Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Adventures In Recordland, post #9: The Bs, part 5

#1: Benny Bell- "Kosher Comedy"

Benny Bell is probably best-known today because of the Dr. Demento Show and the fact that the good doctor used to play "Shaving Cream" and a few other slightly risque songs Benny recorded. What people might not know is that Benny Bell spent many years recording in his first language, Yiddish. This album contains a dozen Yiddish comedy songs, originally issued on 78s in the '40s. Unfortunately, I don't speak the language, or at least not enough to really understand the lyrics, so I can't really comment on this record. I bought it because I'm Jewish and I've always enjoyed the colorful sounds of the Yiddish language. Benny's amusing delivery and the bouncy klezmer-style accompaniment make the songs sound fun, and I get the gist of what he's saying, but I'm sure a lot of the details of the humor are lost on me.

#2: Jack Benny & Fred Allen- "The Radio Fight Of The Century", 1974

For those who might not be familiar with two of the great radio comedians of all time- Jack Benny and Fred Allen were both vaudeville comedians who found their greatest success in radio (although Benny was also very popular on television later, a medium which Allen never quite found his niche in). Allen was known for his sardonic, often ad-libbed, wit, and for the "Allen's Alley" segment of his show (see blog #1 for more details on that). Benny was famous for many running gags throughout his long radio career, the most famous of which was his reputation as the world's biggest cheapskate. (All a gag, of course- Benny in real life was by all accounts an extremely kind and generous man). The two were great friends in real life, but they in 1937 they started to insult each other on their respective radio shows, knowing the other one was listening. The Benny-Allen "feud" became a running gag between them for 20 years. This two-album set collects a lot of highlights from the feud- guest appearances by Allen on Benny's show and vice versa, and various other appearances they made together.
Two hours' worth of this material is a bit much, but it's always great fun to hear them together, especially on Benny's shows where the writing was always first-rate- and even then, Allen's ad-libs are sometimes even funnier than the script!
I don't feel the need to go into great detail on this one. If you know about the Benny-Allen feud (and most of my friends reading this probably do), you love them both and have been listening to them for years like I have, and if you don't...well, you should start listening to those shows, because you're missing out.

That's about all for today. Tomorrow I have a six-record set coming up(!), so I'll have to split it over two days. See you soon.

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