Jack Benny was a classic comedian of stage, screen, radio and television. He spanned decades and generations. He is even considered a forerunner of what is now called situation comedy. Some suggest that the comic styles of Jerry Seinfeld and Kelsey Grammar ("Frasier") have Benny-like qualities.
Soon there will be a golden opportunity to see him again. Well, not "the" Jack Benny, but award-winning actor Tim Newell in a one-man performance of "Mister Benny" at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia in a production for all audiences, non-members and members alike.
"Mister Benny" is the life and times of Jack Benny dramatized by playwright Mark Humphrey. The play shows Benny at the peak of his career, preparing to go on for a television special in 1950. And then later in 1965, preparing his TV series finale. Along the way, the play highlights Benny's relationship with other comics and lets the audience in on how Benny developed some of his famous sketches and routines.
Benny was known for his comic timing, his supposed "stinginess," his recurring 39th birthday, and his off-key violin playing. He was especially known for his ability to create laughter with a silent pause accompanied by a silent look of complete exasperation. His facial expressions and hand to cheek were priceless.
Newell indicated that he is "always reviewing video clips, just to study his [Benny's] mannerisms." He is constantly seeking new Benny material to keep the show fresh. "I always manage to find new things whenever I’m playing Jack; discovering different ways to say something, or gesture a certain way."
Where and When
"Mister Benny" performed at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, 8900 Little River Turnpike, Fairfax. Performances: Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, 2 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 11, 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 12, 2 p.m. Tickets: $29, $24 for JCCNV members and seniors (65+), $19 students and groups (10+). Call JCCNV Box Office at 703-537-3000 or visit: www.jccnvarts.org
For those who remember Benny, Newell promises that "they can expect to be taken back in time, for one. It’s a wonderful journey." He promises that "All in all, they can expect to have a really good time."
And for those who never heard of Jack Benny, Newell suggested that they will "have a good time" becoming familiar with a man who helped create what is now television sitcom.
"Jack’s style was unique...his timing, his takes, his quiet ways." noted Newell. He was "the forefather of the sit-com: he was the central figure, surrounded by a brilliant supporting cast, and always the brunt of their jokes; hence the deadpan stare, or the hand to the cheek, or the exasperated, "Well!" Classic!
Get yourself ready, Jack Benny is in the house. Cue up "Love in Bloom."