Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Honeymooners...Starring Jack Benny?

I love classic comedy and I grew up watching reruns of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton on The Honeymooners--the gold standard of television sitcoms. If you've never had the pleasure, see what you've missed before reading on.

Virtually every situation comedy that followed The Honeymooners has borrowed something from that show. It set a high comedic bar with a perfect blend of clever writing, one-liners, physical comedy, and stellar performances (except for Norton's wife Trixie...I never could understand why they chose to surround such a terrible actress with a set of comedy geniuses).

My love for and familiarity with this show made me ecstatic to uncover a hilarious parody that aired on The Jack Benny Show in 1958, two years after The Honeymooners was off the air. In the sketch, Audrey Meadows reprises her role as Ralph Kramden's wife Alice, while singer Dennis Day performs a spot-on impersonation of Ed Norton and Jack Benny himself appears as Ralph Kramden.

The clip below is actually Part 3 of the sketch, but it demonstrates Benny's unexpectedly deft impersonation of Jackie Gleason's well-known character. If you're so inclined, start at the beginning of the sketch to get the full effect.

This is one of the best parodies of the show that I've ever seen, and there have been a lot of Honeymooners parodies over the years. I always thought of parody--especially one show parodying another--as a form of comedy that didn't really succeed until Saturday Night Live and other more "modern" efforts, but Jack Benny has clearly proven me wrong.

P.S. This blog usually serves up Christmas-themed posts during the Christmas season, so here's the Christmas connection: I discovered this Jack Benny episode while I was watching a classic Christmas episode of his show. Check out the full episode here and thank me later. If you actually watch it, I can guarantee you will be on the floor laughing at the character played by Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny).

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