“Benchley Despite Himself”
© Al Hirschfeld
Drawing reproduced by special arrangement with Hirschfeld’s exclusive representative, The Margo Feiden Galleries, Ltd., New York
Being a compilation of Robert Benchley’s best monologues, short films, radio rantings and pithy pieces
As recalled, edited and acted by his grandson
And combined with family reminiscences and friends’ perspectives.
A warm, touching, hysterical romp for all who are interested in language and its laugh potential.
“Benchley Despite Himself” is a one-man, one-act stroll through the glory period of literate American humor, from post-World War I New York to post-World War II Hollywood.
It is told through the story of one of America’s premiere humorists, a member of the fabled Algonquin Round Table in New York and a habitue of the Garden of Allah in Hollywood.
Robert Benchley made his mark in the numerous magazines in New York in the early 1920s, rose to stardom on the stage in various revues and wrote and starred in the first all-talking film in 1928. After that, his career skyrocketed in films and radio work, while he maintained several regular magazine columns and criticisms. He is still credited by many of the writers for The New Yorker magazine with inspiring their work. Modern humor writers from Woody Allen, Russell Baker and Calvin Trillin to Dave Barry still acknowledge their debt to Benchley’s innovative style.
Available for a variety of social and literary affairs, “Benchley Despite Himself” presents much of Robert Benchley’s best material in a live, ludicrous look at a unique life. Written and performed by Robert’s grandson, Nat, the show has entertained audiences in formats ranging from 25 minutes to a 90-minute examination of Robert’s life and legacy and the accomplishments of his various descendants. (Robert’s son, Nathaniel, wrote The Off-Islanders, which became the movie “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming,” and his son, Peter, wrote the thrillers Jaws and The Deep.)
This is an entertainment for anyone interested in the salutary power of word-based humor and the particular tickle of an off-beat imagination.
Robert Benchley Quote of the Moment:
“Surprise!…is not the name for the emotion with which I am overcome at being just now called upon to address you at this meeting. It is nothing short of confusion.”
from “The Ivy Oration” in “The Lost Algonquin Round Table”
Archive of Previous Quotes
Due to the wide variety of subjects treated by Robert Benchley in his writings, films, musings, mutterings and extemporanea, we could not pin the author or actor down as to just what he would discuss at any particular session. However, it is likely that the topics will be taken from the following semi-organized list… but don’t hold us to it.
“The Treasurer’s Report,” rodeos, dirty laundry, contradictions, sunny Las Los, Hobart Godfrey Weekes, autobiography (sort of), a formidable Questing Beast, WASPs, “the Undertoad,” misdirections, tilting at windmills, language and its use/misuse, expectations, Nathaniel G. Benchley, hanging from rafters, cleanliness is where?, William the Conqueror (vis-a-vis Leif the Unlucky), Worcester, exceptionally dependent children, telegrams, the Algonquin crowd, juggernauts, the Borgia family picnic, Arthur and Julius Marx, word games, Charles Dickens, Helen Hayes, Alice Brookhausen, “Sweet Old Bob,” theater criticism, religion, impeccable timing, Fox Movietone, “talking pictures,” sex (sort of), Marjorie B. Benchley, a reformed Victorian teetotaler, Charlie, Jenny, Edmund, Harvard, the divan, “What College Taught Me,” Lampoon cartoons, fisheries, Twain, Leacock, journalism, Queen Anne, Gertrude Darling, “Opera Synopses,” Charles Lindbergh, the Great Depression, a “Theory of Work,” Fred Allen, Hollywood, martinis, prodigious output, “How to Sleep,” narrowed eyelids, “Dementia Praecox,” F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Humor Analysis,” Jimmy Stewart, that old atavistic streak, the Garden of Allah, ‘Sconset lust, Der Querschnitt, doing your “first best,” “Swing Music,” Clio v. Thalia, Peter Lorre, Joe Bryan, Budapest, peace, Zack T. Benchley, discipline, “Abie’s Irish Rose,” …