The daughter of the legendary comedian Jack Benny is speaking out this week to talk about what it was like growing up with him, and she’s letting fans know that he is still “the nicest person” she has ever been around.
It’s been over 40 years since Benny passed away from cancer at the age of 80 back in 1974, but his 86 year-old daughter Joan Benny continues to have vivid memories of the man that she “absolutely” adores.
“He was a truly nice man, which is apparently rather unusual for comedians,” Joan told Closer Weekly. “Do you remember the name Abbe Lane? She was on the bill with my dad as an opening act and I got to know her. She said, ‘You know, your father was so unusual. I’ve worked with every comedian in the business and they are all totally insane, but your dad was the best.'”
Joan, who was adopted by Benny and his wife, radio comedian and actress Mary Livingstone, knew from a very young age that her father was different than other dads.
“I’m not sure whether I came in first or second, but I think the show came first,” she explained. “That was fine. We were actually very close because my mother didn’t like to do out much so I went with my dad to all the baseball games. And I traveled with him when he went to different cities, playing concerts. On top of that, he was a great grandfather. He adored his first grandson, Mike. When I was married and had children, I lived not too far away, so Dad would come over every two or three days for a cup of coffee and see his grandchild.”
Though Benny was incredibly successful in the entertainment world, Joan said that he “remained pretty unaffected and unchanged” by fame.
“He said in an interview that he had all the foibles that normal people have and they identified with him,” she said. “The miser, the somewhat pompous, somewhat put upon guy — all the things that he was on that show, he said was a reflection of the population in general. People identified with that and they also knew in spite of his character, he only played being cheap. People knew that he was a nice man under whatever it was he was playing. He came across as being a really nice person.”
Joan went on to say that her father never lost his temper and loved meeting his fans.
“He loved signing autographs,” she remembered. “He loved being famous. There was a time when, I believe, he went to a country in the Caribbean where they didn’t know him and didn’t speak English. He spent a day there and nobody asked him for his autograph, so he was on the next plane home. Like I said, he really did like being famous, signing autographs and talking to his fans.”
She also discussed her father’s friendship with comedian George Burns, which she said was very real.
“George Burns was the funniest man of all time in my life,” Joan said. “He and my dad were joined at the hip. They adored each other and it all started way back in the days of vaudeville. At the time, my father was a bigger star than Natty — we called him Natty because his real name was Nathan Birnbaum – but they just connected with each other.”
This piece originally appeared in UpliftingToday.com and is used by permission.
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