200 Years of Illinois: Jack Benny’s “longest laugh”

March 28 marks the date of a historic moment in the history of comedy. On that date in 1948, Jack Benny’s popular radio show aired one of the great exchanges in the long history of that beloved program:

Mugger: Your money or your life.
Mugger: Look bud. I said, your money or your life.
Jack: I’m thinking it over!

Born in Chicago in 1894 as Benjamin Kubelsky, or alternately in whatever year was 39 years before the air date of his show, Jack Benny grew up in Waukegan before heading to vaudeville in his teens. The “Your Money or Your Life” sketch took place long after the comedian had taken his place as the king of radio and a year before he famously jumped from longtime home NBC to anchor CBS’s entertainment bloc on the wireless.

For years, the skit was celebrated as getting the longest laugh in the history of The Jack Benny Program. Fans and biographers have since disproved the claim. The seven-second laugh in fact finished far behind other gags that provoked laughs over twenty and even thirty seconds long. But “Your Money or Your Life” and the skit on either side of it remains a beloved part of Benny lore.