Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nat Benchley Releases Volume 2 of 'Benchley on Benchley'

We got the new CD of Robert Benchley stories from his grandson, Nat Benchley, who recorded it. "Benchley on Benchley Volume 2" has ten stories, all classics. Among them are "Kiddie Kar Travel," "How to Understand Music," "Penguin Psychology," and "The Social Life of the Newt."

Nat was good enough to answer 5 questions for us about the CD, which you can purchase on his web site.

Nat, how did you choose the pieces on Volume 2?

Mostly, they were among my favorites which fit into the recording time frame and were not universally printed in too many collections.

What is your favorite piece on Volume 2, and why?

Well, I don't want to prejudice listeners, but there is one particular piece which -after all the readings and recording and listening again- still absolutely cracks me up (because of the writing, of course, not the reading). It is one I reference in my one-man show for a particular line, but there are many other sections of the piece which make me giggle. I think anyone who might ever have been "overserved" will relate to it.

What is the best part about recording your grandfather's work, and presenting it to the public?

To be perfectly, Frank, [sic] the best part is finally getting it right. There have been recordings before -some by some very talented people- which just missed some of the whimsy and the off-beat nature of his character. I will immodestly say that after all these years of living with the legend, studying his films and recordings and performing my one-man show, I think I have him down pretty well.

Volume 1 has "The Treasurer's Report"; does Volume 2 have anything like it that stands out?

Well, "The Treasurer's Report" is his "signature" piece but not necessarily his best (just listen to what he has to say about it in the intro). One of the pieces on Volume 2 is one that has long been underrated. If you listen to (or read) "How To Understand Music" carefully, I think you will realize what a clever piece of satire it is. Close to music criticism, but way askew.

Will we see a Volume 3?

Only if Volume 2 sells really well.

Thanks so much, Nat. We look forward to hearing it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Inquiry about Benchley Essay

Dear G.W.:

Thank you for contacting the Robert Benchley Society. You inquired about a short piece by Robert Benchley which you say you heard read by the late Alistair Cooke many years in Edinburgh, a piece possibly titled "I Killed Rasputin."

Mr. Benchley often choose titles for comic effect rather than relevancy to the subject matter, so it would be helpful if you could describe something of the essay.

Going just on the name alone, it could be "Who Killed Alfred Robin?" which is a parody of detective fiction. That essay may be found in the books

  • "From Bed to Worse, or Comforting Thoughts about the Bison" (1934), beginning on
    page 151 and

  • "Benchley--Or Else!" (1947), beginning on page 222.

    "Benchley -- Or Else!" is available for purchase via Amazon on our website

    Both books may be found in libraries.

    Sincerely yours,
    David Trumbull
  • Saturday, November 1, 2008

    Enjoy 25% off at the Algonquin

    This just in from our friends at the Algonquin!

    Click here to view this in a web browser.

    In the midst of turbulent economic times, Algonquin Hotel invites you to enjoy a wallet-friendly getaway. Stay with us for three nights or more, and we’ll treat you to 25% off our nightly rate, plus free high-speed Internet access. But you’ll have to act fast: reservations must be booked by November 17 in order to receive this special discount. Break free from routine without breaking the bank, and make your escape to the Big Apple!

    Forward to a Friend
    Terms & ConditionsOffer is valid for stays booked between October 28, 2008 and November 17, 2008 and completed between October 28, 2008 and March 31, 2009. All package amenities associated with this promotion are per room, per eligible stay and include: complimentary high speed internet access. An eligible stay is defined as three or more consecutive nights paying a qualifying rate in the same hotel regardless of the number of check-in or check- outs that occur. Rates are per room, per night, based on single/double occupancy and availability at time of reservation and do not include additional per room, per night charges that may be imposed or state/local taxes. Blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.Offer not applicable to groups.
    The Algonquin Hotel 59 West 44th Street Between Fifth and Sixth Avenues New York, NY 10036 212-840-6800

    Saturday, October 18, 2008

    A Roller Coaster Ride of Emotions

    by Mary DiZazzo Trumbull

    A review of

    Disabled FablesCopyright © 2008 Dan Montville.
    ISBN 0-7414-4712-6

    One minute you're crying and the next laughing out loud. If you grew up with a child in your home with disabilities you can clearly identify with these mini-tales of patience, compassion and unconditional love. Every parent should read this book.

    The Montvilles are a brave and committed family. Dan portrays the most uncomfortable scenarios into a twist of dry humor.

    A must-read. You'll look at your "normal" teen in a different light. Bravo, Dan.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    A Toast Offered at the Robert Benchley Soc. Annual Awards Dinner

    A TOAST [as offered by D. Trumbull at the Annual Humor Award Dinner of the Robert Benchley Society, Saturday, October 4, 2008, at the Harvard Club of New York].

    I propose a toast to one of our fellow diners this evening, a member of this venerable club, by whose kind offer of sponsorship we are able to dine here this evening.

    He is a man of many and varied, whose insightful and thoughtful command our sincere and heart-felt -- and he has brought with him his lovely and gracious and his delightful and charming: Ladies and gentlemen, the toast is JOSEPH HANDLIN!

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    RADIOLA! tries to find its moral compass, which is possibly in my other slacks.

    Tune in tonight to WHCL at 8 PM Eastern (with streaming HERE). The show will be uploaded to Live365 this weekend--cross my heart.

    Annette Hanshaw – Is There Anything Wrong In That? (1928) – Annette Hanshaw Vol. 5 (Sensation)
    Emmett Miller and his Georgia Crackers – Right or Wrong? (1929) – Columbia CK66999
    Ipana Troubadors (W. Robison, v) – Wake Up! Chill’un, Wake Up! (1929) – Columbia 1779-D
    Colonial Club Orch. (Haring) (IK, v) – Chloe (1928) – Bob Haring (Crystal Stream)
    Ray Ventura and his Collegians (Edoard S. Foy, v) – I Want to Be Bad (1929) – Columbia CK 52855
    Cab Calloway and his Orch – Is That Religion? (1930) – Big Broadcast, Vol. 1 (Rivermont BSW-1141)
    Gene Austin – Guilty (1931) – A Time to Relax (Take Two TT414CD)
    Lee Wiley – A Hundred Years From Today (1934) – Sophisticated Ladies (Columbia C2K 52943)
    Mae West – I’m No Angel (1933) – Come Up And See Me Sometime (Living Era CD AJA 5604)
    Ambrose and his Orch (Sam Browne v) – Nevertheless (1931) – HMV Sessions (ToNY)
    Ray Noble and his Orch (Al Bowlly, v) – How Could We Be Wrong? (1933) – Vocalion CDEA 6043
    Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys – It Ain’t Right (1936) – Smithsonian JAZ 1013
    Mildred Bailey – Lies (1931) – Sweet Beginnings: Mildred Bailey Vol. 1 (The Old Masters mb103)
    Putney Dandridge and his Orch – It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie (1935) – Putney Dandridge Vol. 1 (ToNY)
    The Lion – It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie (1938) – Calypso Carnival (Rounder CD 1077)
    David Giardina – I Want What I Want When I Want It (2008) – Alive in Tin Pan Alley!
    Tom Lehrer – Lobachevsky (1953) – Songs and More Songs (Rhino R2 72776)
    Sam Browne – Was That The Human Thing to Do? (1932) – Living Era CD AJA 5482
    Champion Dance Kings (Elmer Grosso) – I May Be Wrong (1929) – Gennett & Other Rarities (ToNY)
    West End Jazz Band – I May Be Wrong (2003) – Louder and Funnier (Legacy 2K 103)
    Blind Willie Johnson – Nobody’s Fault But Mine (1927) – Columbia CK 47060
    Ida May Mack – Wrong Doin’ Daddy (1928) – RCA Bluebird 07863 66065-2
    Wilmoth Houdini – Johnnie Take My Wife (1928) – Calypso Breakaway (Rounder CD 1054)
    Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orch (Elmo Tanner, v) – Should I? (1930) – JSP 926B
    Harmony Kings’ Orch – Anything For Love (1938) – Calypso Carnival (Rounder CD 1077)
    Paul Hamilton and his Orch – She Reminds Me Of You (1934) – ASV Living Era CD AJA 5060
    Ethel Merman – Satan’s L’il Lamb (1932) – You’re The Top (Pro Arte Digital CDD 473)
    Clarence Williams and his Orch – Chizzlin’ Sam (1934) – Quadomania 222495-444/C
    Paul Whiteman and his Orch (Ramona, v) – Anything Goes (1934) – The Old Masters mb 116
    Dawn Davis – My Private Affair (1933) – Listen to the Banned (ASV Living Era CD AJA 5030)
    Fats Waller and his Rhythm – T’aint Nobody’s Business If I Do (1940) – Newsound 2000 nst065
    Mezz Mezzrow and his Orch – Apologies (1934) – The Lion Roars! (ASV Living Era CD AJA 5272)


    Enjoy RADIOLA! The best of 1920s and 1930s jazz and pop 8-10 PM ET Friday WHCL 88.7 FM or ANYTIME at

    Thursday, September 18, 2008

    Sign up NOW before price increase for Benchley weekend in NYC

    Sign up now for the Robert Benchley Society Annual Gathering in New York City, October 3-5 NOW before the price goes up on Sept. 20th.

    Register at

    Wednesday, September 3, 2008

    Sign up NOW before price increase for Benchley weekend in NYC

    Sign up now for the Robert Benchley Society Annual Gathering in New York City, October 3-5 NOW before the price goes up on Sept. 5th.

    Register at

    Saturday, August 30, 2008

    Humor award goes to Put Valley satirist

    These days Kane is basking at being named winner of the 2008 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor. She is quite thrilled that this year's judge, famed comedian Bob Newhart, selected her essay, "Guide for the Opera Impaired."...MORE...

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Helen K. Garber - Emphasis Santa Monica

    HELEN K. GARBER Joins 48 fellow Santa Monica Resident Artists

    6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    49 Santa Monica resident artists including John Baldessari, Bruria Finkel, Frank Gehry and Helen K. Garber will be exhibited Aug. 20-Oct. 18 at Santa Monica College’s Pete & Susan Barrett Art Gallery.

    The art show – featuring an eclectic mix of works in all media – will coincide with the grand opening of the 499-seat Eli & Edythe Broad Stage at the SMC Performing Arts Center, where the gallery is located. The exhibit Coincides with The Broad Stage Grand Opening

    The show is curated by Bruria Finkel - an award-winning artist and curator whose works have been exhibited worldwide.

    “Santa Monica’s Main Street, 4th Street, Franklin Street and the (Santa Monica) Airport have had a long list of artists who found their inspiration working there,” curator and artist Bruria Finkel said in the show’s catalogue. “To mention a few: Richard Diebenkorn and his Ocean Park series influenced by light, sea and sand; James Turrell, who pioneered the idea of light as an art medium; Judy Chicago, who created atmospheric pieces here; and of course Robert Irwin. Painters such as Ed Moses, Charles Garabedian, Arlene Hendler, Roberto Chavez, Curtis Hoekzema and innovators such as John Baldessari created in studios on Main Street for years. Many more found the light and the community of artists a source of inspiration.”

    Photographer Helen K. Garber fell in love with the Ocean Park neighborhood the first time she visited in 1981 and has lived behind Main Street for more than 25 years. She once had a studio at Ashland and Main and now has her digital work printed by master fine art printer, Jack Duganne. Duganne Ateliers is located in the in the last remaining art studio complex on Main Street in Santa Monica.

    Ms. Finkel chose an image of Ms. Garber's that was featured in the the 2005 Hermes exhibit and publication, Looking at Los Angeles, Metropolis Books, edited by Ben Stiller, Marla Hamburg Kennedy, Craig Crull and Jane Brown.

    Helen K. Garber, known for her night urban landscapes, has images in the permanent collection of the Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, George Eastman House, International Museum of Film and Photography, Rochester, NY, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY, the Museum of the City of NY, the Portland Art Museum, Oregon, and important corporate collections including City National Bank and Hunton & Williams, LLC.

    The opening reception is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13. Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. (NOTE: Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 20-22. The gallery is closed Saturday, Aug. 23.)

    The gallery is located at the SMC Performing Arts Center on Santa Monica Boulevard at 11th Street. For information, call (310) 434-3434.

    The exhibit comes at the same time the college will hold its gala opening of the new Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in the SMC Performing Arts complex, where the art gallery is located. The 499-seat theater (called The Broad Stage for short) will open Sept. 20 with an inaugural gala featuring legendary opera singer Barbara Cook. The venue is complemented by the Edye Second Space, a 99-seat black box that opened last fall and is located right next to The Broad Stage.

    Sunday, August 24, 2008

    Register Now and Save Money on Benchley Society Annual Gathering in New York

    The Sixth Annual Gathering of the Robert Benchley Society will be Friday through Sunday, October 3-5, 2008, in New York City.

    The Main Event

    The highlight of the event will be the Saturday, October 4th Awards Dinner.
    • This year's Annual Humor Awards Dinner will be held at one of New York City's exclusive gentlemen's and ladies' clubs in the heart of the fabulous theatre district where Mr. Benchley and the members of the Algonquin Round Table hung out. Thanks to the kind support of Joseph Handlin, a New York City Benchley fan, we are able to hold our dinner in this private club–an impressive venue that most of us would not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy. You will not want to miss this event which will be the year's largest gathering of Benchley fans.
    • At this event Madeleine Kane of Bayside, N.Y., will be presented with the Robert Benchley Award for Humor. In addition to Ms. Kane's first place entry, Guide for the Opera Impaired, we'll be honoring our medalists in this year's competition, which was judged by Bob Newhart. They are Mike Tuck (2nd) of Hopkins, Minn. for Welcome to America, Jesse Levy (3rd) of North Hollywood, Calif. for How to Watch a Sad Movie and Retain Your Manliness, and Denise G. Weeks (4th) of Richardson, Texas for How to Start Your Own Band.
    • The cost for dinner (including tax and tip) is $100 per person and includes wine with dinner.

    Also on the Card
  • For those in town Friday early evening there will be an opportunity to meet for cocktails and dinner.
  • The Saturday program will kick off with brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a 1920s-style yacht cruising around the Island of Manhattan. The cost of this event is $75.
  • At 5:30 p.m. on Saturday we'll gather for pre-dinner cocktails at a location closely associated with Mr.Benchley.
  • Sunday's program is still under development. Our previous Annual Gatherings have a blast and expect the entire program, including Sunday to keep up the tradition.

    This will be our fourth time gathering in New York. The Society has also held it's annual event in Boston (2005) and Los Angeles (2006). Photos of recent Annual Gatherings–
    The preferred hotel for the event is The Roosevelt Hotel on Madison Avenue at 45th Street. Note that as a small group we have not been able to arrange a convention rate at The Roosevelt Hotel. You are on your own to book a hotel room.
    Don't miss this event which will be the largest 2008 gathering of Robert Benchley fans. Commitments to attend have already been made by members of Robert Benchley Society Chapters in–
    • Ann Arbor, Mich.
    • Boston, Mass.
    • New York City
    • Washington State

    This will be our fourth time gathering in New York. The Society has also held it's annual event in Boston (2005) and Los Angeles (2006).
    How to Sign Up

    The price for registration is–
    Now through September 4th$10
    September 5 through 18$15
    After September 18$20
    for details or to register visit our registration page.
  • Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Robert Benchley Society and Mad Kane in the News

    Benchley Award Goes to Humor Columnist Madeleine Begun Kane
    Editor & Publisher - USA By E&P Staff NEW YORK Humor columnist Madeleine Begun Kane has won the 2008 Robert Benchley Award for Humor. The final judge of the contest was comedian/TV ...

    Ready for your close-up? Casting in Southfield for Kim Catrall movie
    Detroit Free Press, United States - Aug 7, 2008 Chosen: By final judge Bob Newhart, New York City humor columnist Madeleine Begun Kane as the winner of the 2008 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor. ...

    Putnam Valley's Madeleine Kane Wins National Award for Humor
    Putnam County News and Recorder (subscription), NY - Aug 12, 2008
    ... autobiography "I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This," taking time out from his busy schedule to serve as finals judge, named Madeleine Begun Kane (of Putnam. ...

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Robert Benchley Society Annual Gathering Set for Oct. 3-5 in New York

    The Sixth Annual Gathering of the Robert Benchley Society will be Friday through Sunday, October 3-5, 2008, in New York City. This will be our fourth time gathering in New York. The Society has also held it's annual event in Boston (2005) and Los Angeles (2006).

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Robert Benchley's Wayward Press: The Complete Collection of His the New Yorker Columns Written as Guy Fawkes (Paperback)

    Product Description
    Robert Benchley
    (1889-1945), writing under the pseudonym Guy Fawkes, originated the New Yorker's Wayward Press column on press criticism. S.L. Harrison has collected all of Benchley's Wayward Press columns, with a Prologue by Nat Benchley.

    About the Author
    Robert Benchley
    is best remembered for his dozen books, motion picture work (he won an Academy Award in 1935), theater criticism for the New Yorker, and as a member of the famed Algonquin Round Table. S.L. Harrison, a former newspaperman and Congressional staff member, is the author of Mencken Revisited: Author, Editor & Newspaperman, The Editorial Art of Edmund Duffy and other books. A former Public Affairs Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, he is editor of the journal Menckeniana and a communication professor at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fla.

    Product Details
    Paperback: 341 pages
    Publisher: Wolf Den Books; 1 edition (July 8, 2008)

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Robert Benchley Society Annual Gathing Set for Oct. 3-5, in New York City

    The Sixth Annual Gathering of the Robert Benchley Society will be Friday through Sunday, October 3-5, 2008, in New York City.

    Details will be announced in a few days.

    The highlight of the event will be the Saturday, October 4th Awards Dinner where Madeleine Kane of Bayside, N.Y., will be presented with the Robert Benchley Award for Humor. In addition to Ms. Kane's first place entry, Guide for the Opera Impaired, we'll be honoring our medalists in this year's competition, which was judged by Bob Newhart. They are Mike Tuck (2nd) of Hopkins, Minn. for Welcome to America, Jesse Levy (3rd) of North Hollywood, Calif. for How to Watch a Sad Movie and Retain Your Manliness, and Denise G. Weeks (4th) of Richardson, Texas for How to Start Your Own Band.

    This will be our fourth time gathering in New York. The Society has also held it's annual event in Boston (2005) and Los Angeles (2006).

    The Amiable Child in the Times

    Robert Benchley's favorite place in New York (and it wasn't "21") makes the New York Times today, the Amiable Child Monument. It is written by Corey Kilgannon, one of my favorite Times reporters:

    There, maybe 100 yards northwest of the tomb, is a monument on the west side of Riverside Drive devoted to a much lesser known person than President Grant: St. Claire Pollock, who died at age 5 in 1797. This is the Amiable Child Monument, a small, simple urn on a pedestal surrounded by iron fence, and perhaps the only single-person private grave on city-owned land in New York City, and it has inspired a book of poetry and a contemporary mystery novel.

    Dorothy Parker News

    The Third Annual Dorothy Parker Day is Saturday, August 16th, in Long Branch, New Jersey, Mrs. Parker's birthplace. The schedule of events:

    10:00 to 11:30 AM -- Dorothy Parker Dog Walk and Blessing of the Dogs. FREE & Open to the Public. Back Parking Lot of Saint Michael's Catholic Church, Ocean Avenue, Long Branch

    12 to 1:30 PM -- Algonquin Round Table Luncheon. Open Mic Readings of Dorothy Parker's Works. Jesse's Café, 139 Brighton Ave., West End. Reservations Required: 732-229-6999

    2 to 4:00 PM -- Readings and Dramatic Interpretations of Dorothy Parker's Works. FREE & Open to the Public. Long Branch Free Public Library, 328 Broadway, Long Branch

    4 PM -- A Toast to Dorothy Parker. The MIX Martini Lounge, 71 Brighton Avenue, West End.

    4:30 PM -- Algonquin Round Table Dinner. Open Mic Readings of Dorothy Parker's Works
    Jesse's Café, 139 Brighton Ave, West End. Reservations Required: 732-229-6999

    Saturday August 16th at 3 & 8 PM & Sunday, August 17th at 2 & 7 PM. The Little Hours, a New Musical by David Bucknam. Based on the Works of Dorothy Parker. New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch. For Information & Reservations: 732-229-3166

    Sponsored by: The Long Branch Arts Council, The Long Branch Free Public Library, Long Branch Historical Association, and the Dorothy Parker Society

    To see video and photos of previous Dorothy Parker Day events, look here:


    In New York, a special Dorothy Parker birthday party planned for Wednesday, Aug. 20. It will have live music, singing, and a lot of fun. The event is "1930s Idol" and will be held at Broadway Baby Bistro, 318 West 53rd Street, at 10 p.m. in the Chicago City Limits Room. The evening will feature an Open Mic contest showcasing 20 talented contestants performing songs from the 1920 and 1930's and competing for prizes. There is NO COVER and the cocktails will flow. The event is 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. For more information, click here.


    In Los Angeles, the red-hot chapter of the DPS also has a party planned. Hoist a few in honor of Dorothy Parker's birthday.
    Date: August 22, 2008
    Time: 7:00 PM
    Place: Culver City Hotel bar
    Address: 9400 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
    Phone: (310) 838-7963
    We'll gather in the bar of the Culver City Hotel -- A landmark drinking establishment near the MGM studio where Dorothy Parker worked as a screenwriter during the '30s. Come for ribaldry, epigrams, aphorisms... and those few people who use words like that in sentences. The rest of us will be at the bar. Join us!
    More info:

    And September 26-27, the DPS LA Chapter is hosting its first Parkerfest West! It will be at the fabulous, the fantastic, and the super special Chateau Marmont. All info is here:

    Dorothy Parker Society News
    Our June party on Governors Island was fantastic. Hundreds showed up for the 1920s Lawn Party, with live jazz performed by Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra. We will be repeating this party in September and it will be our annual Parkerfest! Save the date for the 2-day party, Sept. 13 & 14. If you want to see photos and video of the June party, look here:

    In addition, on Thursday, Sept. 11, Potable Productions will present a reading of Parker works. It will be at the Salmagundi Club, 8-10pm. More information will be on the site soon.

    More Dorothy Parker Society News

    Dorothy Parker Society officer William Zeffiro has announced the venue and schedule for his musical THE ROAD TO RUIN. (He wrote the book, music and lyrics). We will have a special DPS Night on Friday, Sept. 19, 8 pm, with a post-show cast party, details TBD. If you are interested in attending, email to get on the VIP List.

    Synopsis: It's 1928 Do You Know Where Your Daughter Is? The Road To Ruin (The 1928 Exploitation Musical), where sex delinquency, neglectful parents, bottled water and Christians bring down Little Sally Canfield, "The Nicest Girl at Central High." But Never Fear: by the final curtain, justice is served and redemption achieved through good works, cookies and dogs.
    Venue: 45th Street Theater, 354 West 45th Street, New York, NY
    Schedule: Sept 18, 8pm; Sept 19, 8pm; Sept 21, 8pm; Sept 25, 8pm; Sept 28, 8pm; Oct 1, 4:30pm
    Youtube clips:


    Eleanor Cox, a member of the Dorothy Parker Society, has a treat for you. She has organized the Great Gatsby Boat Tour. Mrs. Parker and her pals spent a lot of time on Long Island's fabled "Gold Coast" -- where Fitzgerald set The Great Gatsby. Now, see the locations via a boat tour of beautiful Manhasset Bay, led by Eleanor. The schedule is
    August 31 at 1 pm (Labor Day weekend)
    September 7 at 1 pm
    September 21 at 1 pm
    Cost is $25 per person. Departs Port Washington Town Dock on Main Street. Check with her on schedule.
    More information here.

    Special Dorothy Parker News
    There are still some copies left of The Ladies of the Corridor for Dorothy Parker Society members: a limited edition numbered first edition of 40 copies. Each is signed by Marion Meade, the book's editor and Parker biographer, who wrote What Fresh Hell is This? These are on sale for $10 each, plus $3 shipping. (Outside the USA, shipping is $6). Once these are gone, that is it. To order, click here.

    Do you live in Los Angeles? A chapter of the DPS is up and running. The LA Chapter is hitting the monthly burlesque night at El Cid in Hollywood. Shoot an email to

    Are you a member of Facebook? Look for the new group called Dorothy Parker Society.

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    Benchley Humor Awards Dinner Set for Oct. 4th

    Watch for details about the 2008 Robert Benchley Society Annual Gathering and Awards Dinner, October 4th, in New York City.

    Thursday, July 31, 2008

    Bob Newhart Names"Mad" Kane Winner of 2008 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor

    LOS ANGELES, CA. -- Bob Newhart—winner of three Grammy Awards, a Peabody, five Emmys, seven Golden Globes, and the Mark Twain Prize for Humor, author of the New York Times best-selling show-business autobiography, I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This, and perhaps the most celebrated comedian-humorist-actor-author and former accountant in show-business history—taking time out from his busy schedule to serve as finalist judge, has named New York City-based humor columnist, satirist, and past National Society of Newspaper Columnists honoree, Madeleine Begun Kane as winner of the 2008 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor.

    In a personal note Newhart told Kane her essay, "Guide for The Opera Impaired," finished first because it was "the most Benchleyesque. . . "I don't know if Robert Benchley ever commented on operas in his writings, but it is certainly a subject I suspect he would have handled exactly as you did," Newhart said.

    Newhart enjoyed judging the essays, "It certainly brought back the memories of when I first started reading Robert Benchley and the joy his writing brought," Newhart said, but, "the judging was difficult because the finalists were so good."

    Newhart has always credited Benchley as a major influence on his humor. In an earlier interview with past Robert Benchley Society award winner Horace J. Digby on A3Radio Newhart said, "Really good writing is timeless. Benchley created—like the persona Jack Benny created—a man who was very much full of himself, but in a self-deprecating way."

    In his book, I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This, Newhart tells readers, "My influences came from the more absurdist side of life. I've never forgotten the time I heard that a lady in Britain published her correspondence with Winston Churchill, so Robert Benchley decided to publish his correspondence with George Bernard Shaw. Benchley's correspondence consisted of letters accusing Shaw of taking his umbrella at the theater and asking for it to be returned. Shaw kept writing back saying, 'I don't know who you are and I don't have your umbrella.'"

    In a recent letter Newhart told Digby, "Larry Gelbart, writer on Your Show of Shows, A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum and others too numerous to remember, once wrote, the comedy writer (and comedian) sees the world through a different lens. There is no question in my mind that Benchley helped construct the comedic lens through which I view the world. I think his [Benchley's] influence is certainly discernable in 'Abe Lincoln' and 'King Kong.'"

    "I was a voracious reader of the works of Robert Benchley," Newhart wrote in I Shouldn't Be Doing This, "and at least on a subconscious level, one of Benchley's essays influenced me to go to law school. It was about a Walter Mitty-type character who . . . made an absolute fool out of the opposing counsel to the point where the jury was applauding and even the judge was enjoying the show."

    Fortunately for the world of humor Benchley's "more absurdist" influence on Newhart won out.

    Kane's essays have appeared in Family Circle, America Online, Newsday, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Miami Herald,, The Houston Chronicle, The New York Times, The L. A. Times Syndicate, Knight-Rider/Tribune News Service, and on National Public Radio. She bills herself, as "Mad" Kane, political satirist, parodist and recovering lawyer. Kane holds a Law degree from St. John's University School of Law and a Bachelors of Fine Arts in music from the California Institute of the Arts. Her music studies led to an oboist chair in the Dallas Symphony and a faculty position in the Music Department of Southern Methodist University.

    In 1995 Kane's humor was honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and her website,, has received accolades from USA Today, Shift Magazine, Maxim Magazine, The Guardian and other media.

    On learning Newhart had ranked her essay first, Kane was uncharacteristically at a loss for words, saying only, "Yikes! I can't believe it! Thanks! . . . I'm still in shock . . ." Then, composing herself, Kane said, "Now that I've actually won I'm thrilled and honored, but being Jewish, I'm still anxious," alluding to the limerick she wrote celebrating being named a finalist:

    "I can barely maintain my sobriety
    Cuz the great Robert Benchley Society
    Held a contest and wow,
    I'm a finalist now.
    Will I win the top prize? High anxiety!"

    Benchley Society Medalists

    The second, third and fourth place finalists selected by Newhart to receive the Robert Benchley Society Medal of Merit for 2008 are: Mike Tuck of Hopkins, MN, in second place for his essay, "Welcome To America;" Jesse Levy of North Hollywood, CA, in third place for, "How to Watch a Sad Movie and Retain Your Manliness;" and Denise G. Weeks of Richardson, Texas, in fourth place for "How to Start Your Own Band." The winning essays can be viewed at

    Denise Weeks (a.k.a. Shalanna Collins) a home-grown Texas humorist, novelist, pianist, belly dancer, baton twirler, software engineer, National Merit Scholar, and graduate of Southern Methodist University, is also a true Robert Benchley lover. One of her hobbies is collecting Robert Benchley first editions. Weeks' husband first advised her not to get too excited about "this contest thing." But when he learned Bob Newhart was reading her essay, hubby quickly forgot his own advice. Weeks' reaction to placing in the top four was, "Aaaaa . . . I believe a 'Yay!' is in order now!'

    "Hooray! Thank you so much (and many thanks to Mr. Newhart)," said third-place winner, Jesse Levy, a New York City transplant to Los Angeles. "I am thrilled beyond words," he continued. "In fact, right now I'm making sounds to express my thrilledness but they can't be conveyed in an email without doing some small damage to the keyboard."

    Levy keenly appreciates that, "Essays are tough, especially at 500 words. I wrote my entry in a Benchleyesq frenzy. I was reading a lot of Sweet Old Bob at the time and the influence shows. Benchley has always been my favorite humorist."

    Levy said he was "absolutely thrilled" just to learn that Bob Newhart was going to be reading his entry. "To go from being an accountant to being a stand-up comic has always been a dream of mine," Levy said, in homage to Newhart's early career. Then, after reflecting for a moment on his own career which includes filmmaker, actor, radio disk jockey, writer, director and humorist, Levy added, "I guess I'd better start hitting those accounting books."

    Mike Tuck, of Hopkins, Minn., had this to say about being first runner-up, "Thanks for the wonderful news. I assume this means I get my $10 entry fee back."

    Tuck first read Robert Benchley 30 years ago and immediately realized he'd found his favorite author. Even today "All who value humor look up to Robert Benchley and wonder, 'How the hell does he make it look so easy?' . . . For this Benchley aficionado it’s a bit numbing having my name linked with his," Tuck said.

    Tuck began writing humor as a young man growing up in Minneapolis when he started selling a few jokes and gags, soon earning a tidy sum of $30 a week, "and this is back when $30 a week was like $20 a week," Tuck said.

    "Knowing Bob Newhart actually read something I wrote (even if he barely got through the first paragraph before crumpling and tossing it) is intimidating. I have grown up with Newhart's albums, stand-up, movies and television to understand and appreciate what a brilliant humorist he is," Tuck said. "This would be the highlight of my career if I had one," Tuck said.

    Robert Benchley
    Robert Benchley rose to fame in the 1920s writing for Harvard Lampoon, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Life magazine and as humor columnist for the Hearst newspaper chain. Benchley appeared in more than eighty short films and feature length motion pictures. He is credited, along with Dorothy Parker, with founding the notorious Algonquin Round Table.

    Benchley and his colleagues, all members of the famed Algonquin Round Table luncheon group, dominated print media for nearly two decades, creating a new face for American humor. Many of America’s brightest comic talents including, this year's finalist judge Bob Newhart, Dave Barry, Woody Allen, Steve Martin, Erma Bombeck, Shelly Berman, Jonathan Winters, Richard Pryor, Steve Allen, Russell Baker and Dan Rowan acknowledged Benchley's impact on their work,

    "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."

    Benchley's warm, self-effacing comic writing style made it nearly the template for modern humor essays, said humor writer Ed Tasca. Tasca holds the singular distinction of placing among the top four Robert Benchley Society entries for three consecutive years.

    About the Competition
    Other finalists in 2008 are, in alphabetical order, Cornelius "Con" Chapman of Weston, Mass., Eileen Mitchell of Palatine, Ill., Joseph Nebus of Jackson, N.J., Brenda Pontiff of Los Angeles, Calif., John Thom of Los Angeles, Calif., and Sharon Elizabeth Wood of Cary, N.C.

    The Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor competition is open to amateurs and professionals alike. W. Bruce Cameron, whose book Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter inspired John Ritter's Emmy Award winning television series for ABC/Disney, and who's newest book, Eight Simple Rules for Marrying My Daughter, is now in book stores everywhere, took top Benchley Society Award honors in 2006. Last year's top award went to Daniel Montville of Oak Park, Illinois for his hilarious essay, How to Write a Book.

    "All entries are read blind, so neither Bob Newhart, nor any of the preliminary judges knew who wrote any of the essays. That way the competition is entirely merit based," said 2005 Robert Benchley Society Award winner Horace J. Digby, who has returned to help with judging in the past three years.

    This year's preliminary judges include, Benchley Society member Dwain Buck, 2005 Benchley Society award winner Horace J. Digby, author of Robert Benchley An Annotated Bibliography Gordon E. Ernst, writer Eileen Forster Keck, puzzle designer Chris Morgan, radio personality Tom Saunders, and Robert Benchley Society chairman David Trumbull.

    "I'm happy for the winners," said finalist Brenda Pontiff, "but darn! I will enter again next year and see if I make the top ten one more time. I'll be the poor man's Ed Tasca - he placed 3 times, maybe I can get on the top ten list 3 times."

    David Trumbull, the Robert Benchley Society's national chairperson, joined in Newhart's sentiments. "I believe Mr. Benchley would be pleased to see how this year's contestants are keeping alive his tradition of warm, genial, witty humor," Trumbull said. "I hope future judges are as lucky as I was in the quality of their finalists," Newhart concluded.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    The Whole Tooth, and Nothing But The Tooth.

    Dear B.R.,

    Thank you for contacting the Robert Benchley Society. In response to your inquiry–


    In 1950, I was in a public speaking class at LA High School, and was entered in a speech contest at Redlands University. My teacher had me memorize "The Tooth, The Whole Tooth, and Nothing But The Tooth", by Robert Benchley. Now, with 24 grandchildren, I'd love to re-memorize it. Can you tell me if it is in "The Best of Robert Benchley", and if not, what of his works might it be in?? Any help would be much appreciated.

    The essay is found in Love Conquers All, beginning on page 131, and in Inside Benchley, beginning on page 73.

    A list of Benchley's essays showing what books they appear in as well as the table of contents of each book is available on our website at

    Benchley's books are available for purchase on our website at

    The complete test of Love Conquers All is available free on our website at

    --David Trumbull, RBS

    Tuesday, July 8, 2008

    The Sex Life of the Polyp in the City

    Last December, Robert Benchley's 1928 gem The Sex Life of the Polyp was among the 25 movie classics to be preserved for posterity by the Library of Congress' National Film Registry. Although this quality is poor, Benchley's genius comes through.

    Sunday, July 6, 2008

    From the Mail Bag

    [Please note, we pass this on merely as an item of possible interest; the RBS is not in a position to pass comment favorable or unfavorable with regard to the dealer mentioned.]

    * * *

    Hi David,

    I am a longtime Vintage Paper Dealer who sells articles, stories, cartoons, illustrations, photos, prints etc. on all subjects. I lost a longtime collector for Benchley Vintage paper some months ago and am trying to find someone else who might have some interest. There is a variety of material but particularly, items from 34 volumes of Life Magazines from the teens, twenties and thirties--Benchley wrote most of the review pages and also many other humorous articles.

    I would like to send you a package on approval--look it over and return the unwanted items with a check for what you keep. Its really that simple and has worked well for over twenty years. Email me any special wants and be sure to include your mailing address.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Sandra Baker
    Searsport, Maine

    I am currently dealing with Kevin Fitzpatrick at the Dorothy Parker Society if you require a reference.

    From Benchley's Wider Circle of Friends

    From the Broadway Show "Leave It To Jane" (1917)
    (Jerome Kern / P.G. Wodehouse)

    Georgia O'Ramey (Broadway Production) - 1917
    June Allyson (feat. in the film "Till The Clouds Roll By") - 1946
    Dorothy Greener (Off-Broadway Revival) - 1959
    Joan Morris - 1983

    Verse 1

    In days of old beside the Nile
    A famous queen there dwelt.
    Her clothes were few,
    But full of style.
    Her figure slim and swelt.

    On every man that wandered by
    She pulled the Theda Bara eye.
    And every one observed with awe,
    That her work was swift,
    But never raw.

    I'd be like Cleopatterer,
    If I could have my way.
    Each man she met she went and kissed.
    And she'd dozens on her waiting list.

    I wish that I had lived there.
    Beside the pyramid.
    For a girl today don't get the scope
    That Cleopatterer did.

    Verse 2

    And when she tired as girls will do,
    Of Bill or Jack or Jim,
    The time had come, his friends all knew,
    To say goodbye to him.

    She couldn't stand by any means,
    Reproachful, stormy farewell scenes.
    To such coarse stuff she would not stoop,
    So she just put poison in his soup.

    When out with Cleopatterer,
    Men always made their wills.
    They knew there was no time to waste,
    When the gumbo had that funny taste.

    They'd take her hand and squeeze it.
    They'd murmur "Oh you kid!"
    But they never liked to start to feed,
    Til Cleopatterer did.

    Verse 3

    She danced new dances now and then.
    The sort that make you blush.
    Each time she did them, scores of men
    Got injured in the rush.

    They'd stand there gaping in a line,
    And watch her agitate her spine.
    It simply use to knock them flat,
    When she went like this and then like that.

    At dancing Cleopatterer,
    Was always on the spot.
    She gave these poor Egyptian ginks,
    Something else to watch besides the spinx.

    Marc Antony admitted,
    That what first made him skid,
    Was the wibbly, wobbly, wiggly dance,
    That Cleopatterer did.

    When Your Honey's On The Telephone

    July 6, 2008
    Dear S. D.,

    Thank you for contacting the Robert Benchley Society. In response to your inquiry–
    I have been carrying a phrase in my head since teen age that I think is from a Robert Benchley Essay.

    Something like:

    ".... I've got my honey on the telephone....."

    Can you find the original for me?
    I believe you have in mind George S. Kaufman's "When Your Honey's On The Telephone," published in The New Yorker, February 22, 1958, p. 29

    The writer likes honey for breakfast. Sometimes the telephone rings during this meal. When he takes the phone off the cradle the wire dangles over the honey saucer just close enough to pick up the merest daub of honey. Once he wiped it off, and transferred it succesively to the telephone instrument, dial holes, coffee cup, bathroom doorknob, his belt. Nowadays he's more careful...
    The piece is actually very similar to a Benchley piece "Read and Eat," in which the morning newspaper and the breakfast reader's suit are successively smeared with butter, marmalade, and egg. According to Gordon Ernest in his Robert Benchley: An Annotated Bibliography, the Benchley piece first appeared in the San Francisco Examiner, February 18, 1935, p. 11. It is available in My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew (1939), p. 116.

    –David Trumbull, RBS

    Nagging: An Evolutionary Perspective

    With the amazingly concise clarity of its writing, Webster’s New World Dictionary defines ‘nag’ as ‘to annoy by continual scolding, faultfinding, complaining, urging…a person who nags, particularly a woman.’ The behavioral definition may be offered as: Repetitive communications which imply or direct behavioral change, usually unwelcome to the recipient.

    In most cultures, nagging occurs between mates, usually wife to husband, mother to children, less often to extended family and other members of the community.

    A safe assumption is that any behavior which persists from generation to generation probably has some survival value. What is the evolutionary advantage of nagging?

    Picture a Neanderthal cave. The male is dominant, having superior strength, better able to provide food and protection. Female mate is weaker. She cannot coerce him by physical threats or withholding sexual activity. She can, however, repeatedly urge him to build a fire, hunt a mammoth, chase away an intruder. By trial and error, she must learn to calibrate this behavior. Too little, the family is cold and hungry; too much she gets a rock to the head. Some dyads may have no need of nagging; the male provides without it. Others may require much for bare survival. Most require some. Obviously, the dyad in which the male yields to the female’s nagging by satisfying her realistic desires has a better chance of survival than one in which the male is lazy, unreliable (instead of hunting mammoths, he goes off with another woman), or has a low threshold for retaliatory violence.

    Fast forward to the present. The Jewish ethnic group is characterized by wifely nagging. The males are usually compliant. Here it must be noted that much nagging is good, sound, advice: lose weight, eat your vegetables, stand up straight, do your homework, stop drinking, get a job, go to work on time, drive slower, go to college, etc. It is therefore possible that a factor in the generally high achievement level among Jews is—nagging.

    To sail into risky waters, is it not at least a reasonable observation that successful nagging is directly proportional to cultural success? And that the reverse is true?

    Cultures which have a high incidence of impulsive male violence and low achievement, the black and Hispanic, have high incidence of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse. It’s no use, in fact dangerous, to nag an intoxicated spouse.

    Fudamentalist sects, such as the Amish, and the billion-strong Muslims inculcate obedience, submission, servitude in their women. The Koran explicitly commands wife beating. The Taliban cruelly force subjugation, ignorance, fear, on the enslaved distaff population. The technological, intellectual, and artistic accomplishments of these groups speak for themselves. It is difficult to imaging a nagging Taliban wife.

    High achievement in Italy was often associated with older, single males—da Vinci, Michelangelo (gay), Galileo. In Ireland, the clergy, who were not spouse-nagged, preserved civilization in the Dark Age. Wife beating is common in both cultures. Nordic, English, and French cultures are characterized by significant nagging, low domestic violence, and high achievement.

    Finally, to recognize its value is not to approve it.

    William Goldsmith, M.D.
    July 5, 2008

    Friday, July 4, 2008

    The Peterkins Celebrate the Fourth

    The day began early.

    A compact had been made with the little boys the evening before.

    They were to be allowed to usher in the glorious day by the blowing of horns exactly at sunrise. But they were to blow them for precisely five minutes only, and no sound of the horns should be heard afterward till the family were downstairs.

    It was thought that a peace might thus be bought by a short, though crowded, period of noise.

    The morning came. Even before the morning, at half-past three o'clock, a terrible blast of the horns aroused the whole family.

    Mrs. Peterkin clasped her hands to her head and exclaimed: "I am thankful the lady from Philadelphia is not here!" For she had been invited to stay a week, but had declined to come before the Fourth of July, as she was not well, and her doctor had prescribed quiet.

    And the number of the horns was most remarkable! It was as though every cow in the place had arisen and was blowing through both her own horns!

    "How many little boys are there? How many have we?" exclaimed Mr. Peterkin, going over their names one by one mechanically, thinking he would do it, as he might count imaginary sheep jumping over a fence, to put himself to sleep. Alas! the counting could not put him to sleep now, in such a din.

    And how unexpectedly long the five minutes seemed! Elizabeth Eliza was to take out her watch and give the signal for the end of the five minutes, and the ceasing of the horns. Why did not the signal come? Why did not Elizabeth Eliza stop them?

    And certainly it was long before sunrise; there was no dawn to be seen!

    "We will not try this plan again," said Mrs. Peterkin.

    "If we live to another Fourth," added Mr. Peterkin, hastening to the door to inquire into the state of affairs.

    Alas! Amanda, by mistake, had waked up the little boys an hour too early. And by another mistake the little boys had invited three or four of their friends to spend the night with them. Mrs. Peterkin had given them permission to have the boys for the whole day, and they understood the day as beginning when they went to bed the night before. This accounted for the number of horns.

    It would have been impossible to hear any explanation; but the five minutes were over, and the horns had ceased, and there remained only the noise of a singular leaping of feet, explained perhaps by a possible pillow-fight, that kept the family below partially awake until the bells and cannon made known the dawning of the glorious day,–the sunrise, or "the rising of the sons," as Mr. Peterkin jocosely called it when they heard the little boys and their friends clattering down the stairs to begin the outside festivities.

    They were bound first for the swamp, for Elizabeth Eliza, at the suggestion of the lady from Philadelphia, had advised them to hang some flags around the pillars of the piazza. Now the little boys knew of a place in the swamp where they had been in the habit of digging for "flag-root," and where they might find plenty of flag flowers. They did bring away all they could, but they were a little out of bloom. The boys were in the midst of nailing up all they had on the pillars of the piazza when the procession of the Antiques and Horribles passed along. As the procession saw the festive arrangements on the piazza, and the crowd of boys, who cheered them loudly, it stopped to salute the house with some especial strains of greeting.

    Poor Mrs. Peterkin! They were directly under her windows! In a few moments of quiet, during the boys' absence from the house on their visit to the swamp, she had been trying to find out whether she had a sick-headache, or whether it was all the noise, and she was just deciding it was the sick headache, but was falling into a light slumber, when the fresh noise outside began.

    There were the imitations of the crowing of cocks, and braying of donkeys, and the sound of horns, encored and increased by the cheers of the boys. Then began the torpedoes, and the Antiques and Horribles had Chinese crackers also.

    And, in despair of sleep, the family came down to breakfast.

    Mrs. Peterkin had always been much afraid of fire-works, and had never allowed the boys to bring gunpowder into the house. She was even afraid of torpedoes; they looked so much like sugar-plums she was sure some the children would swallow them, and explode before anybody knew it.

    She was very timid about other things. She was not sure even about pea-nuts. Everybody exclaimed over this: "Surely there was no danger in pea-nuts!" But Mrs. Peterkin declared she had been very much alarmed at the Centennial Exhibition, and in the crowded corners of the streets in Boston, at the pea-nut stands, where they had machines to roast the pea-nuts. She did not think it was safe. They might go off any time, in the midst of a crowd of people, too!

    Mr. Peterkin thought there actually was no danger, and he should be sorry to give up the pea-nut. He thought it an American institution, something really belonging to the Fourth of July. He even confessed to a quiet pleasure in crushing the empty shells with his feet on the sidewalks as he went along the streets.

    Agamemnon thought it a simple joy.

    In consideration, however, of the fact that they had had no real celebration of the Fourth the last year, Mrs. Peterkin had consented to give over the day, this year, to the amusement of the family as a Centennial celebration. She would prepare herself for a terrible noise,–only she did not want any gunpowder brought into the house.

    The little boys had begun by firing some torpedoes a few days beforehand, that their mother might be used to the sound, and had selected their horns some weeks before.

    Solomon John had been very busy in inventing some fireworks. As Mrs. Peterkin objected to the use of gunpowder, he found out from the dictionary what the different parts of gunpowder are,–saltpetre, charcoal, and sulphur. Charcoal, he discovered, they had in the wood-house; saltpetre they would find in the cellar, in the beef barrel; and sulphur they could buy at the apothecary's. He explained to his mother that these materials had never yet exploded in the house, and she was quieted.

    Agamemnon, meanwhile, remembered a recipe he had read somewhere for making a "fulminating paste" of iron-filings and powder of brimstone. He had written it down on a piece of paper in his pocket-book. But the iron filings must be finely powdered. This they began upon a day or two before, and the very afternoon before laid out some of the paste on the piazza.

    Pin-wheels and rockets were contributed by Mr. Peterkin for the evening. According to a programme drawn up by Agamemnon and Solomon John, the reading of the Declaration of Independence was to take place in the morning, on the piazza, under the flags.

    The Bromwicks brought over their flag to hang over the door.

    "That is what the lady from Philadelphia meant," explained Elizabeth Eliza.

    "She said the flags of our country," said the little boys. "We thought she meant 'in the country.'"

    Quite a company assembled; but it seemed nobody had a copy of the Declaration of Independence.

    Elizabeth Eliza said she could say one line, if they each could add as much. But it proved they all knew the same line that she did, as they began:–

    "When, in the course of–when, in the course of–when, in the course of human–when in the course of human events–when, in the course of human events, it becomes–when, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary–when, in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people"–

    They could not get any farther. Some of the party decided that "one people" was a good place to stop, and the little boys sent off some fresh torpedoes in honor of the people. But Mr. Peterkin was not satisfied. He invited the assembled party to stay until sunset, and meanwhile he would find a copy, and torpedoes were to be saved to be fired off at the close of every sentence.

    And now the noon bells rang and the noon bells ceased.

    Mrs. Peterkin wanted to ask everybody to dinner. She should have some cold beef. She had let Amanda go, because it was the Fourth, and everybody ought to be free that one day; so she could not have much of a dinner. But when she went to cut her beef she found Solomon had taken it to soak, on account of the saltpetre, for the fireworks!

    Well, they had a pig; so she took a ham, and the boys had bought tamarinds and buns and a cocoa-nut. So the company stayed on, and when the Antiques and Horribles passed again they were treated to pea-nuts and lemonade.

    They sung patriotic songs, they told stories, they fired torpedoes, they frightened the cats with them. It was a warm afternoon; the red poppies were out wide, and the hot sun poured down on the alley-ways in the garden. There was a seething sound of a hot day in the buzzing of insects, in the steaming heat that came up from the ground. Some neighboring boys were firing a toy cannon. Every time it went off Mrs. Peterkin started, and looked to see if one of the little boys was gone. Mr. Peterkin had set out to find a copy of the "Declaration." Agamemnon had disappeared. She had not a moment to decide about her headache. She asked Ann Maria if she were not anxious about the fireworks, and if rockets were not dangerous. They went up, but you were never sure where they came down.

    And then came a fresh tumult! All the fire-engines in town rushed toward them, clanging with bells, men and boys yelling! They were out for a practice and for a Fourth-of-July show.

    Mrs. Peterkin thought the house was on fire, and so did some of the guests. There was great rushing hither and thither. Some thought they would better go home; some thought they would better stay. Mrs. Peterkin hastened into the house to save herself, or see what she could save. Elizabeth Eliza followed her, first proceeding to collect all the pokers and tongs she could find, because they could be thrown out of the window without breaking. She had read of people who had flung looking-glasses out of the window by mistake, in the excitement of the house being on fire, and had carried the pokers and tongs carefully into the garden. There was nothing like being prepared. She had always determined to do the reverse. So with calmness she told Solomon John to take down the looking-glasses. But she met with a difficulty,–there were no pokers and tongs, as they did not use them. They had no open fires; Mrs. Peterkin had been afraid of them. So Elizabeth Eliza took all the pots and kettles up to the upper windows, ready to be thrown out.

    But where was Mrs. Peterkin? Solomon John found she had fled to the attic in terror. He persuaded her to come down, assuring her it was the most unsafe place; but she insisted upon stopping to collect some bags of old pieces, that nobody would think of saving from the general wreck, she said, unless she did. Alas! this was the result of fireworks on Fourth of July! As they came downstairs they heard the voices of all the company declaring there was no fire; the danger was past. It was long before Mrs. Peterkin could believe it. They told her the fire company was only out for show, and to celebrate the Fourth of July. She thought it already too much celebrated.

    Elizabeth Eliza's kettles and pans had come down through the windows with a crash, that had only added to the festivities, the little boys thought.

    Mr. Peterkin had been roaming about all this time in search of a copy of the Declaration of Independence. The public library was shut, and he had to go from house to house; but now, as the sunset bells and cannon began, he returned with a copy, and read it, to the pealing of the bells and sounding of the cannon. Torpedoes and crackers were fired at every pause. Some sweet-marjoram pots, tin cans filled with crackers which were lighted, went off with great explosions.

    At the most exciting moment, near the close of the reading, Agamemnon, with an expression of terror, pulled Solomon John aside.

    "I have suddenly remembered where I read about the 'fulminating paste' we made. It was in the preface to 'Woodstock,' and I have been round to borrow the book to read the directions over again, because I was afraid about the 'paste' going off. READ THIS QUICKLY! and tell me, Where is the fulminating paste? "

    Solomon John was busy winding some covers of paper over a little parcel. It contained chlorate of potash and sulphur mixed. A friend had told him of the composition. The more thicknesses of paper you put round it the louder it would go off. You must pound it with a hammer. Solomon John felt it must be perfectly safe, as his mother had taken potash for a medicine.

    He still held the parcel as he read from Agamemnon's book: "This paste, when it has lain together about twenty-six hours, will of itself take fire, and burn all the sulphur away with a blue flame and a bad smell."

    "Where is the paste?" repeated Solomon John, in terror.

    "We made it just twenty-six hours ago," said Agamemnon.

    "We put it on the piazza," exclaimed Solomon John, rapidly recalling the facts, "and it is in front of our mother's feet!"

    He hastened to snatch the paste away before it should take fire, flinging aside the packet in his hurry. Agamemnon, jumping upon the piazza at the same moment, trod upon the paper parcel, which exploded at once with the shock, and he fell to the ground, while at the same moment the paste "fulminated" into a blue flame directly in front of Mrs. Peterkin!

    It was a moment of great confusion. There were cries and screams. The bells were still ringing, the cannon firing, and Mr. Peterkin had just reached the closing words: "Our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

    "We are all blown up, as I feared we should be," Mrs. Peterkin at length ventured to say, finding herself in a lilac-bush by the side of the piazza. She scarcely dared to open her eyes to see the scattered limbs about her.

    It was so with all. Even Ann Maria Bromwick clutched a pillar of the piazza, with closed eyes.

    At length Mr. Peterkin said, calmly, "Is anybody killed?"

    There was no reply. Nobody could tell whether it was because everybody was killed, or because they were too wounded to answer. It was a great while before Mrs. Peterkin ventured to move.

    But the little boys soon shouted with joy, and cheered the success of Solomon John's fireworks, and hoped he had some more. One of them had his face blackened by an unexpected cracker, and Elizabeth Eliza's muslin dress was burned here and there. But no one was hurt; no one had lost any limbs, though Mrs. Peterkin was sure she had seen some flying in the air. Nobody could understand how, as she had kept her eyes firmly shut.

    No greater accident had occurred than the singeing of the tip of Solomon John's nose. But there was an unpleasant and terrible odor from the "fulminating paste."

    Mrs. Peterkin was extricated from the lilac-bush. No one knew how she got there. Indeed, the thundering noise had stunned everybody. It had roused the neighborhood even more than before. Answering explosions came on every side, and, though the sunset light had not faded away, the little boys hastened to send off rockets under cover of the confusion. Solomon John's other fireworks would not go. But all felt he had done enough.

    Mrs. Peterkin retreated into the parlor, deciding she really did have a headache. At times she had to come out when a rocket went off, to see if it was one of the little boys. She was exhausted by the adventures of the day, and almost thought it could not have been worse if the boys had been allowed gunpowder. The distracted lady was thankful there was likely to be but one Centennial Fourth in her lifetime, and declared she should never more keep anything in the house as dangerous as saltpetred beef, and she should never venture to take another spoonful of potash.
    The Peterkin Papers by Lucretia P. Hale (1820-1900). Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, c1886, c1914.

    Thursday, July 3, 2008

    Los Angeles Event July 31

    Members of the Robert Benchley Society have been invited by the Los Angeles chapter of the Dorothy Parker Society to an evening of frolic and LA history in the 20s on Thursday, July 31, at 6:30-10 pm at Casa Del Mar, 1910 Ocean Way, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Phone: (310) 581-5533.

    We will have time to get to know each other during cocktail hour between 6:30-7:30 in the Casa Del Mar bar. Around 7:30 pm, historian Alison Jefferson will give a brief slide show about the special history of the beach area, nicknamed "The Inkwell," in front of the Casa Del Mar, the site of a beach club popular with Dorothy Parker's crowd in the 20s and 30s.

    Alison Jefferson works for Historic Resources Group as a historian. She has a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology from Pomona College in Claremont, California and her Master's in Historic Preservation from the University of Southern California. Her research focuses on Southern California vacation spots frequented by African Americans during the segregation in the 20s and 30s.

    The meeting is open to the public. Invite your friends.

    1950s Hotel Algonquin 21-Feature Match Book--NYC

    I get this on Ebay recently!

    This Lion 21-Feature match book is from the Hotel Algonquin on West 44th Street in New York City. The saddle reads: Ben B. Bodne, Pres. The sticks list their accommodations.

    21-Feature --A Lion Match Co. trademark for a match book containing wide match sticks that were printed with lettering, designs or a combination of both (not to be confused with printed sticks). The standard 30-stick size match book held 21 wide stick feature match sticks in three rows of seven. The 20-stick size match book held 15 wide match sticks and was known as the Feature. Introduced September 1930. They are no longer made.

    Robert Benchley Society Top-Ten Humor Books for the Summer

    In time for Independence Day Weekend, the Robert Benchley Society presents a Top-Ten List of humorous summer reading for 2008.

    Number one on this year's list is “What To Do While the Family is Away” from Love Conquers All, by Robert Benchley. The family is off on holiday: what does Daddy want to do with his freedom? What does he actually end up doing?
    Somewhere or other the legend has sprung up that, as soon as the family goes away for the summer, Daddy brushes the hair over his bald spot, ties up his shoes, and goes out on a whirlwind trip through the hellish districts of town.
    Other authors on this summer's list are Dorothy Parker, O. Henry, Dorothy Sayers, Jean Shepherd, Charles Lamb, H. Allen Smith, Mark Twain, and P. G. Wodehouse.

    Past summer top-ten lists are available here and here

    Wednesday, July 2, 2008

    Dorothy Parker Society News

    BIRTHDAY PARTY! The Dorothy Parker Societ announces plans for a special Dorothy Parker birthday party on Wednesday, August 20, 2008. It will have live music, singing, and a lot of fun. The event will be held at Broadway Baby Bistro, 318 West 53rd Street, New York, at 10 p.m. In the Chicago City Limits Room will be an open mic, available for anyone that wants to belt out a classic song from the '20s, '30s, or '40s. The party is hosted by DPS officers (minister of martinis) Jen Wren and (minister of chaos) Bill Zeffiro. There is NO COVER and the cocktails will flow. If you are a singer, come on out and win a prize. The event is 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

    "We've Come for the Davenport" Chapter Has a Gay Old Time

    The "We've Come for the Davenport" Chapter (Boston) of the Robert Benchley Society met on Saturday, June 14, 2008 at the home of Chris Morgan for an evening of cocktails, cook-out, and sing-a-long with the pianola.

    Attending with Mr. and Mrs. David (Mary) Trumbull, Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy (Eileen) Keck, Mr. David Richardson, Miss Susan Imrie, Mr. James Gilreath, and Mrs. Harriet Finkelstein.

    Congratulations to Ed Tasca

    The Yahoo Discussion Group Writers With Humor annnounced as 6/08 Winners, including, as a tie for Winner Short Humor Contest (700-1800 words), Ed Tasca of Toronto, Canada for Okay, The World's Coming to an End. Now What?. Ed is a Director of the Robert Benchley Society and three-time finalist in the prestigeous annual Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor writing competition.

    Monday, June 30, 2008

    Listen to "Love Conquers All" Online

    You can now listen to Benchley's second book,  Love Conquers All, for free online at This wonderful site features recordings of over 1500 public-domain books read by volunteers. You can listen to streaming audio, or download mp3 files and/or podcasts. The Benchley offering is here. (Actually, this link is to the Internet Archive (, which indexes many audio sites in addition to, so it's a good place to start exploring the wide variety of public domain recordings available on the web). 

    Since all the librivox readers are volunteers, the quality varies from book to book. But fortunately, the reader of Love Conquers All is very good. See the complete librivox catalog here. 

    Librivox welcomes volunteer readers, so, as more of the Benchley books enter the public domain, perhaps some of you out there in blogland will volunteer to do a reading. It would be great fun (if you can keep a straight face while reading Benchley -- no mean feat!)

    The Internet archive also contains a link to a fascinating "movies for the blind" version of the complete soundtrack of the (now public domain) 1945 movie, The Stork Club, featuring Robert Benchley. It's available here for streaming or for downloading as three mp3 files. Each file has an excellent voiceover that unobtrusively describes what's happening onscreen, effectively turning the soundtrack into a self-contained "radio" show (They even read all the credits at the beginning). The main "movies for the blind" site is here. There aren't all that many movies available yet, but I highly recommend it.

    (By the way, there's quite a bit of old-time radio material on the archive site. See for example the Henry Morgan shows here.)

    - Chris Morgan

    Friday, June 27, 2008

    Bob Newhart Judges Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor Finalists

    Bob Newhart Judges Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor Finalists

    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:
    This years finalists are excited to be selected. Chapman was so inspired to have his work read by Newhart that he shared the following whimsical life ambition: "If I ever become successful enough as a writer to be asked what I consider to be the greatest artistic achievement of Western civilization, I intend to reply, 'Shakespeare's Hamlet, Michelangelo's Pieta, and the Thanksgiving episode from the second Bob Newhart Show." Levy had this to say, "To know that Bob Newhart is reading my essay is a great pleasure. I have been a fan of his since I first saw him on TV doing one of his stand-up routines. To go from accountant to stand-up comic has always been a dream of mine. I guess I'd better start hitting those accounting books." Newhart's selection and ranking of the top four winners for this year's Robert Benchley Society Awards will be announced the week of July 6th. The Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor is an international writing competition dedicated to the warm, self-effacing comic writing style that made Benchley so beloved during his lifetime. Benchley has influenced so many of our most popular and successful comic minds over the past 50 years, said humor writer Ed Tasca, who holds the singular distinction of placing among the top four winning entries for three consecutive years. Many of America’s brightest comic talents including, this year's finalist judge Bob Newhart, Dave Barry, Woody Allen, Steve Martin, Erma Bombeck, Shelly Berman, Jonathan Winters, Richard Pryor, Steve Allen, Russell Baker and Dan Rowan acknowledged Benchley's impact on their work.Benchley rose to fame in the 1920s writing for Harvard Lampoon, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Life magazine and as humor columnist for the Hearst newspaper chain. Benchley appeared in more than eighty short films and feature length motion pictures. He is credited, along with Dorothy Parker, with founding the notorious Algonquin Round Table. Benchley and his colleagues, all members of the famed Algonquin Round Table luncheon group, dominated print media for nearly two decades, creating a new face for American humor.This year's preliminary judges include: RBS member Dwain Buck; 2005 Benchley Society award winner Horace J. Digby; author of Robert Benchley An Annotated Bibliography, Gordon E. Ernst; writer and RBS Director, Eileen Forster Keck; puzzle designer RBS Vice Chairman, Chris Morgan; radio personality and chairman of A Moderate State of Preservation Chapter (Ann Arbor, Mich.) of RBS, Tom Saunders; and Robert Benchley Society Chairman David Trumbull. The competition is open to amateurs and professionals alike. W. Bruce Cameron, whose book Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter inspired John Ritter's Emmy Award winning television series for ABC/Disney, and who's newest book, Eight Simple Rules for Marrying My Daughter, is now in book stores everywhere, took top Benchley Society Award honors in 2006. Last year's top award went to Daniel Montville of Oak Park, Illinois for his hilarious essay, "How to Write a Book."

    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    The Story Of David Trumbull

    Once upon a time there was a little boy named David Trumbull living in Boston. He was a nice boy, good to his mother and small kitties. He wore a bow tie, even in those days,which will give you some idea.
    He had a strange attraction to sofas and davenports moving them around the room, hoisting them into strange and wonderful shapes in the living room and searching the libraries and book stores to find items about davenports. He was a strange little kid.
    One day he found the report of a man, a man amoung men, a veritable knight of the relm who not only liked davenports, he actually moved one from one house in Boston to another without the owners of the houses or the davenport knowing anything about it.
    Here was was was a possible 15-30 years for home invasion.
    Trummy was hooked.
    And that, my precious little brats, is how David Trumbull started the Robert Benchley Society.
    (It was only much later that Trummy realised that Benchley was a humorous writer, an actor and a great observer of life. Go figure. )

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    Round Table Video

    A look inside the Algonquin Hotel, the lobby, and of course, the Round Table itself.

    Thursday, March 13, 2008

    Society Website Down

    The Robert Benchley Society Website is temporary unavailable due to a server problem.

    Robert Benchley Society

    For more information about the Robert Benchley Society, local chapters near you, our annual Award for Humor, and our Annual Gathering, visit The RBS Website