Show Business: Master of Silence

Burglar: Your money or your life!

(Long pause.)

Benny: I'm thinking it over!

For Comedian Jack Benny the pauses were always more eloquent than the gags. When he died last week of cancer, Benny had become the grand master of comic timing; like Playwrights Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett, he had built a career around silence.

That career was a capsule history of show business. Benny Kubelsky, a poor Jewish kid from Waukegan, III., was something of a prodigy on the violin; his father, a small-time haberdasher, entertained hopes of a concert career. But by...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!