Not to be confused with KENNY Baker, or this Benny or that Benny, Benny Baker (Benjamin Michael Zifkin, 1907-1994) was a comedian from St. Joe, Missouri, who broke into vaudeville and burlesque in the 1920s. He was in a revue based on the Andy Gump comic strip, was a part of George Cukor’s theatrical stock company, and for a time he was the vaudeville stooge for Lou Holtz, called “Showowski”, for his Mr. Lapidus routines.
Baker’s first film was the Columbia short School for Romance with Holtz, Betty Grable, Jack Norton and Arthur Treacher. His early work also included comedy shorts with stars like Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly, and Charley Chase. You can see him him in Mae West’s Belle of the Nineties (1934), Burns and Allen’s Love in Bloom (1935), The Big Broadcast of 1936, the Preston Sturges-penned Hotel Haywire (1937), The Farmer’s Daughter (1940) with Martha Raye, and a couple of the Joe Palooka and East Side Kids comedies. Starting in the 1950s, he started working in television as well. A former truck driver himself, the jolly round character was often cast and similar menial roles in bit parts in his later years. His last major credit was a 1988 episode of Donna Pescow’s sitcom Out of This World.
To find out more about history of vaudeville, please avail yourself of No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever brassy books are sold.