The Robert Benchley Society Gazette
(Formerly published as The Constitution of the United States)
Volume 1, Issue 1, March 2007
No Poems
by RBS Chairman, David Trumbull
2006 was a very successful year for the RBS. As I was just saying to Mr. MacGregor the other day, "2006 was a very successful year for the RBS."  Snaps from our Annual Gathering and Award Ceremony in Los Angeles are posted on the Web site. Once again, congratulations to our 2006 humor award winner, W. BRUCE CAMERON. Elsewhere in this first-ever RBS news~letter you'll find the announcement of the 2007 Benchley Humor Prize Competition. Entries are due by April 1st. The rules are posted here.

Did I mention that this our first-ever news~letter? The credit is all owed to our splendid communications committee: MR. TOM SAUNDERS, MR. KEVIN FITZPATRICK, MR. ED TASCA, and MR. HORACE DIGBY.
Elsewhere in this, our inaugural news~letter, you can read of the activities of the local chapters of the RBS. I encourage you to seek out a local chapter to join, or to start one in your area.
Thank you all for your interest in the humor of Mr. Benchley, and for supporting this society.
I remain,
Your obedient servant,
D. Trumbull

Obiter Dicta

Dave Barry Returns to Judge the 2007 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor Competition

BOSTON, MASS.  --  "We're looking for the next Robert Benchley," said David Trumbull, chairperson of the Robert Benchley Society.  "And Pulitzer Prize winning humorist Dave Barry is going to help us.  Thanks to the efforts of our 2005 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor winner, Horace J. Digby, leading humorist and life-long Robert Benchley fan, Dave Barry, will return as finalist judge for this year's competition," Trumbull said.

Dave Barry also served as top judge for the 2006 competition.  "It was a pleasure to see so many fine, funny writers emulating the Great One," Barry said.  "I'm sure if Bob Benchley were alive today, he'd say, 'Whoa! I am 117 years old!'  But I'm also sure he would be pleased, with, and impressed by, these entries... It wasn't easy to narrow it down."

"If you have a funny bone and can write, you can be a part of it all this year," Trumbull explained.  Entries must be short, original essay (500 words or less) in the style of Robert Benchley and must be e-mail it to the Robert Benchley Society no later than April 1st, 2007.  Entrants must also pay a $10.00 fee through PayPal.  "The fee is to defray costs of the competition and provide awards for the winners," Trumbull said.

As with last year's competition, a panel of carefully chosen judges will pick the top ten finalists, then Dave Barry, best-selling author of more than thirty humor books and novels, including Peter and the Shadow Thieves, co written with Ridley Pearson for Disney Hyperion books, Dave Barry's History of The Millennium (So Far), Putnam books, The Shepherd, The Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog, Penguin Books, Dave Barry's Money Secrets, Crown Publishers, will select and rank the top four.  Barry has also promised to write comments for each winner.

The Benchley Society Award is, "dedicated to the type of warm and hilarious writing practiced by the man that many of us consider to be one of the great masters of humor," said 2006 Benchley Society Award winner W. Bruce Cameron, most famous for his book, 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter, which inspired the hit John Ritter ABC/Disney television series.  With his second book, How to Remodel a Man, also a best seller, two movies, Fired and Cook-Off, under his belt, a third book deal just signed with Simon and Schuster, and a regular syndicated humor column, Cameron is a busy man.

"But you don't have to be W. Bruce Cameron to win," according to Digby, who is also returning as a judge this year.  "Judges read all entries blind," Digby said.  "We don't know who wrote any particular essay until the judging is finished, so the competition is entirely merit based." 

As if to prove Digby's point, while top honors last year went to already successful professional humor writer W. Bruce Cameron, second place went to neophyte writer Christopher Perdue, a recent college graduate from Eugene, Oregon.

"I thought making the finals was a fluke," Perdue said, "but the real shock was that I finished near the top of all these hilarious, accomplished writers."

Dave Barry found something special in Perdue's entry, Quitting Coffee: I'd Rather be Eaten by a Raptor.

"Christopher Perdue makes good use of the faux-authoritative tone that Benchley used so often to parody scientific advances," Barry said, noting that Perdue's piece begins with "a marvelously Benchley-esque" line:  "According to a recent study, scientists disagree about when humans, the smartest, most adaptable creatures on earth, will finally be killed by breakfast food."

Dave Barry got his first taste of Benchley as a child.  "My dad had a bunch of Benchley books around the house when I was a boy and I read them voraciously - that's when I realized I wanted to be a humor writer." Barry said in a review of Nathaniel Benchley's book, The Benchley Roundup.

Barry ranks Robert Benchley's humor influence second only to his parents, "especially my mom," Barry says.  "I... still return to his essays regularly for inspiration," Barry told The Writer magazine.

Summing it all up, "The guy who made me laugh the most of all is dead," Barry told The Annenberg Media Foundation.  "I always wanted to be like Robert Benchley," he said.  "Um, not in the sense of being dead..." Barry added.  "I'd like to be Robert Benchley, but not dead."

For the official rules for the 2007 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor competition and for more information about Robert Benchley, click here.

The fifth annual Robert Benchley Society Gathering and Award Ceremony will be held in New York City during the weekend of Sept. 14-16, which also happens to be RCB's birthday. There will be a dinner, cocktail party, walking tour, and more. Details TBD. The weekend is organized by the New York chapter, Fascinating Crimes.

In Local Chapter Activities, "The Lost Locomotive" chapter reports that Mr. Benchley continues to be warmly embraced in the Washington, D.C. area and that chapter member JAMES HYDER has created an entry for Benchley grandson, Nat Benchley, on Wikipedia.

The "Fascinating Crimes" chapter reports that Mr. Benchley is toasted every year, on the anniversary of his birth, at 21 Club in Manhattan.

The "We Only Came to See if There Really is an Award" chapter reports that they frequently gather for fun in honor of Mr. Benchley in Washington State.

Ann Arbor's "A Moderate State of Preservation" chapter president TOM SAUNDERS reports that he is working with the Detroit Athletic Club to publish essays Mr. Benchley wrote for the Detroit Athletic Club News which have not been anthologized or have been anthologized in alternative versions. He also is working with DAC to track down Benchley correspondence that had been though lost.

The Boston "We've Come for the Davenport" chapter reports plans for a March 3rd Benchley movie night. The Bostonians are also in conversation with the New England chapter of The Wodehouse Society with the intention of hold a joint event.

More information about the other local chapters can be found here.

In a recent book, Seriously Funny, The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s, by Gerald Nachman, Benchley was named most often by some of America's most original comic talents -- Bob Newhart, Jonathan Winters, Steve Allen and Shelly Berman among others -- as the American humorist who had the greatest influence on them.
Historian Norris W. Yates's book on Benchley records that the great S.J. Perelman said, "A good, stuffy way to describe Benchley would be to say that 'he occupies a unique position in American humor.' He occupies nothing of the sort. He is top dog."
One reviewer of The Benchley Roundup, one of the latest collections of essays and sketches chosen by Benchley's son, said of Benchley, "his influence--on contemporaries such as E. B. White, James Thurber, and S. J. Perelman, or followers like Woody Allen, Steve Martin, and Richard Pryor--has left an indelible mark on the American comic tradition."

Bill Hyder, founder of the "The Lost Locomotive" (greater Washington, DC) chapter of the Robert Benchley society has supplied photos of the Benchley family burial plots on Nantucket.

Please forward this newsletter to friends who may be interested in the Robert Benchley Society.

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The Robert Benchley Society

 "The work can wait," I said, quoting our business motto.
--Robert Benchley, from the essay MacGregor for Ataman!

The Roundup: Top Benchley Books
1. The Best of Robert Benchley

2. The Benchley Roundup: A Selection by Nathaniel Benchley of his Favorites

3. Of All Things!

4. My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew 

5. Love Conquerors All

6. Robert Benchley: An Annotated Bibliography

7. Benchley Lost and Found

8. The Robert Benchley Omnibus

9. A Journey into Dorothy Parker's New York

10. Robert Benchley, A Biography

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© 2007 The Robert Benchley Society

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