Bob Newhart on Jack Benny

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Bob Newhart on Jack Benny

Postby Brad from Georgia » Tue May 19, 2009 9:21 am

On our trip down to Florida, we listened to the audiobook of Bob Newhart's memoir I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This, And Other Things that Strike Me as Funny. Newhart was very generous in his praise for Jack Benny, "the best comedian of all time." He says that in part his comic persona drew from Benny's--Newhart's use of the phone as "partner" in his act meant he had long pauses built in, and he studied Jack to see how a master incorporates silence into a comedy scene. Benny also helped Newhart along early in Bob's standup career; once he laughed so hard at a Newhart sketch ("Submarine Commander") that after the show Benny asked as a personal favor that Bob always tell that story whenever he knew that Jack was in the audience.

So years later Newhart saw Jack come in to one of his shows and did a twelve-minute version of the sixteen-minute sketch. Afterward, Jack came backstage. "Did--did you like that I performed the--you know, the submarine sketch?" Bob asked.

Jack erupted in mock irritation: "But you left out the best lines!"

And he proceeded to do the entire missing four minutes from memory!
Image Oh, for heaven's sake!
Brad from Georgia
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Postby shimp scrampi » Tue May 19, 2009 5:22 pm

It's funny to think of Newhart these days as having been one of the upstart trendy "sophisticate" comics of the Mike Nichols/Elaine May group that were coming into their careers as Jack's was gently winding down. Today I see him as one of the best living legacies of Jack's style of humor; he's got a lot more in common with Jack than he does with say, a Chris Rock or a Margaret Cho (who I think are strong talents in their own rights). But Bob's a "classically trained" straight man comic - and a true treasure.

And, I've posted it here before, but just 'cause I love this picture so... This could be my personal Mount Rushmore of comedy, I can't see any of those four faces without breaking into a smile:

shimp scrampi
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