(from “Jack Benny’s Second Farewell Special,” NBC, January 24, 1974; written by: Al Gordon and Hal Goldman, Hilliard Marks, Hugh Wedlock Jr.)
(transcribed and sent in by Michael Hayde, author of “My Name’s Friday: The Unauthorized but True Story of Dragnet and the Films of Jack Webb”.)
(By 1974, “Dragnet” had been out of production for three years, although the reruns were an outstanding success in syndication. Nevertheless, Jack Webb and Harry Morgan portrayed Friday and Gannon one more time, in a brief comedy sketch in what would be Jack Benny’s final TV special. Webb’s hair is grayer and Morgan is sporting sideburns and a mustache for his role as Doc Coogan on “Hec Ramsey.” As for the sketch, it’s no “Copper Clapper Caper.” But it’s a treat to see TV’s best cops together again. The show may be viewed at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York City and Los Angeles.
Here’s the set-up: During the opening monologue, Benny is telling a joke. Just as he’s coming to the punch line, a purse snatcher runs across the stage. He knocks over scenery while trying to elude a uniformed cop, who is firing shots. Once the stage is cleared, Benny picks up where he left off, but his joke falls flat. About 15 minutes later, Benny is again on stage, and this time he’s confronted by LAPD’s two finest detectives:
Friday: Excuse me, Mr. Benny. (shows ID) I’m Sgt. Joe Friday and this is my partner, Officer Gannon. (APPLAUSE) Mr. Benny, how long have you been standing out here on this stage?
Benny: I’d say about 15, 20 minutes.
Gannon: Could you be more specific?
Benny: I don’t know, it could be 17 or 18 minutes. I wasn’t looking at my watch. I’m working here.
Friday: We’re investigating a purse snatcher.
Gannon: This fellow snatched a purse.
Benny: I don’t know anything about that. See, I don’t carry one.
Friday: We were told by a witness that a lady was robbed, and the suspect ran across the stage with her purse.
Benny: That’s right. That’s why my joke didn’t go over.
Gannon: What joke?
Benny: Well, it was about this panhandler, you see? Then there was a fellah that ran across the stage, and a policeman took a shot at him, you see?
Friday: What’d he look like?
Benny: Well, he was a tall guy wearing a blue suit, a black tie, and he had a gun!
Friday: No, no, no. Not the policeman. We mean the thief.
Gannon: We’re not interested in the fellah who was chasing him. We know him!
Friday: We’re interested in the four-eighty-four P.S. that snatched the seven-five-oh.
Gannon: At eight-fifteen.
Friday: Could you give us a description of the purse snatcher?
Benny: You mean the seven-five-oh?
Gannon: No, the four-eight-four P.S.
Benny: Well, I don’t know. You see, I was talking to the audience, and the fellah ran across so fast that… I’m sorry, I can’t be of any help to you.
Friday: Well, let me ask you: Can you give us any details?
Benny: Well, I was so busy….
Gannon: How tall was he?
Benny: I don’t know. I would say maybe five foot, four inches… and very good looking.
Gannon: You sure you don’t carry a purse?
Friday: What color was his hair?
Benny: I don’t know. He had a cap on.
Friday: Did you notice what color his eyes were?
Benny: How could I tell the color of his eyes? To me, it was just a blur!
Gannon: But you noticed the cap.
Benny: I don’t know. It could’ve been a hat! I don’t know! I’m just trying to do a show, that’s all.
Gannon: A show?
Friday: So all you’re interested in is your show. You don’t care if a woman’s purse was stolen. She lost all her money. All you’re interested in is your show.
Gannon: What would happen if someone stole your money?
Benny: I’d kill him!
Friday: Now you let me tell you something, Mister. Our job is tough enough, and you’re making it tougher. Now the reason you can’t identify this man is because you don’t want to become involved. Now isn’t that it?
Friday: You know, you’re the kind of a man that’s responsible for the crime rate, not only in this city, but all over the country. You don’t want to get involved because it’s an inconvenience to you. Now my partner here and I, and police officers all over the country, are putting our time and energy and sometimes putting our lives on the line to protect people like you. Now you have a debt to society, too. We need citizens with integrity, and the ability to come forward and help us do a good job. And one other thing: I hope you sleep well tonight. That lady who lost her purse won’t sleep well tonight. Now you think about that. (To Gannon) Come on, let’s go.
(They exit, but Gannon returns.)
Gannon: Mr. Benny?
Gannon: (holds out his notepad and pencil) May I have your autograph, please?
Benny: Certainly. (He signs, and is near tears while speaking) I couldn’t recognize the fellah! He was just running across the stage… (Hands pad back to Gannon.)
Gannon. Thank you. You’re despicable! (Exits)