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Friday, December 23, 2011

a little gift

So here we are. 
Seeing as tomorrow is Christmas Eve, it’s appropriate that I give you devoted dozens a little gift.
Last year, I gave you a Christmas warning, in the form of an original poem. For those of you who missed it, I’m happy to share it again:

If your meat’s in a mound
And your french fries are drowned
And your chocolate fudge sundaes
Are whipped cream crowned
Then it shouldn’t astound
If you gain a pound
And a pound and a pound
Until you are round
This year, I’m giving you some classic comedy in the form of a YouTube link.
I always think of Jack Benny at this time of year. Not just because he passed away on December 26, 1974, but also because the Christmas episodes of his radio show were so memorable. 
In radio and the early days of television, there was no such thing as reruns, so some programs would occasionally re-perform popular scripts. In the case of The Jack Benny Program, the writers would create story lines that would be re-performed, but that would also vary slightly from episode to episode. If Jack was going on a trip and taking the train, you could always count on the same hijinks occurring at the station: him encountering Sheldon Leonard’s racing tout or Frank Nelson’s annoying ticket agent, or hearing the announcement of a train departing for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cu-----camonga. People came to expect these episodes and loved them, even though they knew what was coming. It’s kind of like when Letterman does his annual holiday show with Jay Thomas knocking the meatball off the tree and telling the same Clayton Moore story, and Darlene Love’s reliably awesome Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).   
Anyway, every December, there would be an episode where Jack Benny would go Christmas shopping (often with Mary Livingston), run into all or most of the other characters on the show, but mostly puzzle as to what to buy for his announcer, Don Wilson. Cheapskate Jack would decide on an item (say, shoelaces) and then constantly flip-flop between getting the laces with plastic tips or metal tips. This would ultimately drive the clerk, always played by Mel Blanc, to insanity. 
Every year there was a slightly different version of this script. One year, Jack was torn between watercolor paints and oil paints. Another year, the gift was golf tees (wood or plastic). One memorable year, the poor clerk begged to be transferred to Palm Springs so he didn’t have to run into “that crazy guy,” only to find that Jack was vacationing there... and this time puzzling over whether to buy plain dates or dates stuffed with nuts for Don.
When The Jack Benny Program moved to television, they did do one Christmas shopping episode, and this is the link I am gifting to you this year:
It’s a link because I didn’t post it myself. 
This episode has become a holiday tradition for me and my husband, and I hope that you enjoy it. Even if you’ve never heard of Jack Benny, I think you will have fun, especially seeing the great Frank Nelson (yyyyeeee-esss?), and the incomparable Mel Blanc go toe to toe with Jack. And for those of you who think that “old” shows are so much milder and lamer than today’s fare, just hang on until the ending.
And if you like this, do yourself a favor and explore the Internet for more, especially the radio shows. It’s dated, yes, but the character comedy is timeless. 
Happy Merry, everyone!
Yes indeed. Welcome to me. 

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