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.
, 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
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."