Jack Benny Biography (Personal Life, Career)

Born on Valentine’s Day 1894 in Chicago, Illinois, Benjamin Kubelsky (his real name), was an American actor for television, radio and film, stand-up comedian and vaudevillian known for his stage persona’s perpetual age, 39. The stand-up comedian, Jack Benny was among the most beloved American entertainers of the 20th century.

Personal Life

The stand-up comedian Jack Benny was the son of Meyer Kubelsky and Emma Sachs Kubelsky. His father was a Polish Jewish who emigrated from Poland to America, and his mother emigrated from Lithuania. He grew up in Waukegan, Illinois. When he was six, the stand-up comedian began studying the violin, an instrument that becomes his trademark. By age 14, the stand-up comedian was playing in local dance bands as well as in his high school orchestra. Benny was a dreamer and a poor student and he was expelled from high school.

In 1927 the stand-up comedian Jack Benny married Mary Livingstone (real name: Sayde Marks). In 1934 they adopted a daughter, Joan Naomi. He also had a grandchild, Michael born in 1955. The stand-up comedian passed away on December 26, 1974 due to inoperable pancreatic cancer. Two days after his death, the comedian was interred in a crypt at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City California. The comedian had a rose delivered to his wife, Mary Livingstone, each day after his death until the day she died, almost nine years later.


The stand-up comedian Jack Benny started his career at the age of 17, playing violin in local vaudeville theaters for $7.50 a week. In 1912, Benny formed a vaudeville musical duo with pianist Cora Salisbury, 45-year-old widow who needed a partner for her act. While performing in the band, the stand-up comedian changed his name to Ben K Benny because his name was similar to another violinist’s name. They started to add comedy elements to the show so he earned himself a reputation as a comedian as well as a musician. They even reached the Palace Theater, the "Mecca of Vaudeville". In 1917, the stand-up comedian left the show to join the U.S. Navy during World War I, and he often entertained the troops playing violin.

The stand-up comedian Jack Benny had a major success on the radio and so the comedian became a national figure with The Jack Benny Show, a weekly radio show which ran from 1932 to 1948 on NBC and from 1949 to 1955 on CBS. The stand-up comedian’s radio show crossed boundaries by being the only program for decades that portrayed Americans of mixed races living and working side by side. The show was a mixture of comedy routines, fanny situations/scenarios and musical interludes. The stand-up comedian knew for sure how to classify the show among the most highly rated programs during its run.

In 1937 the stand-up comedian began his famous radio "feud" with rival Fred Allen. In fact, the two comedians were good friends and each other's greatest admirers. Benny and Allen often appeared on each other's show.

The stand-up comedian Jack Benny had many radio sponsors during his career: Canada Dry Ginger Ale from 1932 to 1933, Chevrolet from 1933-1934, Jell-O from 1934-1942, Grape-Nuts (1942-1944), and American Tobacco’s Lucky Strike (1944-1955). The comedian was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1989.

The stand-up comedian was an excellent television performer. The TV programs were similar to the radio shows (several of the radio scripts were recycled for television, but with the addition of visual gags). The television version of The Jack Benny Program ran from October 1950 to 1965. Initially scheduled as a series of five "specials" per year during the 1950–1951, the show was seen weekly from 1960 to 1965. As in other TV comedy shows, canned laughter was sometimes added to "sweeten" the soundtrack, as when the studio audience missed some close-up comedy because of cameras or microphones in their way.

In 1953, both Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart made their television debuts on the stand-up comedian’s program. In 1964, Walt Disney was a guest, primarily to promote his production of Mary Poppins. CBS dropped the show in 1964, citing the comedian’s lack of appeal to the younger generation. He continued to make occasional comedy specials into the 1970s. The stand-up comedian’s last television appearance was in 1974, on a Dean Martin Roast for Lucille Ball. The videotaped show was telecast just a few weeks after the comedian’s death.

The stand-up comedian Jack Benny also acted in movies: Bright Moments (short), 1928; The Hollywood Revue of 1929, 1929; Chasing Rainbows, 1930; Medicine Man, 1930; Mr. Broadway, 1933; Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round, 1934; Broadway Melody of 1936, 1935; It's in the Air, 1935; The Big Broadcast of 1937, 1936; College Holiday, 1936; Artists and Models, 1937; Manhattan Merry-Go-Round, 1937; Artists and Models Abroad, 1938; Man About Town, 1939; Buck Benny Rides Again, 1940; Love Thy Neighbor, 1940; Charley's Aunt, 1941; To Be or Not to Be, 1942; George Washington Slept Here, 1942; The Meanest Man in the World; 1943; Hollywood Canteen, 1944; It's in the Bag, 1945; The Horn Blows at Midnight, 1945; Without Reservations, 1946; The Lucky Stiff, 1949; Somebody Loves Me, 1952; Who Was That Lady?, 1962; It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 1967; A Guide for the Married Man, 1967; The Man,1972.

The stand-up comedian Jack Benny was awarded 3 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 6650 Hollywood Boulevard, for Radio at 1505 Vine Street, and for Television at 6370 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. In trying to explain his successful life and his impressive career biography, the stand-up comedian said: "Everything good that happened to me happened by accident. I was not filled with ambition nor fired by a drive toward a clear-cut goal. I never knew exactly where I was going."

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