LOS ANGELES, CA. -- Ten happy humor writers are busy chewing their finger nails this week, each hoping their essay will tickle the funny bone of comic genius Bob Newhart, finalist judge for the 2008 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor competition.
Bob Newhart, winner of three Grammy awards, a Peabody Award, an Emmy and the Mark Twain Prize for Humor, making him perhaps the most celebrated comedian, writer, humorist, actor, entertainer and former certified public accountant in show business. But this time he has taken on the difficult and amusing task of selecting and the top four winning entries in the 2008 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor–a task ably handled for the past two years by Pulitzer Prize winning humorist Dave Barry."I think really good writing is timeless," Newhart said, referring to the work of one of his favorite humor writers, the renown Robert Benchley, whose liked to present a public image, "like the persona Jack Benny created—a man who was very much full of himself, but in a self-deprecating way." "The book that most impressed me when I was growing up and influenced my approach to comedy would have been any book by Robert Benchley, or specifically My Ten Years in a Quandary," Newhart said. "I was very much influenced by Robert Benchley."
"We had a delightful time selecting our top ten finalists this year," said Robert Benchley Society chairman David Trumbull. "It is a true honor to turn the job of selecting the top four essays over to Bob Newhart." "All of the entries are read blind. No one knows who wrote which essay until the judging is finished. This keeps the competition entirely merit based," said Horace J. Digby, a past Benchley Society Award winner who has returned to help with judging for the past three years.
The 2008 finalists, in alphabetical order, are:
- Con Chapman of Weston, Mass. for My Memoirs, to the Best of My Knowledge
- Madeleine Begun Kane of Bayside, N.Y. for Guide for the Opera Impaired
- Jesse Levy of North Hollywood, Calif. for How to Watch a Sad Movie and Retain Your Manliness
- E. Mitchell of Palatine, Ill. for How to Avoid the Neighbors
- Joseph Nebus of Jackson, N.J. for What Do They Make Of Jelly?
- Brenda Pontiff of Los Angeles, Calif. for How to Wake Up
- John Thom of Los Angeles, Calif. for My Uncle Henry
- Mike Tuck of Hopkins, Minn. for Welcome to America
- Denise G. Weeks of Richardson, Texas for How to Start Your Own Band
- Sharon Elizabeth Wood of Cary, N.C. for How to Be Happy