A Holiday Tradition

I was introduced to Jack Benny as a kid. I guess the first time I saw him was on Saturday mornings watching cartoons. In 1959, Jack and some of the cast of his show provided voices to “themselves” as mice in a cartoon called The Mouse That Jack Built.

Jack, Mary Livingstone, and Rochester

My dad introduced my brother and I to many old radio shows, including the Jack Benny Show. For his birthday, I blogged a bit about Jack – you can read that here:

One of my favorite things to do as Christmas gets closer is listen to the Jack Benny Christmas shows. A running gag for some of these shows involved Jack going to the store to finish his Christmas shopping. The gag always revolved around the gift he’d buy for his announcer Don Wilson. Each year, Benny would buy a ridiculously cheap Christmas gift for Don Wilson, from a harried store clerk played by Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny). Benny would then drive Blanc to insanity by exchanging the gift countless times throughout the episode. In the 1946 Christmas episode, for example, Benny buys shoelaces for Don, and is unable to make up his mind whether to give Wilson shoelaces with plastic tips or metal tips. After exchanging them repeatedly, Mel Blanc is heard screaming insanely, “Plastic tips! Metal tips! I can’t stand it anymore!”

A variation in 1948 was with an expensive wallet, but repeatedly changing the greeting card, prompting Blanc to shout, “I haven’t run into anyone like you in 20 years! Oh, why did the governor have to give me that pardon!?” The kicker at the end of the show comes when Jack realizes that he should have gotten Don a wallet for $1.98, whereupon the store clerk responds by committing suicide. Over the years, in the Christmas episodes, Benny bought and repeatedly exchanged cuff links (The engraving was the issue) , golf tees (wooden or celluloid), a box of dates (with nuts or without) , a paint set (water colors or oils), and a gopher trap (trap them alive or kill them). In later years, Benny would encounter Mel Blanc’s wife or the clerk’s psychiatrist at the store, and drive them crazy, as well.

The bit was so popular that when Jack moved his show to television, they adapted the “wallet” show for TV. It’s even funnier to watch, especially since Mel Blanc cracks Jack up on camera.

I can’t wait to go shopping with Jack …

Here is a link to the TV version ….

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