​Almanac: Jack Benny

Comedian-violinist Jack Benny is pictured in 1965.

AP Photo

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: February 14th, 1894, 122 years ago today ... the day Benjamin Kubelski was born in Chicago.

He learned to play the violin as a boy, and grew up to play it on the vaudeville circuit. Along the way he added jokes to his act, and adopted the stage name Jack Benny.

He got his own radio show in 1932, and made it a hit with his portrayal of a comically petty miser.

One routine in particular became his trademark:

Mugger: "Don't make a move. This is a stickup!"
Benny: "Mister, put down that gun!"
Mugger: "Shut up! I said this is a stick up. Now come on. Your money or your life! ... ... ... ... Look, bud, I said, your money or your life."
Benny: "I'm thinking it over!"

By the mid 1950s, he'd moved on to television, often portraying a most unlikely ladies man ... as in this sketch with Marilyn Monroe:

Benn: "Marilyn, why did you walk away from me? Why did you want to leave me?"
Monroe: "Because I can't trust myself with you."

In fact, the REAL woman in Benny's life was his wife, Mary Livingston, a long-time actress on his show who sometimes played his foil:

Benny: "Where have you been all my life?"
Livingston: "Avoiding it."

Though painful violin playing was part of his act, he was actually pretty good at it -- good enough to play next to Isaac Stern, no less, at a 1956 concert to save Carnegie Hall.

Born on Valentine's Day 1894, Jack Benny died the day after Christmas in 1974 at the age of 80.

Per his instructions, a florist delivered a rose to his widow, Mary, every day until her own death in 1983.


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