Nat Benchley

Much to the astonishment of his family, Nat Benchley graduated from The (former) Choate School and Stanford University without being arrested. A long time ago.

He has been a freelance actor/writer for … many years. Prior to disdaining regular work, he wrote and produced public relations for WETA, the Washington, D.C., public television station; worked on a White House national drug abuse prevention campaign; scripted and performed in the much-revered anti-shoplifting classic film “High Pockets at Full Noon;” and (some time earlier) served in the Philippines and Viet Nam in the U.S. Naval Security Group during the unpopular Southeast Asian dust-up (and we all know how well his work there turned out).

He was proud to work with the FBI National Academy, writing a film about their exceptional program in Quantico, VA.

He was also pleased to work with Nick Olcott on two productions for Radio Theater of the Air, “Seven Days in May” and “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial.”

These days, he narrates educational films on- and off-camera and is heard across the country on commercials and documentaries for the National Geographic’s “Explorer” series and many of The Discovery Channel’s documentaries.

He was seen staggering around the precinct as Det. Augie Polk in seasons 1, 2 and 5 of HBO’s gritty series “The Wire.”

His stage work has earned him plaudits and award nominations, as well as the singular moniker “The Burly Deadpan,” due largely to the influence of Peter Cook, John Cleese and an old-time humorist named Robert Benchley. At the end of the 20th-Century Nat crusaded for word-based comedy by reviving stage productions of “Beyond the Fringe” and “Good Evening” for Washington-area audiences (both directed by Nick Olcott). (At one point when he met Dudley Moore, they performed an impromptu responsive reading of Moore’s monologue “Spoch Impodiment.”) The Washington Post’s theater critic noted that “Benchley is a graceful performer who, like many talented funny men, suggests undercurrents of both melancholy and rage.” (He has promised to keep the rage under control in the future.) In 1988, he and co-star Bill Grimmette were nominated for Helen Hayes Awards for their roles in Athol Fugard’s “The Blood Knot.” That same year, he created the eponymous role of “Church Key Charlie Blue” in Jim Lehrer’s play.

In 1995 he published an article in Nantucket magazine chronicling his grandfather’s adventures on that mid-ocean speck of heaven.

Since late 2009, he has written and recorded a weekly radio column, “Language Matters” (see link on home page) for the NPR station WHDD in Sharon, CT.  The station management and their faithful listeners tolerate his ranting about misuses and abuses (and joys) of language.

Nat lives in New York and Sharon with his wife, Kathleen Peacock Benchley.