For those not hip to Jack Benny, the character he developed and fostered for almost 25 years in radio and almost 25 in television, was a vain, self-centered miser who was perpetually and perennially 39 years old.
Benny was born Benjamin Kubelsky in Waukeegan, Illinois to a Polish father and Lithuanian mother who both emigrated to America. Benny was a poor student who was expelled from high school and later dropped out of business school and failed miserably when trying to work at his fathers haberdashery.
At the age of 17 he began playing violin in local vaudeville houses. After a while he began to talk between songs on the violin...people laughed. After a while he began to just talk and make people laugh.
Benny had a good career in vaudeville which lead him to a guest spot on Ed Sullivan's radio show in 1932. He opened with the line, "Hello folks, this is Jack Benny. I'll now pause a moment while you all ask yourselves, 'who cares?'".
This self-effacing attitude, one where the butt of the joke was usually himself, was to be his long standing stock-in-trade.
He began his own show for "Canada Dry Ginger Ale" in 1932, then was sponsored by "Cheverolet" and then "American Tire Co." over the next 2 years. He kept getting in trouble with his sponsors when reading their commercials, for taking a light-hearted approach to hawking their wares. In 1934 "General Foods" came to him with a product that had been failing and that they were preparing to take off the market. Jack said he would only do it if he was left to himself to talk about their product any way he liked. They agreed, since it was failing anyway, what harm could come? In October 1934 Jack starred on the "Jello" program for NBC and soon Jello's 6 delicious flavors "Strawberry, Raspberry, Cherry, Orange, Lemon and Lime" were the nations #1 selling gelatine desert, knocking top-ranking "Royal gelatine" off the map.
During WWII when sugar was being rationed and Jello was in short supply, General Foods stayed with him and Jack advertised "Grape Nuts" for the duration.
In 1944, Jack switched sponsers to the American Tobacco Co. and "Lucky Strikes" was his sponsor from 1944 right on through Jacks transition to television right up until he stopped his regular series in 1955.
There was his real life wife and on-air foil and girl friend Mary Livingstone.His butler, valet and all around man friday, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson:
Jack's cast was wider than just this, filled with great comedians and voice actors, often playing multiple roles.