Tuesday, November 08, 2011
My kids pick up a lot of social history via show biz history.
Today they don't feel well, so they're lying on my bed listening to Jack Benny. This is a new diversion discovered by my son, who read about the show in Mel Blanc's autobiography.
His favorite anecdote from that book concerns an incident in which Benny huffed a hotel for refusing a room to Eddie Anderson, who played the character of Rochester.
In this clip, Rochester is on his day off, and this exchange with Jack Benny derives its humor through what it says about status. Anderson, a brilliant comic actor, has all the laugh lines and Jack Benny, despite being the one called "Boss," is incompetent to make himself breakfast. This may not be a politically progressive representation, but it's not without an element of subversion, and certainly Anderson was a national star and trailblazer at a time when finding people of color playing characters with any depth was rare.