When Marty McFly told Emmett Brown in 1955 that the President of the United States in 1985 would be Ronald Reagan, he scoffed at the idea that a famous actor would hold a government office, and sarcastically suggested that the Vice-President might be Jerry Lewis, Jane Wyman would be the First Lady, and Jack Benny, who often portrayed a rich but stingy character, would be the Secretary of the Treasury.
Widely recognized as one of the leading American entertainers of the 20th Century, Benny was known for his comic timing and his ability to get laughs with either a pregnant pause or a single expression, such as his signature exasperated "Well!". His radio and television programs, tremendously popular in the 1940s and '50s, were a foundational influence on the situation comedy.
Benny had been only a minor vaudeville performer, but he became a national figure with The Jack Benny Program, a weekly radio show which ran from 1932 to 1948 on NBC and from 1949 to 1955 on CBS, and was consistently among the most highly rated programs during most of that run.
The television version of The Jack Benny Program (which never used the sponsor's name) ran from October 28, 1950 to 1965. The show appeared infrequently during its first two years on TV, then ran every fourth week for the next two years. For the 1953-1954 season, half the episodes were live and half were filmed during the summer, to allow Benny to continue doing his radio show. From 1955 to 1960 it appeared every other week, and from 1960 to 1965 it was seen weekly.
In September 1954, CBS premiered Chrysler's Shower of Stars co-hosted by Jack Benny and William Lundigan. It enjoyed a successful run from 1954 until 1958. Both television shows often overlapped the radio show. In fact, the radio show alluded frequently to its television counterparts. Often as not, Benny would sign off the radio show in such circumstances with a line like, "Well, good night, folks. I'll see you on television."
Benny's stage character was a clever inversion of his actual self. The character was just about everything the actual Jack Benny was not: cheap, petty, vain and self-congratulatory.
A master of the carefully timed, pregnant pause, Benny and his writers used it to set up what is popularly (but incorrectly) believed to be the longest laugh in radio history. It climaxed an episode (broadcast March 28, 1948) in which Benny borrowed neighbor Ronald Colman's Oscar trophy and was returning home when accosted by a mugger. After asking for a match to light a cigarette, the mugger demanded, "Don't make a move, this is a stickup. Now, come on. Your money or your life." Benny paused, and the studio audience — knowing his skinflint character — laughed. The robber then repeated his demand: "Look, bud! I said your money or your life!" And that's when Benny snapped back, without a break, "I'm thinking it over!" This time, the audience laughed louder and longer than they had during the pause.
Benny even had a sound-based running gag of his own: his famous basement vault alarm, allegedly installed by Spike Jones, ringing off with a shattering cacophony of whistles, sirens, bells, and blasts, before ending invariably with the sound of a foghorn. The alarm rang off even when Benny opened his safe with the correct combination.
- Back to the Future (Mentioned only)
Behind the scenes
Since Jack Benny was relatively unknown in Europe, in the French-language version Retour vers le futur, the German-language version Zurück in die Zukunft, and the Italian-language version Ritorno al futuro , Doc suggested instead that John Wayne was the Minister of Defense (or War). 
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