from The Inquirer and Mirror,
Nantucket, Mass., August 7, 1997
Nat Benchley to tackle
life of his grandfather, 1920s humorist
Michael P. Norton
I&M Managing Editor
Benchley has been trying to figure out a way to accurately
portray his grandfather on stage for 20 years.
first, he thought about simply playing Robert Benchley himself,
but he found his grandfather's personality did not lend
itself well to that format.
was a master of misdirection and not answering questions
directly," said Nat. "I had to put myself on stage
because somebody had to comment on Robert, but he wouldn't
do it honestly."
weekend, Nat, 50, will unveil "Benchley Despite Himself,"
his retrospective on the writings and performances of Robert
Benchley, the renowned writer, actor and humorist whose
scripts and word plays made him an unwillingly influential
person in the early days of television and radio.
performed bits and pieces of it in Boston, New York, Washington
and Los Angeles but I've never done it in front of an audience
this big or with this form, with me talking about my life
and talking about him and looking for him.," said Nat
Benchley, an Alexandria, Va. resident who summers in Sconset.
"I've also never done it in front of as many people
Benchley's humor differed from the nasty humorists that
formed a clique at the Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s. "He
made other people feel good and special, like they were
being funny themselves," said Nat Benchley.
said the contradictions in his grandfather's personality
made him especially interesting. Born in 1889, Robert Benchley
grew up in Worcester in a strict Victorian household. He
married and had two children, yet spent much of the 1930s
and 1940s at Hollywood parties. He always wanted to be a
serious writer, yet found his humor overpowering his work.
And while he considered himself lazy, Benchley was prolific,
according to his grandson.