Jack Benny: The First King Of All Media

“Jack Benny had style from the beginning. He stood straight and walked kind of sideways as if he was being shoved by a touch of genius”—William Saroyan

Howard Stern once claimed to be the King of All Media. A huge boast by a talented individual, but completely wrong. That title is still owned by the late Jack Benny.

I got exposed to the Jack Benny Program by watching reruns on Nick-at-Nite and other retro programming channels with my mom and grandmother as a youth. Fortunately, they both filled in the missing reference points about Jack Benny’s background, so I was able to get the humor explained to me. It took several episodes before the jocularity and situational sketches started making sense without watching them with an adult. Since then I’ve been a fan.

Benny’s schtick was portraying a man obsessed with money. He was cheap, petty, vain and totally self-absorbed. He insisted he was 39 years old; his character couldn’t play the violin very well, but thought himself a virtuoso.

As for Jack Benny the man, very few entertainers can match his broad body of work. Mary Miley stated on her blog, “Jack was one of the twentieth century’s most important entertainers.” An examination of Benny’s impressive resume reveals a career of unparalleled success and achievement. He was one of only a hand full of entertainers to of had success in vaudeville, on stage, radio, film and television. He was also an accomplished violinist—not that you’d know that from his skits.

Benny was born Benjamin Kubelsky on Valentines Day, 1894, in Chicago, Illinois. He launched his “show biz” career at the age of 16 by working as a fiddler in a silent movie theater orchestra. It’s been reported that he was asked to tour with the Marx Brothers as their violinist, but his parents objected. A short time later Kubelsky would join the navy.

During his time in the service, Kubelsky developed an appreciation for telling jokes and getting laughs. After his stint in the Navy, he embarked on a career in entertainment.

In keeping with the standard of the day, Kubelsky would adopt a stage name. It took several iterations for a name to finally take because of confusion with other entertainers. Kubelsky eventually settled on the name Jack Benny.

With his new name and raw talent, Benny’s career steadily gained steam working the vaudeville circuit. He honed his skills in storytelling, comedic timing and delivery.

Benny’s time in vaudeville allowed him to develop lifelong friendships with future comedy greats, George Burns and Bob Hope to name a few. It also laid a strong foundation in live performance that would serve him well his entire life. Benny’s early work in vaudeville—along with others—arguably helped pioneer an art form that’d eventually become known as stand-up comedy.

The Great Depression hit vaudeville performers pretty hard and made work difficult to find. While looking for a steady paycheck, Benny decided to give radio a try. He experienced a mild crisis after exhausting his repertoire of jokes a few weeks into his new gig. Hiring an experienced comedian and vaudevillian Harry Conn as a joke writer, and using his extemporaneous performance skills to engage live audiences, Benny quickly overcame that crisis and launched his career into the stratosphere. He never looked back.

Jack Benny was a talented and brilliant performer. “He didn’t just stand on the stage. He owned it,” once quipped Bob Hope about his long time friend’s stage presence. His pregnant pause (a comedy technique used to build anticipation and laughter without saying a word) was executed better than any other performer, either before or since his heyday.

Benny’s success earned him the respect of his peers and the Hollywood community. He was awarded three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He received one star for Motion Pictures, located at 6650 Hollywood Boulevard; another for Radio, placed at 1505 Vine Street; and a final star for Television, installed at 6370 Hollywood Boulevard.

What made Benny such a force of nature in the entertainment industry was his unique comedic timing and delivery. He did more with a facial expression and his body language than most comedians could do with a full length monologue. Also what separated Benny from other comedians is how he didn’t deliver the punch lines. He used his impeccable timing and well placed gestures to get laughs, not the actual joke. In fact, most of Benny’s lines were common phrases, such as, “yes,” “you don’t say,” and his signature statement, the exasperated “well!” That he delivered with a simultaneous hand to his cheek, as he turns his head towards the camera, and gives a deadpan look straight at the audience. It may not sound funny in print, but it’s an absolute knee-slapper on film.

The passage of time has pushed Jack Benny’s career out of the public’s eye. His TV program’s black and white format doesn’t appeal to many Gen X and Millennial aged adults. They see it as an old outdated anachronism, and it’s humor is not understood due to a lack of context. That’s a shame because his immense talent may be lost to generations of people.

On the bright side, there are more retro programming than ever before; the internet’s presence makes it even easier for people to learn about Jack Benny and appreciate his comedy. I’m hopeful that he will be rediscovered and appreciated by generations yet to come.

JackBenny Website

Jack Benny Wikipedia



Lost Talent & Artistry 2012-2015

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP–Leonard Nimoy

When a larger-than-life personality dies, a chain reaction is triggered. Iconic rocker David Bowie’s passing made international headlines. His parting sparked numerous memorials and tributes around the world; however, every year extremely talented celebrities pass away with very little fanfare. A Crow’s View would like to recognize four of those people over the last few years.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.33.59 PMGeoffrey Lewis (79) passed away April 7, 2015. If you’ve watched anything from the 70s, 80s, and even the 90s, then you will know his face-if not his name. Lewis was a veteran of more than 200 film and television roles, including starring in multiple Client Eastwood features. His work on the original Salem’s Lot” helped launch Steven King’s successful screen adaption franchise.

In the 2000s, Lewis continued to work steadily in feature films and television. His appearances on “Dawson Creek,” Thomas Kinkade’s “Christmas Cottage,” and voice work on “The Haunted World of El Superbeasto” exposed Mr. Lewis to a younger audience. His children–daughter Juliette Lewis is the most known–have all taken up the family business as actors, directors or producers. It’s a safe bet that Lewis’ legacy will impact Hollywood for generations to come.

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Veteran actor Eli Wallach passed June 24, 2014, at the age of 98. You may not know his name, but you will know his work. He played Tuco in Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966); Dr. Herbert A. Morrison, in Nuts (1987); and Don Altobello, in The Godfather: Part III. Wallach was also a staple on television; guest staring in numerous series and made-for-TV movies.

Wallach gained rave reviews in his screen debut portraying Silva Vacarro in the 1956 sensual dark-drama Baby Doll, garnering him a Golden Globe nomination for “Best Supporting Actor” and winning a BAFTA Award for “Most Promising Newcomer to Film.” His career spanned six decades and included significant roles working with many of Hollywood’s most popular stars: Steve McQueen, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Michael Landon and Barbara Streisand, to name a few.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 10.10.04 AMChrissy Amphlett’s (53) untimely death on April 21, 2013, didn’t generate much attention. She is best remembered as the lead singer of the Australian rock band Divinyls. Her professional career peaked in 1991 when the band’s hit song “I Touch Myself” reached number one and four on the Australian and U.S. pop charts, respectively.

Amphlett was known for putting on a daring stage act that consisted of aggressively and provocatively performing on stage wearing a girl’s school uniform and fishnet stockings. Although she gained fame singing, Amphlett had a diverse resume’ that included a brief acting career, highlighted with a role in a 1988 musical production of Blood Brothers, starring Russell Crowe, and multiple soundtracks credits for television and feature films.

Before Chrissy Amphlett succumbed to cancer, it was her wish that the song “I Touch Myself” would become an anthem for breast cancer awareness. Near the anniversary of her death, her wish became a reality when the “I Touch Myself Project” launched in 2014. The campaign, featuring a who’s who video of Aussie celebrities singing her hit song, was a resounding success.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 8.46.43 PMLegendary hard rock pioneer Jon Lord (71), a founding member and keyboardist for Deep Purple, passed away July 16, 2012. In the late 1960s, Lord revolutionized the music industry when he plugged a Hammond organ directly into an amplifier; this produced a distinctive and innovative sound that would become his trademark.

Two years after Deep Purple split in 1976, Lord joined the band Whitesnake. His influence was instrumental in developing the band into one of the most popular acts throughout Europe and the UK, eventually braking into the US market.

When Deep Purple regrouped in 1984, Lord’s presence was evident in the title track “Perfect Strangers.” He toured successfully with the band till he departed in 2002 to pursue a solo career. “It was the longest hardest decision of my life, to leave the band I had founded, and had loved for nearly 35 years.” Lord’s groundbreaking achievements on keyboards are still in use today throughout the recording industry.

The celebrities profiled above are examples of tremendously talented and artistic people whose death went largely unnoticed. A Crow’s View encourages people to look “below the fold” and celebrate the lives of the remarkable people that are often overlooked by the media. In many cases they may have made a larger impact in life, than the credit they received in death.

“Jane The Virgin”: A Breath of Fresh Air

CW Network’s breakout new comedy “Jane The Virgin” is delightfully charming and entertaining. Its strong writing and well-constructed plots are breathing a breath of fresh air into television sets across America.  In fact, “Jane” may be energizing the CW Network.

Unlike most CW programs, “Jane the Virgin” isn’t based on comic book superheroes or supernatural entities (a staples of the network’s lineup), but a 23-year-old virgin set in present day Miami, Florida. 

Don’t let the show’s name fool you. The title character is far from an ingénues prude. Jane–played by the talented Gina Rodriguez–is a complex individual who is extremely goal-oriented. She meticulously plans her life to the tiniest detail, including maintaining her virtue to keep a promise she made to her “La Abuela” (Grandmother). Otherwise, Jane lives a normal lifestyle.

When Jane is inadvertently impregnated during a routine doctor’s visit; her life is turned upside down. In the melee that follows, Jane’s long-term plans are rocked, she learns her new boss is the baby’s father, and her long-lost dad is a famous Latino actor she idolizes.

If this sounds like a Spanish telenovela, well, it’s because it is, but with an infusion of comedy.

The CW Network’s departure from its modus operandi of providing action-type programming is proving to be a wise decision. “Jane The Virgin” is finding an audience and receiving fawning praise from entertainment pundits.

Until now, critical acclaim was a rarity for CW. In its inaugural season, “Jane the Virgin” received two Golden Globe nominations. One nod went to Rodriguez for Best Lead Actress in a TV Comedy or Musical, which she won, and a second nomination for Best TV Comedy or Musical. actress-gina-rodriguez

“Jane” is receiving recognition from more than just the Golden Globes. The American Film Institute listed “Jane the Virgin” among the 10 best TV programs of 2014.

It only takes one episode to understand why the show is gaining notice. The casts’ chemistry is absolutely stellar. The dichotomy between Jane and the surrounding characters is fascinating; her personal growth through the pregnancy, attempts to follow through with her established goals, and the balancing act to keep her promise brings an interesting, if not comical, dynamic to the series.

It might be presumptuous to say, but “Jane the Virgin” may deliver legitimacy to the CW Network. Winning a Golden Globe is a great start to making it as viable as the big four broadcasters (CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX). Only time will tell if CW will become a juggernaut, but “Jane the Virgin” is putting it on the right track to become the “fifth network.”

Jane the Virgin

AFI Programs of the Year

Golden Globes Awards

Media Blitz: NFL’s Ray Rice Conundrum

There will always be hope for our country as long as more people watch Monday Night Football than…[sitcoms]––Michael Logsdon

Lately the sports media’s attention has been dominated by reports about domestic abuse in the NFL, with the Ray Rice scandal getting a lion’s share of the coverage. The video of Rice knocking out his then fiancé is utterly repulsive. The fact that Rice is a world-class athlete (a strapping alpha male to boot) makes the attack even more reprehensible. However, with all the media attention on this issue, is the NFL missing an opportunity?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s mishandling of the initial response towards this issue was a huge blunder, then when a video emerged showing the attack, Goodell and the NFL took a knee-jerk reaction of throwing Rice out of the NFL. This reactionary response is evidence of a lack of direction and a clear strategy on how to best address this issue.

It is the opinion of A Crow’s View that the steps the NFL took do not help Rice’s wife or others. In fact, absolutely nothing the NFL did to address this situation is going to stop this type of event from happening again. Even worse, the steps taken by the NFL place a hardship on Rice and his wife, while putting pressure on other players’ and their spouses to keep silent, so they don’t face a similar situation.

It is clear the suspension is a move designed to placate the NFL’s critics and to bolster its weak stance on domestic abuse. Based on the continued media coverage and calls for impeachment of Goodell, this approach isn’t working because society sees this tactic for what it is: nothing more than a quick-fix PR attempt.

Appeasing critics or having a zero tolerance policy will not solve this problem. This issue requires the NFL to take a different approach. One that will prevent future occurrences from happening and ensures the safety of players’ spouses and others.

First, the league needs to be upfront about what it knew and when, regarding the Rice video.

Second, bring Rice and his wife into NFL headquarters and address the discipline issues with them.

Third, all fines leveled against Rice by the NFL should be waived, if donations of equal value are made to domestic violence organizations.

Fourth, put in place an option that will allow Rice to salvage his career if he meets strict requirements set by the NFL. This option must be stressed that it is available only if he meets all requirements; however, the team owners will have the option of keeping Rice on their roster.

Fifth, be open about the disciplinary steps and effectively explain how these steps will help victims and the abuser from repeat behavior.

With all the resources at the NFL’s disposal, it should not be taking a reactionary response to domestic violence. It should be dealt with in a manner that will not force those who are trapped in this toxic environment into silence, or force abusers to use their resources to prevent such incidences from becoming public simple to keep their jobs. Helping people should be the goal, not just cleaning up the NFL’s image.

The reasons the NFL should follow these five steps are clear. They immediately help to improve the situation of all women associated with the NFL. First, they remove the fear of losing their financial situation if they are in an abusive relationship, by taking away the need to keep silent or further hide the abuse. Second, these steps will show that the NFL is engaged on the issue of domestic abuse and actively seeking to protect the victims of violence. Moreover, following these steps will demonstrate that the NFL is working with Ray and Janay Rice to safeguard her safety and actively trying to ensure that no future incidences of abuse occurs.

The NFL is missing a golden opportunity. If they use these steps, a situation is created which will prompt a great storyline of redemption and second chance that society eats up. More importantly, they don’t cast a veil of silence over the abused or abuser to hide their faults; in stead, they will create an environment that seeks to improve lives. This is the best way to ensure the safety of Janay and other women of the NFL.

Netflix Gains Legitimacy….Again

Let's be honest, Netflix has stepped up its game up. It seems to have a lot more of an assortment of stuff–Tony Oller

netflixLast year Netflix’s original series House of Cards won three Emmys, including one for director David Fincher. This year could be an even bigger year for the video-streaming firm.

Netflix received 31 nominations, with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black receiving more than 10 each. Many of the nominations are in major categories such as Outstanding Actor and Actress In A Drama Series (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright), Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series (Taylor Schilling), and Outstanding Drama Series (House of Cards).house-of-cards-final-poster

Reed Hastings, Netflix’s CEO, stated, “Our brand at Netflix is really focused on movies and TV shows.” Based on the recent successes his strategy is paying off because no other online video distributors, Hulu and Amazon, have received any nominations.orange_is_the_new_black

A Crow’s View has commented on Netflix’s success before (Hemlock Grove Paradigm Shift) and believes that if the streaming giant has a big night at this year’s Emmy Awards. Then look for other entertainment outlets to follow Netflix’s template for success.

For now it’s safe to say that Netflix has gained the respect of Hollywood and, in turn, legitimacy of its programing. Furthermore, the recognition of its high quality shows, which is equal to what broadcast and network television offers, may again shift the entertainment paradigm.

Leah Shafer: Paula Abdul She Is Not!

A really great talent finds its happiness in execution – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

ImageLike most people, I spent my Sunday watching the NFL Playoffs. After all the great plays and the wild interviews, the most memorable event was the singing of the national anthem at the AFC Championship game.

The singer who performed the national anthem at the Denver / New England game did an incedible job. I was blown away by the performer’s range. Her rendition was respectful and powerfully delivered. While she was singing, I mistook her as Paula Abdul. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to make that mistake; an Instagram post by David Spade attributed the singing to Ms. Abdul too. We were both wrong. Image

Following the game, I had a nagging feeling that I was incorrect about the singer’s identity. She really impressed me, and there was something about how she carried herself that set her apart from Abdul. Her performance radiated charm and projected style; furthermore, she had a wholesomeness that is missing from so many celebrities. Since I missed her introduction, I had to do some research to find out who this singer was.

I managed to locate a YouTube clip that gave me her name, but it took a little extra time to find out more information about her. As of this writing, the mystery singer has no Wikipedia entry, but she does have a Facebook Fan Page (only 228 followers), a Twitter feed (200 followers), and a website. She’s a devoted Christian, wife, and mother. Her name is Leah Shafer.

Shafer is a talented individual with an interesting background. Her website states, “In High School, she was chosen as ‘Best Alto’ for the California All-State Choir.” She has traveled internationally as the “main soloist of ‘The Young Americans’”; a non-profit organization and performing group based in Southern California. She’s a three-time winner of “Destination Stardom” (A PAX-TV version of Star Search) and was featured on NBC’s “The Singing Bee”.

Despite her accomplishments, she is virtually unknown to the general pubic. This is sure to change given her performance at the AFC Championship game. All things considered, I’m guessing her obscurity will not last due to her stunning recital of the national anthem. It was nice to see a decent hardworking artist get some well-deserved attention. A Crow’s View wishes her and her family the best.

Courage of the Six

It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer“– Sir William Blackstone (1765)

In the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, emotions are running high between those who agree and disagree with the jury’s decision. Each side has cause for an emotional reaction, but those who are exchanging heated rhetoric towards others should be careful because they are losing sight of what’s most important: the jurors. Instead, everyone should take a moment to realize the courage of the six people who sat on the Zimmerman jury because their lives have forever changed.

When called to serve on a jury. A person’s life becomes complicated for the duration of the trial. In this case the jury was sequestered, which effectively put their lives on hold. Jury duty is an honor, and these six individuals answered the call and fulfilled their civic duty.

This case was certainly a tough and heart wrenching trial to deliberate. On one hand you had a decedent who was only 17-years old (and just going home), and on the other hand a man who was trying to protect his neighborhood, which was victimized by crime recently.

It is tragic that one person ended up losing his life during their encounter. What makes this case even sadder is that it appears both mistakenly took the other as a nefarious individual with criminal intent.

Our justice system is based on the assumption of innocence, due process, and the rule of law. Because of the case’s high profile (prior to the trial), the jury knew that any ruling would carry ramifications. A decision of “not guilty” would be seen as antipathetic to the Martin family and minorities, while a “guilty” verdict would be viewed as political motivated or jury intimidation.

If you think that Zimmerman was justified in his use of force; then you are relieved that our justice system works. Those who believe Zimmerman got away with murder are obviously disappointed. It’s not much solace, but consider Blackstone’s formulation (stated above).

A Crow’s View knows that the Zimmerman acquittal is a bitter pill to swallow for Trayvon Martin supporters; however, both sides can celebrate that we have a system that tries to zealously protect its citizens from wrongful conviction.

Our justice system, in many cases, allows the guilty to go free in order to spare the innocent. With this in mind, I believe the jurors acted in a courageous manner.

They were tasked with the awesome responsibility of deciding Zimmerman’s fate. A “guilty” verdict would’ve been the easiest verdict to return–wash your hands of this case–and let the appeals process run its course. Instead, the jury made a ruling of conscience.

The jurors shouldn’t be criticized nor victimized because they decided “not guilty,” nor should they be celebrated for allowing Zimmerman to go free.

The jury did what was asked of them, nothing more and nothing less. They followed the court’s instructions, Florida law, and then weighed all the evidence. Afterwards they handed down a decision.

Going forward the jurors lives are forever altered by this case. It’s unfortunate that these people will probably become fodder for late night comics, targeted by the media, and live in fear because of their verdict.

What should be done is simple, we all thank the jurors for their service and sacrifice during the trial. Then allow them to live their lives in peace.