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The king of radio comedy from the Great Depression through the early 1950s, Jack Benny was one of the most influential entertainers in twentieth-century America. A master of comic timing and an innovative producer, Benny, with his radio writers, developed a weekly situation comedy to meet radio’s endless need for new material, at the same time integrating advertising into the show’s humor. Through the character of the vain, cheap everyman, Benny created a “fall guy,” whose frustrated struggles with his employees addressed mid-century America’s concerns with race, gender, commercialism, and sexual identity. Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley contextualizes her analysis of Jack Benny and his entourage with thoughtful insights into the intersections of competing entertainment media and argues that transmedia stardom, branded entertainment, and virality are, in fact, the newest versions of key elements in the history of American popular culture.
Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley is Professor in the Radio-Television-Film department at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of, among other books, At the Picture Show: Small Town Audiences and the Creation of Movie Fan Culture and the editor of Hollywood in the Neighborhood: Historical Case Studies of Local Moviegoing.