[Laura Leff] What's India relish?

[Maxwell] Made with India ink.

[Brad from Georgia] It's a piquant pickle made from ink. Aw, Max....

[Laura Leff] Ah, there's even a picture of the supper salad ring. Mmmm-hhhhmmmm

[Brad from Georgia] I used to make cottage cheese and grape jelly sandwiches, but I don't think I'd care for the supper ring.

[Laura Leff] I'll spare you the salmon mold recipe.

[Maxwell] I still like my mom's Jell-O salad: Lime Jell-O, ginger ale, and nuts.

[Brad from Georgia] It's so hard to find moldy salmon these days.

[Laura Leff] Yes, it looks like the ad agency took all the catch phrases about Jell-O and reverse engineered jokes around them.

[Brad from Georgia] I've actually tried a few of the Jell-O desserts Don touts from time to time. They range from all right to what the heck was I thinking?


(extensive loss due to technical issue…sorry)


[Maxwell] Bumper sticker seen in Minnesota: When Lutefisk is outlawed, only outlaws will have Lutefisk.

[Laura Leff] Hmmm...that sounds more like something from Finland.

[Brad from Georgia] Lutefisk is a Lutheran dish.To make them sorry for their sins.

[Brad from Georgia] Norwegian and Danish, I think.

[Maxwell] Swedes eat it too. My grandmother (or her mother) used to make it.

[Laura Leff] Well, the bits of protein in sleazy jelly is a pretty good description of gefilte fish as well. At least the kind you get in jars.

[Laura Leff] I should have just said Nordic.  

[Maxwell] Fortunately that family tradition stopped before I was born.

[Brad from Georgia] I'm sorry I derailed us with the Jell-O book! Barbara also found somewhere a DVD of "The Slowest Gun in the West," the Phil Silvers/Jack Benny TV western.

[Laura Leff] Sounds like the preservation of fish element is the same between gefilte and Lute

[Laura Leff] Brad - Oh yes...have you seen it? It's pretty good.

[Brad from Georgia] Haven't viewed it yet--too busy this week (I have an extra class at school this fall).

[Laura Leff] You'll enjoy it.

[Laura Leff] Well, sorry that no one seemed to enjoy the show for tonight...dare I ask if there are any more comments on it?

[Brad from Georgia] I have a vague memory of having seen it when younger. Jack is Chicken Finsterwald, I think, a cowardly gunslinger, and Silvers is the Silver Dollar Kid.

[Brad from Georgia] LL--I thought it was pleasant, not inspired.

[Laura Leff] Brad - Yup, you've got it.

[Brad from Georgia] It comes from the era when Jack was still finding his way into character.

[Maxwell] LL I enjoyed the show. I think you can appreciate it for what it is...the ultimate characters not fully developed yet.

[Laura Leff] And I guess that's why I enjoy it. Kind of like looking into the back of a watch that's only partially assembled.

[Brad from Georgia] There's a kind of . . . I'm not sure . . . a sense that Jack is trying to toe the line and keep things moving. Little of the wonderful looseness of the best shows.

[Maxwell] That's why it's so sad to me that almost all of 1936 is missing. I'd love to listen to the development that occurred that year.

[Brad from Georgia] Me, too.

[Laura Leff] Maxwell - 1936 or 1935?

[Maxwell] '35. 5 is right next to 6.

[Laura Leff] Yeah...having read the scripts, there's a LOT going on in 1935, like the whole "Love in Bloom" as Jack's theme song.

[Brad from Georgia] I had a bizarre dream one day last week about listening to some classic play being done on radio with Jack and Frank Nelson as the major actors, but I cannot rememberwhich play it was!

[Brad from Georgia] One night last week, I mean.

[Brad from Georgia] I can't sleep in the day.

[Laura Leff] Brad - Sorry Wrong Number

[Maxwell] I was going through that year awhile back in "39 Forever" and was wishing I could have heard that stuff...especially the "Love in Bloom" plot.

[Laura Leff] I remember reading over them and saying, "Doggone it that we don't have these shows!"

[Laura Leff] Of course, I said that about the Canada Dry series too.

[Brad from Georgia] Maybe it was "Waiting for Godot."

[Laura Leff] Or The Odd Couple

[Brad from Georgia] No, that was with Groucho Marx and Jack.

[Laura Leff] Or The Sunshine Boys

[Laura Leff] Brad - Yeah, knew someone was going to say that.  

[Laura Leff] We've been watching "The Muppet Show" recently and noting all the similarities to the Benny show. But I'm not the first person to point that out.

[Brad from Georgia] Do you think Jack's shows improved when they got away from wordplay and more into character comedy?

[Laura Leff] Well, they always did some of both.

[Laura Leff] Like Mary's dumb character.

[Brad from Georgia] LL--I think I told you that Heather Henson (who's a friend of my daughter's) said that one of the great disappointments in her dad's life was that he could never work out a Muppet show with Jack.

[Laura Leff] Brad - Oh yes, I know. I watch those shows and Dan probably gets tired of hearing me wonder aloud what Jack on the show would have been.

[Maxwell] I can picture Jack playing violin with Dr. Teeth.

[Brad from Georgia] Lord knows I can never resist a pun, but they're better as seasoning than a main course. I like the comedy when personality drives it, I think.

[Laura Leff] And pointing out lines and bits directly taken from Jack (e.g., Kermit saying "Now cut that out!")

[Brad from Georgia] Weren't the Muppets and Jack on a "Tonight" show together once?

[Laura Leff] Gee...there seem to be a flock of great horned owls outside all hooting away. Wonder if they were here last night for effect...

[Brad from Georgia] Kermit has a very Jack-like vibe at times as the emcee.

[Laura Leff] Brad - Yup.

[Laura Leff] Yup on Tonight Show.

[Laura Leff] Agreed on the puns vs. character...been noticing that the Muppet Show is a bit heavy on the puns, which get predictable very quickly.

[Brad from Georgia] I kind of remember some Gonzo the Great stunt going badly awry and Kermit looking at the audience and saying, "Now that I didn't expect at all." Very Jack-like line.

[Laura Leff] Or even Groucho

[Brad from Georgia] Did I ever tell you I got to meet the real Gonzo about a year ago?

[Laura Leff] No...do tell

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[Laura Leff] The voice of, or the inspiration?

[Brad from Georgia] Dave Goelz, who performs Gonzo, brought him to a Christmas performance of "Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas" in Atlanta last year.

[Laura Leff] Very cool...kids must have loved that

[Brad from Georgia] I got to speak with "Gonzo." I told him I admired his performance as Charles Dickens in "The Muppet Christmas Carol."

[Brad from Georgia] He replied, "Thank you. You're weird. I like you."

[Laura Leff] I'm weird. I'm still more impressed that you met Patrick Troughton.  

[Brad from Georgia] My daughter later got to speak to Goelz when he came to the Atlanta Puppetry Arts Center, where she works. He remembered her from the night before and asked, "Is the weird guy your dad?" She proudly answered, "Yes, that's where I get it."

[Laura Leff] Well, small group tonight...shall we call it good and give you back more of your evening?

[Laura Leff] Brad - I'll bet!

[Brad from Georgia] OK. I'm watching "Nicholas Nickleby" on TCM.

[Brad from Georgia] Sir Cedric Hardwicke is in it.

[Laura Leff] Any requests for next month?

[Brad from Georgia] But so far not the inevitable Hans Conried.

[Maxwell] Sounds good to me. I want to watch the Next Iron Chef at 8:00.

[Laura Leff] Brad - Oh an older one! Now you've got my attention.

[Laura Leff] Recently enjoyed both Hardwicke and Troughton in Richard III.

[Brad from Georgia] Oh, how about the un-aired CBS Christmas show the first year Jack moved to that network?

[Laura Leff] Brad - Sure...can do that. Thanks!

[Maxwell] Sounds like a good one.

[Laura Leff] Or...I"m not sure I've got it as an MP3.

[Laura Leff] I've got it as WAV.

[Maxwell] D'oh!

[Brad from Georgia] Oops. Shame. All those dirty jokes they told, knowing it wasn't going out on the air.;)

[Laura Leff] Yeah right.

[Brad from Georgia] That should have been  

[Laura Leff] Been doing this chat for so many years and we've done so many of the "obvious" ones

[Laura Leff] Xmas shopping, Colmans for dinner, Harris/Faye Santa Claus...

[Laura Leff] Was thinking about Fred Allen's "Santa Claus Sits Down" episode

[Brad from Georgia] Oh, I remembered--I dreamed about Jack as Scrooge and Frank Nelson as all the ghosts in "A Christmas Carol!" and Rochester was Roch Cratchitt!

[Maxwell] Now that's a dream I'd like to see.

[Laura Leff] Sounds like you've been watching the Rich Little version (but Jack was Bob Cratchitt)

[Brad from Georgia] Dennis was Nephew Fred. Don was the Christmas Goose. He touted the Jell-O dessert...nah, I don't remember that much of the dream.

[Laura Leff] OK, I'll come up with something. Nothing too early, I promise.

[Brad from Georgia] OK, we trust you!

[Laura Leff] Glad you still do after this month!  

[Maxwell] This month's wasn't all that bad!

[Brad from Georgia] It wasn't as bad as it sounded.

[Laura Leff] Like Wagner's music

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[Brad from Georgia] Exactly!

[Laura Leff] OK, thanks much folks! See you in December!

[Maxwell] See ya!

[Brad from Georgia] Good night, all.