What Bloggers Could Learn from Comedian Jack Benny
Some of you might not even remember Jack Benny, but if you manage a blog, his take on his audience is still valuable advice to keep in mind even today.
Jack Benny started in radio before the majority of people who’ll read this post were born. But from 1932 until his death in 1974, he was a popular comedian who maintained the persona of a vain cheapskate who always claimed to be 39 years old.
Those who worked with him over the years say the man was nothing like the persona.
As a comic, his timing was second to none and he worked alongside other big names you may have heard of: George Burns, Bob Hope and Milton Berle, just to name a few.
Another part of Benny’s schtick was lousy violin playing. His cast, which included Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, announcer Don Wilson, singer Dennis Day and master of voices Mel Blanc, all tried to dodge any of Benny’s performances whenever possible.
Here on this blog, I’ve shared a video of a famous duet with Benny and singer Gisele MacKenzie, but it’s worth another look. The poster of the clip on YouTube disabled website embeds, but you can click here to watch.
Years later, MacKenzie would appear on The Merv Griffin Show in a tribute to Benny and she talked about traveling with him for four months on a city-by-city tour. She said she toured with Benny and that Sammy Davis, Jr., was also among the performers traveling with them.
Benny had great respect for his audience.
Benny, she said, had a “nose” for his audience and was immediately able to determine what they were looking for and what would and wouldn’t work.
One of the sternest instructions he gave, she said, was about “last night” jokes, what he called “ridiculous inside jokes that actors like to play on each other.” His problem with running jokes that were meant to entertain the onstage performers as they tried to entertain the crowd was that the current evening’s audience deserves the same beautiful show as the very first night’s audience did.
He was so serious about banning that kind of humor, which would likely leave the audience scratching their heads because there was no way they could get the joke, that he warned his fellow castmates that if he ever caught them doing so, he’d never work with them again.
MacKenzie said one of the biggest pieces of advice he gave was this: “Never talk down to your audience. Talk up, because they’re smarter than you think.”
That’s good advice that all of us who blog should take to heart.
Some of us seek to entertain, some of us seek to inform, some of us seek to help. And some of us try to do some of each from time to time.
But respecting the audience — no matter what you’re trying to accomplish — should always be priority one.
Respecting your audience, for a blogger, should always be a top priority.
How do you do that?
You respect your audience by providing information they can use.
You respect your audience by helping them solve a problem.
You respect your audience by publishing content that answers their questions.
But you also respect your audience by putting effort into what you do. In the past, for example, I’ve suggested that bloggers should “give a damn” about things like spelling and grammar. Typos will always try to sneak in, but if what you write appears as if you’ve not even attempted a spell-check or proof-reading, your audience will surely notice.
Do you really expect them to come back?
None of this is meant to “cramp” anyone’s style. It’s not about what you say but how you say it and how you address the people you’re writing to.
They’re the ones, after all, whose visits keep your blog going as much as you do.