Jack Benny Predates Westworld

DATELINE: Chicken or Egg and Jack Benny


Viewing Westworld, the new HBO series with its fascinating look at atomatons in an amusement park, we might be fooled into thinking how modern and futuristic the series is. But the possibilities were seen decades ago. Check this historical episode of the Benny series at the final 5 minute mark.

In the new Jonathan Nolan version of Michael Crichton’s Westworld novel, there are now technicians running the theme park, wearing hazmat suits. In the old story they just wore lab coats. But working with robots nowadays probably is more hazardous, with their strange bodily fluids.

We were reminded that in the early 1960s, this same science-fiction premise was displayed innocuously enough on the Jack Benny Program.

Yep, the notorious tightwad comedian tackled the subject a decade before Westworld even happened.

In a 1963 episode young newcomer to TV, Johnny Carson visits Jack Benny in his dressing room after the show. He tells Benny how impressed he is with his style, energy, and youth. This, of course, just utterly charms smarmy Jack.

Coy as always, Benny is self-effacing. Then Johnny Carson  asks him what the secret of his youth and vitality. It seems to bring Jack to a complete paralysis; he stares off into space. Johnny is alarmed as Benny never moves again.

Then a couple of technicians start to dismantle Jack, removing his head and arms and packing them away, putting his torso into the broom closet.

Johnny Carson is suitably shocked. He asks how long this has been going on.

The technicians shrug. They have no idea. “We started doing this 15 years ago.”