The old saying is true. You do learn something new everyday.
Meka and I were watching The Daily Show one night. As part of the opening segment, Jon Stewart cut into a video clip and said, “Yeeeeeeesss???” Everyone laughed in the audience. Meka and I chuckled at home on the couch.
“Where is that from?” she asked. I don’t think she really expected an answer, but I had one. I like to listen to old-time radio programs. They air them on NewsRadio 78 at midnight. Unlike a lot of the broadcasts, The Jack Benny Show is still pretty funny. It doesn’t rely so much on topical humor or ethnic humor more cringe-inducing than funny to modern audiences. Jack Benny created one of the first “sitcom families”. It consisted of Jack and the regular cast along with a number of frequent minor characters, including a put-upon sales clerk that seemed to work at every store Benny visited.
“Gale Gordon,” I answered. “The ‘yeeeeeeesss???’ character started on The Jack Benny Show and was played by Gale Gordon.”
I happened to be looking up something totally unrelated to Gale Gordon, Jack Benny or Jon Stewart on the Internet the other day. I stumbled upon a mention of Frank Nelson, who of course played that put-upon sales clerk on The Jack Benny Show –
Wait a minute…
A couple of hours of research later and I realized I had made a mistake. It was Frank Nelson who had the recurring role on The Jack Benny Show. Frank Nelson was the one who moved to television and did voice work, playing the same put-upon sales clerk on The Flintstones and The Jetsons. Comedians continue to pay homage to Nelson’s character. There’s a recurring “Yes Guy” on The Simpsons and – of course – Jon Stewart does a mean Frank Nelson impression.
Gale Gordon did work on radio. He was part of a couple of classic “sitcom families”. He played the put-upon Mayor LaTrivia on the Fibber McGee and Molly program before becoming Lucille Ball’s husband on radio before I Love Lucy started on television. Later on he worked with Lucy again, playing her boss Mr. Mooney on The Lucy Show. He would frequently growl, “Mrs. Carmichaelllllll???”, but he never said “yeeeeeeesss???”
I explained all of this to Meka in the interests of keeping the record straight. I didn’t want her to spread a mistruth about who originated the “yeeeeeeesss???” character. It turned out I didn’t have to worry about that. Like I mentioned, the old saying is true: you learn something new everyday. However, often times it is not exactly Earth-shattering in importance and you may find that no one else cares.
I guess I learned two things that day.