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Dear Comedy Lovers,
Do you know what the boat said to the other boat on Valentine’s day? No? He said “it’s time for a little row-mance!”
We have many more jokes in store for you on our Friars Roast DVD series. You can order classic roasts of Jack Benny, Jerry Lewis, and other legendary comedians, or you can order the entire collection on our website.
The Friars Roast has a rich history, going back to 1904 when a group of press agents first met to decide who needed to be blacklisted from receiving free tickets to the Broadway shows they produced. Many fraudulent characters were accepting the tickets, attending the shows, and then never following up with a review or article. After concluding their business and blacklist, the agents decided to meet together regularly to tell stories and socialize together.
After a few years, several comedians joined the group and it became known as the Friars Club. One of the club’s richest traditions has been the Friars Club Roast, where guests take turns insulting a fellow comedian or entertainer. The insults are heavy, steady, and definitely not safe for work. However, the Roasts are all meant in good fun, and you can be part of that fun and tradition when you order the roasts.
Friars Club Roasts Loves Jack Benny
Happy Birthday to comedy legend Jack Benny, from Classic Friars Club Roasts! Jack was born on February 14, 1894 – 123 years ago – but we still celebrate his timeless comedy genius. Our Jack Benny roast is one of the best comedy roasts of all time. Giant celebrity entertainers come together to honor and roast this man they all clearly adore. While Milton Berle said that Jack was the only man he knew who had a burglar alarm on his garbage can, Johnny Carson also related how he honed his comedy chops by watching the master.
It takes a lifetime of outstanding brilliance to become the object of one of our celebrity roasts, and Jack Benny certainly lived up to those expectations. One of the leading entertainers of the 20th Century, Jack Benny’s comic timing remains legendary. Be it his signature pregnant pause or his exasperated “WELL!” audiences adored the most famous cheapskate in town. His radio and television family: Eddie Anderson aka Rochester, Mel Blanc, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, and his real life wife Mary Livingstone, formed one of the most beloved ensembles of the sitcom format. They were his foils to laughter and his deadpan expressions spoke volumes. He died on December 26, 1974, at the real age of 80, but he will always remain forever 39 in our hearts.
The Jack Benny roast was held on January 21, 1970, just a few short years before he died. It is interesting to note that Ford introduced the Pinto (an economy car in which they cut safety corners that paved the way to lawsuits) on the very same day the Friars roasted Mr. Cheapskate himself. And while President Nixon lowered the voting age that year to 18, Benny remained his perennial 39 self throughout the roast. There may have been trouble on college campuses protesting the incursion into Cambodia prompting the Kent State shootings, but the Friars took a page out of Garry Trudeau’s legendary comic strip Doonesbury that debuted this month, opting for a little humor instead.
With classic comedy timing, Allan King poked fun at the miserly curmudgeon by saying that “Jack’s life is about as exciting as the 4th of July is…in London. He was born at home – his mother wanted to go to a hospital, but a voice inside her kept saying, ‘it’s cheaper here,’ and Jack joined the Navy precisely because the uniform already came without pockets!” Although he would have been considered in the twilight of his career, Jack Benny gave as good as he got. Watch his hilarious responses to his roasters, and see his tweaks of “Mr. Television” on our Milton Berle roast.
How Well Do You Know Your Jack Benny Trivia?
Q: We’ve told you when he was born, but do you know where?
A: Benny was born in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in nearby Waukegan.
Q: Like all good entertainers, Jack Benny used a pseudonym to appeal to a wider audience. What was his real name?
A: His birth name was Benjamin Kubelsky, the son of Jewish parents Meyer and Emma Sachs Kubelsky.
Q: He always pretended to be a terrible violin play, but was he really any good?
A: Benny began studying violin at the age of 6. His parents hoped that he would one day go on to become a professional violinist. He loved the instrument, but hated the tedious practice. While he never did go on to become a virtuoso, he began playing the violin in local vaudeville theaters for $7.50 a week at the age of 17 and incorporated the violin as part of his life-long comedy act.
Q: Did he really serve in the Navy?
A: Yes. Benny left show business briefly in 1917 to join the United States Navy during World War I, but never sailed on the Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria, as Milton Berle proclaims in the roast. He often entertained the troops with his violin playing but one evening his performance was booed by the troops. He was able to ad-lib his way out of the jam and the rest, as they say, is comedy history.
Q: How did he meet his wife?
A: Jack first met the then 14-year old Sadie Marks in 1921, but their first meeting did not go well. Many years later, however, they met again and Jack was smitten. They eventually married in 1927. Sadie proved to be a natural comedian as well. Using the stage name Mary Livingstone, she collaborated with Benny throughout most of his career, posing as the much put-upon companion of the cheapskate entertainer.
Q: What prompted his initial rise to fame?
A: Radio. He uttered his first radio spiel in 1932 on Ed Sullivan’s original radio program, before Ed moved on to TV. He must have been pretty good as he got his own show, The Jack Benny Program, which ran from 1932 to 1955 on different networks. It was always among the most highly rated programs of its day.
Benny hit just the right notes in comedy – his violin playing notwithstanding. Order the Jack Benny Roast, Milton Berle Roast, Johnny Carson DVD, Jerry Lewis Roast, or Don Rickles roast for just $14.99 each, or get the whole collection for only $89.95. Don’t forget the Bonus DVD with classic outtakes.
Happy Birthday Jack Benny from Friar’s Club Roasts!
Did you know that you can stream our entire collection of roasts when you order a subscription. Subscriptions include several options for payment, and they are currently all 20 percent off.
Why does the tradition of the Roast continue? The answer is pretty simple- it is a way for comedians and other show business professionals to blow off steam. No matter how bad the insults get or how foul the language is, the men and women attending these events are still friends. They mean each other no harm and, in fact, the Friars motto is “we only roast the ones we love.”
Even with that rule in place, we still think it is more fun to watch the Roast instead of being the one getting roasted…is “roastee” even a word? We’re not sure, but we are sure you will laugh even harder at each joke if you know something about the men and women who have attended the roast over the years.
Here are some facts and trivia about some of the best-known Friars Roast attendees to help you get to know them.
The first formal Roast took place in 1949, with actor and singer Maurice Chevalier as the guest of honor. During the second world war, Chevalier was one of a few entertainers who continued to work in German-occupied France
The Roast was a stag or all male event for the first few years of its inception. Lauren Bacall unofficially became the first woman to attend when she sent a tape along with her husband Humphrey Bogart, who was being roasted that year. In typical Friars Club fashion, the tape was laden with profanities and brought more than a few laughs from the attendees when it was played during the dinner.
Lucille Ball was the first female guest of honor in 1962, at a roast hosted by Johnny Carson. Phyllis Diller famously snuck into the roast in 1983, disguised as a man. Finally, in 1988, Liza Minelli joined the club and became the first official female Friar.
Comedians and actors are not the only ones to be put in the spotlight at Friars Club roasts. In 1983, veteran newscaster Roger Grimsby was roasted. During his career, Grimsby appeared in a few movies, almost always playing himself as a news reader or commentator.
Mel Allen, who was roasted in 1951, was best known as the lead sports announcer for the New York Yankees. In 1978, Allen and his colleague Red Barber became the first broadcasters to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In its early years, the roast sometimes, but not always, had a roastmaster who acted as host for the evening. The first roastmaster was Red Buttons, who oversaw the roasting of Humphrey Bogart in 1955. Since 1985, when Buddy Hackett hosted for Phyllis Diller, the roast has consistently had a host in addition to a guest of honor.
Actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg was roasted in 1993, with host Ted Danson. Goldberg is best known for her string of successful Hollywood movies, but she has also done standup comedy for many years. She also held many odd and interesting jobs before breaking into entertainment. Goldberg once even worked as a cosmetologist at a morgue, doing hair and makeup for deceased people before their funerals.
At the 2013 roast, guest of honor Jack Black lost his pants on stage while accepting his Roast Award. Rather than stopping to pull his pants back up, Black accepted the roast with a smile on his face, as if nothing had happened.
When Lucille Ball was roasted in 1961, host Johnny Carson introduced her as “Lucille Testicle.” Ball was a good sport about it, telling the audience “I don’t know what you boys would have done without” her last name.
Over the years, events at roasts have passed into legend. Nobody knows for sure if Johnny Carson actually relieved himself in a champagne bucket, provided by host Buddy Hackett, as Carson sat on the dais during his roast. The story goes that Carson did not want to leave his seat, thinking it would be rude to leave in the middle of the roast.
As a reminder, you can order a monthly, quarterly, or annual membership today and receive 20% off at checkout. Memberships include unlimited streaming to your phone, tablet or other mobile device. You can also purchase the complete set of classic roasts on DVD for under $100, or purchase individual DVDs for $14.99 each. These include the roasts of Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Johnny Carson, Jerry Lewis and Don Rickles, as well as a special outtakes DVD.
About Classic Friars Club Roasts: With Classic Friars Roasts you can own the best comedy roasts of all time on DVD. Order the Johnny Carson Roast or watch as Don Rickles roasts Hollywood legends. Erupt in laughter as Dean Martin roasts Don Rickles. Visit the website at https://www.classicfriarsroasts.com to learn more about these brilliant comedy sketches. “Like” the Facebook page for hilarious insights into Friars Club Roasts.