Remembering Al Gordon, Jack Benny Gag Writer

Al Gordon, in rear with glasses, with Jack Benny, center, and the writers Sam Perrin, left, Hal Goldman and George Balzer.
Al Gordon and Hal Goldman joined Jack Benny's writing team in 1950. Jack Benny was famously dependent upon his writers, and was quick to give them credit for making him look good. Despite Jack's supposed reputation as a cheap skate, his writers were also some of the best paid in Hollywood.

It wasn't that Jack couldn't be funny without a script, but he was much more comfortable performing with one. One well reported incident occurred when Jack stopped a rehearsal to call his writers around him. "Look," Jack told the writers, "I want to give Mel Blanc credit. I want a line for the tag of the show that says the part of the violin teacher was played by Mel Blanc." One of the four writers took Jack's script from him and wrote "The part of the violin teacher was played by Mel Blanc." Reading the new writing in the script, Jack said "This is great. This is exactly what I wanted to say. Gees, thanks guys." As the rehearsal resumed one of the writing staff quipped, "You know, Jack, I think two of us could have handled that."

Benny referred to the "new writers", Gordon and Goldman, even after working together for more than twenty years. Jack brought in the "new writers" while the Program was making the transition to television, but as part of the writing staff, they were involved in the last five years of the radio show.

Gordon was a bombastic and fast thinking writer from the Bronx who never finished high school (joining the Army Air Corp before graduating). Goldman was a more reserved and urbane writer from Minnesota. They teamed with established Benny writers Sam Perrin and George Balzer. The four were nominated for six Emmys with the Jack Benny Program, winning two. Gordon and Goldman earned a reputation for fast and witty writing, sometimes developing skits tailored for guest stars over night.

Hal Goldman passed away at the age of 81 in July of 2001. We lost Al Gordon a two years ago today on May 23, 2012.

We can't help but think that Heaven is a funnier place now that Jack has his writers together again.