As the chat started, Ben explained that he was excited to talk about his dad, because the ongoing coronavirus outbreak made it impossible for the family to come together. Although he holds out hope for the future.
“I figured it would be good to do it, because it would be a chance to talk about my dad a little bit,” the comic actor said. “It’s a weird time now, you know, and people can’t really gather together, and you can’t do sort of a [service].”
“I think somewhere down the line we’ll do a memorial for him, when everybody can get together,” he continued. “Because there’s so many people who loved him and who he worked with. But I thought it would be nice to be able to just have a moment to celebrate him a little bit.”
Since his death, many of Jerry’s fans and comics who’d worked with him have sent their condolences and memories, which Ben said has been a great indicator of how special his father was.
“There’s a lot of people who have reached out, which has been really nice. I mean, just to feel how much he touched people, how much enjoyment he gave people, because I know that he would have felt good about all this,” Ben said. “If you’d ask him, like, ‘Do you care about all of, like, the show business aspect of things?’ He really did, but he’d always say, ‘But what I really care about is my kids and my kids being happy.'”
Ben said his father “came to everything” he did when he was starting out in acting, and that he was a “very, very supportive dad.” He was also, according to a few of the hilarious anecdotes Ben told about his dad, a person who wouldn’t hold back his true feelings.
“He came to Ella, my daughter’s, fourth grade play, they were doing Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and he came to see it at school, and afterwards I said, ‘Dad, what’d you think?’ And he said, ‘I didn’t care for it, didn’t care for it,'” Ben recalled with a laugh. “I said, ‘Dad, what are you talking about?’ And he goes, ‘Ella was amazing. Ella had the commitment and she was shining up there, but I didn’t feel like the rest of the kids were up to it.”
“And he wasn’t kidding!” Ben continued. “My mom was like, “Jerry, what the hell are you talking about? It’s a fourth grade play!’ And he goes, ‘I just didn’t feel it.’ And it was so funny because it really bothered him!”
That being said, Ben explained how he was a very loving father, even when he was a bit out of his depth in terms of the the advice he could give.
“When I was 16 years old, I had a friend, and, you know, we experimented and tried LSD, which was the first and last time I took it. It was not a fun experience for me,” Ben recalled. “I got freaked out, scared, and my first instinct was, ‘I’m going to call my parents.’ Because every kid calls his parents on LSD, right?”
“But I guess maybe that speaks to our relationship too, because I felt like, ‘Okay, that’s where I wanted to go.’ And they happened to be in Los Angeles, shooting a Love Boat episode,” Ben continued. “And my parents were not really into the drug world, I’d say… So I called and I said, ‘Dad, I took some acid.’ And I think his first thought was acid, like I drank battery acid.”
“I said, ‘No, it was LSD.’ And I could just sort of hear him, like, the silence on the other end of the phone, I think he had that feeling of, ‘Oh, I’ve failed as a parent.’ And then the next thing he said was, ‘It’s going to be okay,’ and he started to talk me down, even though he knew nothing about drugs,” Ben remembered. “He said, ‘I know what you’re feeling. When I was 10 years old, I smoked a Pall Mall cigarette and I was sick for two days.’ And I said, ‘No it’s not – this is different.'”
After sharing some heartfelt memories, Ben explained that his ” heart goes out to all those people” who have lost loved ones during this frightening time, and weren’t able to be with them in the last days.
“I feel very fortunate that I was able to be with my dad, you know, it’s not like that for so many people right now,” he shared.
In a new interview with The New Yorker, the 54-year-old actor shared details on his final days with his dad.
“The last week or two were tougher for him. But he went peacefully, and he had a sense of humor, for sure, until the end,” Ben says. “I hesitate to call it a sense of humor. He was just funny, and so he was always himself. He was almost ninety-three, and I think his body was kind of at that point where it was time.”
For more on the comic icon’s life and legacy, see the video below.