Robert C. Benchley's sketches and articles, published in periodicals like Life, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker, earned him a reputation as one of the sharpest humorists of his time; 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. The Benchley Roundup collects those pieces, selected by Benchley's son Nathaniel, "which seem to stand up best over the years"-a compendium of the most endearing and enduring work from one of America's funniest and most penetrating wits.
"It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by then I was too famous."
Robert Benchley's wit appears effortless--it is a blend of autobiography, satire, the inconsequential, and the sudden surprise. At the start of "Fall In!" he muses, "It may be because I do not run as fast, or as often, as I used to, but I seem to be way behind on my parades. It must be almost a year since I saw one, and then I was in it myself." At one time Benchley was everywhere, a prolific reviewer and ubiquitous actor and screenwriter; now we must be grateful for his son's selection of humorous sketches. The Algonquian witster remains as brilliantly nonplused as ever as he observes his species in all its skewed play--from football's confusions to the folly of footnoters to French for Americans. When Benchley declared, "The surest way to make a monkey of a man is to quote him," he can surely not have been looking to himself. James Thurber's remark seems truer: "One of the greatest fears of the humorous writer is that he has spent three weeks writing something done faster and better by Benchley in 1919."