b. September 15, 1889
Worcester, Massachusetts
Robert Charles Benchley
d. November 21, 1945
New York, New York.

Robert Benchley was a funny man, and his work is arguably the finest in American humor. Although film probably brought him more popularity, you probably won't find too many of his movies in your local video store. His stories (or essays) make for brilliant reading, if you can find them in your library or used book store.

Current Events

The Robert Benchley Society is "a not-for-profit association for the mutual enjoyment and promotion of the writings and motion pictures of Robert Benchley, American drama critic and humorist."

Kino Video has released a video of several of Benchley's early film shorts, including the classic "Treasurer's Report". The video is called Robert Benchley and the Knights of the Algonquin . It also includes shorts featuring fellow Algonguinites Alexander Woolcott and Donald Ogden Stewart.


Benchley has been acknowledged as a major influence by the humorists:
Dave Barry
Firesign Theatre
James Thurber
E. B. White
Woody Allen

The stories

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite essays.
Disclaimer used without permission, for personal use only, do not use while operating heavy machinery, void where prohibited, etc., etc.

Whoa!. Political commentary in the guise of humor? or vice verse?

Truffle Poisoning.

on Science

Although he often presented himself as just a joker, Benchley clearly had a broad understand of an array of topics. His comments on the scientific issues of the day are as insightful as they are funny. And often he is rather prescient.

Chemist's Sporting Extra anticipates the discovery of the quark (sort of ).

Is this the Missing Link?, on anthropology, from Pluck and Luck.

Cell-Formations And Their Work Anticipates the controversy over genetic engineering. from Pluck and Luck.

Botany Exam from No Poems.

Evolution Sidelights in which the hermit-crab evolves into the sheep, from Pluck and Luck.

Penguin Psychology from The Treasurer's Report.

Taking Up the Cudgels , in which he defends Einstein's Theory of Relativity. [ from Benchley--Or Else! (1947) ]

How much does the Sun jump?
An account of the Stroboscope, the New Tall-Tale [ from Pluck and Luck. ]

The Social Life of the Newt [
from Of All Things.] This is in the format of a lecture from a distinguished scientist. The short films, The Sex Life of the Polyp (1928), and The Courtship of the Newt (1938) incorporated elements of this story, along with Do Insects Think ? and Polyp with a Past , from Love Conquers All , and On the Floor of the Reebis Gulf from Pluck and Luck.

on Bicycling

"Bicycling", The New Craze, from Pluck and Luck.

The Return of the Bicycle, from Lost and Found.

The Life Polar Expedition is a series of reports describing his team's attempt to reach the North Pole by bicycle
from The Early Worm.

Time-Off from the Show from The Early Worm, contains a bit at the end which is a swipe at the automobile. (2 wheels good, 4 wheels bad!). from The Early Worm.

on Humor

Benchley wrote several essays on the subject of humor.

Visitor's Day at the Joke Farm , a sartirical look at jokes that were old in 1924, from Pluck and Luck.

"What Shall We Say?" from The Treasurer's Report. Wherein he discusses the problems of people trying to be funny. The opening paragraph is classic Benchley:

I don't want to be an alarmist - oh, what do I care? Sure, I'll be an alarmist, and will point out that the more literate sections of country are today on the verge of an epidemic of brain-fag which threatens to plunge us into a national mental collapse.
I find his opening paragraphs to be just brilliant.

Why do we Laugh -- or Do we? addresses the issue head on, complete with diagrams. from Benchley - Or Else!,

Other topics

Turning over a new Ledger Leaf

How to go Insane

at Vatoweb (some missing links).

Comedic Literature.

Nathaniel has his a nice web site with lots of background material on Benchley.

The Dorothy Parker Society of New York