The Longest Laugh
UPDATE: I just timed a laugh at the very close of the December 13, 1936 show that results from Andy Devine (in his first Benny appearance) announcing that it's the "last number of the eleventh program in the new Jelly series". Everyone loses their composure and the audience laugh never completely dies. It ends up being cut off by the network, but what was aired runs 32 seconds. A new record!
People have been debating for decades about which was the longest laugh on the Jack Benny Program, particularly the radio program. Popular myth had it that the reaction to Jack's "I'm thinking it over!" in response to a mugger's threat of "Your money or your life" (March 28, 1948, reprised April 4, 1948 and on television) was the longest laugh ever on radio. In fact, it is just that...a myth.
Jack maintained that the longest laugh came on the April 25, 1948 program. Don Wilson and Dorothy Kirsten are engaged in a deep discussion of opera, using much jargon. Jack inserts himself with, "Well, I thought..." to which Mary snaps, "Oh shut up!"
Frank Nelson maintained that the longest laugh was actually on the January 8, 1950 show. Early in the show, Don does a spoonerism on the name of Drew Pearson to produce "Drear Pooson". Frank was summoned to the tech booth where the writers sat. They knew that in the second half of the show, Jack was to ask Frank if he was the doorman, and Frank's response was, "Well, who do you think I am in this uniform? Nelson Eddy?" (Eddy was well-known for playing a Canadian Mountie.) Jack hadn't liked the line in rehearsal, but it had been maintained into the air script. The writers told Frank to substitute "Drear Pooson" for "Nelson Eddy". Frank was reluctant, as the cast stuck very much to the script on the Benny program. Finally he was persuaded.
At the feed line ("Are you the doorman?"), Frank recalled that a dull look came into Jack's eyes. When he gave his edited reply, Jack was taken completely by surprise and literally fell on the stage laughing. He struggled to pull himself up on the curtain at the side of the stage, as the audience howled. Finally, Jack regained his composure and went on with the skit.
When I was reviewing shows a while back, I noticed that the April 24, 1938 show contained an enormous laugh. The skit was "Snow White and the Seven Gangsters", and the scene had Mary (in the title role) wandering in the woods admiring the animals. She says "Hello little bird", and is met with an immediate raspberry. The laugh is tremendous and even seems to have two peaks to it, inferring that there may have been something visual that was prompting people to continue laughing. Rather bizarre as well, since the humor is very much not what is normally considered as Benny humor!
At the SPERDVAC convention, a question was asked about this during the Benny panel. I've been meaning for years to sit down with a stopwatch and be a nit-picker about finding the "right" answer. So now I've done it...and here are the results:
|March 28, 1948||Your money or your life||5 seconds|
|April 4, 1948||Your money or your life reprise||7 seconds|
|May 28, 1939||Door guy interruption of Alexander Graham Bell skit (IDed by Joshua Vasquez)||17 seconds|
|May 4, 1950||Mary fluffs "If a pigeon answer, hangs up"||17 seconds|
|March 4, 1951||Gertrude says Jack drinks Manischevitz||17 seconds|
|September 23, 1951||Phil says he doesn't like to drink||17 seconds|
|January 11, 1953||Bob Hope calls Dennis Day an "E-flat idiot"||17 seconds|
|April 5, 1953||Mary says "Duhhhh...a flock of 'em went over that time"||17 seconds|
|October 17, 1943||Rochester sings "As Time Goes By" ("A sigh is just a sigh")||18 seconds|
|December 27, 1942||Fred Allen calls Don "Fat Boy" (IDed by Jason Bullett)||18 seconds|
|November 17, 1946||Ronald Colman says Jack curtsied and his toupee fell off||19 seconds|
|May 23, 1948||Jack says "Hold still, Mel" when Mel Blanc is playing a cow (IDed by Susanna Pugh)||19 seconds|
|January 20, 1952||George Burns says "Oh shut up" while singing Jack's song (IDed by David Fott)||19 seconds|
|October 24, 1943||Dennis tells Jack to shut up||20 seconds|
|March 24, 1946||Mary fluffs "Your darn one last near made it"||20 seconds|
|March 26, 1950||Mary's blooper about Jack's sun suit||20 seconds|
|January 16, 1949||Coin is dropped in Jack's cup as he goes to the Colmans||22 seconds|
|February 1, 1953||Mary says "Oh shut up"||22 seconds|
|January 10, 1943||Dr. Jones' glasses found||23 seconds|
|April 25, 1948||Mary says "Oh shut up"||23 seconds|
|April 25, 1954||Rochester tells medium to "slip it under the door" if a ghost has a message for him||23 seconds|
|December 3, 1950||Mary says "grass reek"||19-24 seconds |
|January 8, 1950||Drear Pooson||25 seconds|
|November 27, 1949||Mel Blanc says "How do you do" when Lem mentions their jackass||27 seconds|
|April 24, 1938||Bird raspberry||28 seconds|
|May 16, 1954||Gertrude thinks Jack ran over a chicken (IDed by Mike Sheets)||30 seconds|
|April 27, 1947||Ronald Colman mentions Phil's orchestra and Benita says "Please Ronnie, I'm eating!"||31 seconds|
|December 13, 1936||Andy Devine says "new Jelly series"||32 seconds|
|September 16, 1951||Frank Nelson says he got his suspenders unfastened||~35 seconds |
 This one is very hard to time, because almost all the other laughs stop when someone else starts saying a line. It sounds like Jack's comment is overlayed on the laugh in the transcription editing process, and in actuality the laugh pushed the show to over time. So this laugh may have been longer than was actually aired. (Which is true of the 12/13/36 laugh as well, which occurs at the end of the show.)
 This laugh will be discussed in an upcoming Jack Benny Times.
If you know of one that's longer, let me know!