• 15 September 1889
  •  Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

Robert Benchley


Although by his own account Benchley was not quite a writer and not quite an actor, he managed to become one of the best-known humorists and comedians of his time. As a Harvard undergraduate, Benchley gave his first comic performance, impersonating a befuddled after-dinner speaker. The act made him a campus celebrity -- and remained in Benchley's repertoire for the rest of his life. (Landing the position of editor of the Harvard Lampoon was the other highlight of his college career.) As a post-graduate journalist, between frequent firings and other disruptions, Benchley made his mark as a theater critic and as writer of whimsical musings on the vagaries of modern life. He served briefly as managing editor of the magazine Vanity Fair, where his lieutenants were Dorothy Parker and Robert E. Sherwood, but he quit to protest Parker's firing. (Benchley, Parker and Sherwood were among the regulars at the so-called Algonquin Round Table, a social circle of New York wits that also included Harpo Marx and George S. Kaufman). Benchley was among the first contributors to The New Yorker, where his work influenced other writers -- such as E.B. White and James Thurber