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JewishnessExpression, Identity and Representation$
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Simon J. Bronner

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113454

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113454.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 12 June 2021

As Goyish as Lime Jell-O? Jack Benny and the American Construction of Jewishness

As Goyish as Lime Jell-O? Jack Benny and the American Construction of Jewishness

Chapter:
(p.272) Eleven As Goyish as Lime Jell-O? Jack Benny and the American Construction of Jewishness
Source:
Jewishness
Author(s):

Holly A. Pearse

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781904113454.003.0012

This chapter discusses the Jewishness of modern radio comedy. The question of whether Jack Benny — who in a career spanning from 1932 to 1965 was internationally renowned as a star in the classic radio period and, later, the ‘golden age’ of television — was a Jewish comic or not is hard to answer. The belief among popular culture critics that his screen and radio persona had no ethnicity and was part of a more universal strain of comedy as radio sought popularity outside urban centres has been expressed in many summaries of his life and career. However, scholars looking to Jewish cultural studies more than to media studies for analytical perspectives have argued that celebrities play a role in the construction of American Jewishness, even those ethnic performers who appropriate apparently non-ethnic stage personas. Performance can encode so-called ‘Jewish sensibilities’, though in a highly commodified form largely produced by generations of media portrayals of Jewishness. The chapter examines this thesis by giving special attention to Jack Benny in performance on the radio at a formative time for mass culture.

Keywords:   Jewishness, modern radio comedy, Jack Benny, Jewish comic, Jewish cultural studies, celebrities, American Jewishness, ethnic performers, Jewish sensibilities, media portrayals

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