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Robert Benchley is one of the great American humorists forgotten for the likes of S.J. Perelman, Thurber, and Woody Allen, who were all influenced by him. While his work is a bit dated, born in 1889 , he is a very good comic writer, making fun of Americans, the British, and European politics of the 1930's. His pieces are mainly short essays, full of wit and humour, where the narrator is often oblivious to being funny and the butt of the jokes.

His comedic career started at Harvard where he edited the Harvard Lampoon, and was also active in comedic acting. His work was first seen widely in The New Yorker literary magazine, which led him to a short editorship at Vanity Fair.

Benchley was not limited to prose writing. The Internet Movie Database credits him for 92 movies, where he was either the writer or actor or both. His being a Hollywood insider as well as a literary insider is exemplified by his membership in the Algonquin Round Table, an elite group of literary writers including Dorothy Parker and the Marx Brothers.

I had just dozed off into a stupor when I heard what I thought was myself talking to myself. I didn't pay much attention to it, as I knew practically everything I would have to say to myself, and wasn't particularly interested.

-- from "Chips off the Old Benchley"


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