A mugger accosts Jack on his radio show on March 28, 1948.
After establishing a cast of regulars, audiences have come to know the intimate details of every character, including Rochester and Mary, on Jack Benny’s hugely popular radio show. But no character has more recognizable traits, flaws and foibles than Benny’s own character, “Jack.” Supposedly created in his own image, Jack is well known for several things: his ongoing feud with fellow radio personality Fred Allen, his ancient Maxwell automobile, his perpetual age of 39. But the most famous Benny trait of all is his stinginess. On the show, Benny’s character supposedly kept his money in a guarded vault in the basement, and the guard–in a great running gag–hadn’t been out of the basement since the 1800s. Jack was the world’s most parsimonious dude, and everyone knew it.
The Punchline: A mugger walks up to Benny and demands, “Your money or your life.” As the silence gets louder and longer, the impatient mugger demands an answer. An irritated Benny, clearly in deep thought, insists, “I’m thinking. I’m thinking.” This single joke results in the longest uninterrupted laugh in radio history.