Mr. French won last year's competition as well, when humorist Mark Russell chose his essay The Old Man and the Leaf Blower.
Mr. Johnson awarded Second Place to Cathy Lennon of Park City, Utah, for How to Yawn, saying:
"You have found a subject that would be right down 'the Benchley Alley.' Taking the common and giving it an aura of importance was one of the great keys of Benchley humor. 'How to Yawn' as a subject matter with possible demonstrations would be well worth watching in the Benchley mode."
Coming in third was Jesse Levy of Burbank, Calif., for My Scotch Adventure. Johnson noted:
"Benchley would definitely attempt a Scotch accent and would fail dismally, but it would certainly be worth hearing. He certainly would try to make all of these brands exciting for the tasting if not for the hearing. Hopefully, he would wear the proper tartan for each and possibly model each for the camera."This was Mr. Levy's second time in the top four. In 2008 his essay How to Watch a Sad Movie and Retain Your Manliness was ranked third by humorist Bob Newhart.
Carol Cherman of Los Angeles, Calif., takes the Fourth Place title for Cane Mutiny. Mr. Johnson said:
"The serious side of everyday life was something that Benchley understood, and what could be more serious than fly swatting? Your essay gives meaning to what is a technical side of insect removal. It certainly would be a Benchley subject, along with nose blowing."
Every year since 2005, the Robert Benchley Society has put on this humor-writing competition, which is open to all writers of English language humor. All judging is done blind, with the preliminary judges and final celebrity judge not knowing the names of the entrants. This means that amateurs and professional humorists compete equally. Watch our blog for an announcement of next year's competition.
Arte Johnson will give out the awards at this year's Annual Awards Dinner to be held in Los Angeles at the Ninth International Annual Gathering of the Robert Benchley Society. "As a youngster," said Johnson, "I could hardly wait for Benchley movie shorts when I went to the movies. After all, for 12 cents, who could be satisfied with just Flash Gordon, the news, and a double feature?"
We are currently working out the details of the October 12-14 Annual Gathering, but we can already promise that it'll be as packed with fun and features as a good old-fashioned Saturday at the talkies.