Top 10 One-Liners Of Jack Benny – Thursday’s Top Ten List
Benny, who was born Benjamin Kubelsky, was the son of Meyer and Emma Sachs Kubelsky; his father emigrated from Poland, his mom from Lithuania. Meyer Kubelsky ran a saloon before going into the clothing business.
Benny studied the violin at age six and started his career as a musician, but as was the case of some other great Jewish comedians, eventually found his greatest gift to be that of making people laugh. Although part of his act involved others making fun of his “terrible” skills as a fiddler, Benny was actually very good, if just below the level of an Isaac Stern, who was a great friend of his.
Jack Benny—whose stage name was briefly Ben K Benny—starred on vaudeville, on radio and on television, earning stars on the Hollywood Walk(s) of Fame in the latter three categories. He was, perhaps, best known for several incarnations of The Jack Benny Show, a program that achieved great success on radio and television for over 30 years.
The comic great had several standing jokes as part of his very long run, and part of his persona was that of being:
a) a notorious tightwad (in reality, he was generous and philanthropic)
George Burns once quipped, “When Jack Benny has a party, you not only bring your own scotch—you bring your own rocks.”
b) eternally age 39
c) pompous and vain – by almost all accounts, he was beloved by his co-stars, and did not mind being the butt-end of most of the jokes
d) a terrible violin player
Dean Martin had a great line: “When Moshe Dayan heard him play, he took the patch off his eye and put it over his ear.”
One of Benny’s most famous bits from his radio program involved him walking home when he is stopped in his tracks by a stranger who asks him for a match. As Benny starts to respond, the stranger says, “Don’t make a move. This is a stick-up. Now come on; your money or your life.” At this point, the audience hears a long pause and starts to laugh knowing Benny’s ultra-cheap character. When the criminal presses him with, “Look, bud! I said your money or your life!”, Benny immediately says, “I’m thinking it over!”
You can hear this “Your Money or Your Life” bit here.
Jack Benny was married just once—to actress (and frequent supporting player) Mary Livingstone, from 1927–1974, when he passed. Mary’s real name was Sadie Marks, and she was a distant cousin of the Marx Brothers who Jack was good friends with.
The great Bob Hope, a contemporary comedian, if a friendly rival, speaking to Benny’s one-of-a-kind comic timing at his funeral said, “This is the only time Jack Benny’s timing was all wrong; he left us much too soon.” Another comic legend, George Burns—who was perhaps his closest friend—was apparently too shaken with grief to be able to complete his eulogy.
As is the case with even a career of a lesser magnitude, it is quite difficult to sum it up with ten great one-liners. The following Top 10 have all been attributed to Benny, and will give you just a little taste of his humor.
10. A cannibal is a guy who goes in the restaurant and orders the waiter.
9. I was born in Waukegan a long, long time ago. In fact, our rabbi was an Indian.
8. I believe in being honest with myself. If there’s one thing I hate it’s when a comedian is great and won’t admit it. I’ve never met one like that, but if I did, I’d hate them.
7. I don’t want to tell you how much insurance I carry with the Prudential, but all I can say is: when I go, they go, too.
6. My wife Mary and I have been married for forty-seven years and not once have we had an argument serious enough to consider divorce; murder, yes, but divorce, never.
5. I don’t deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don’t deserve that either.
4. Give me golf clubs, fresh air and a beautiful partner, and you can keep the golf clubs and the fresh air.
3. A scout troop consists of twelve little kids dressed like schmucks following a big schmuck dressed like a kid.
1. I took my girl to dinner, and she laughed so hard at one of my jokes that she dropped her tray.
Well, not wanting to overstay my welcome—but certainly not wanting to leave too early, this concludes my list of the Top 10 one-liners delivered by the sublime Jack Benny. If you have any observations or suggestions for this column or future lists, please comment below or send me an email.
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About the Author: An author, speaker and custom writer from Cherry Hill, NJ, Matt loves to entertain people through his writing and public speaking. Laughs, Smiles and just enough Wisdom reach his audience through the magic of his written and spoken words. More about Matthew