from The Washington Post,
February 25, 2003
Special to The Washington Post
full of water. Please advise," Robert Benchley cabled
a friend while on his first trip to Venice.
actor Nat Benchley, grandson of the legendary humorist,
writer, comic actor and Algonquin Round Table wit, polishes
off that line and other martini-dry drolleries in his solo
show "Benchley Despite Himself," running through
Saturday at Theater on the Run in Arlington.
Benchley never knew his grandfather, who died in 1945. He
conceived the show in 1989 partly because of "a real
distaste for many of the popular comedians of the day,"
who, unlike Robert Benchley, did not represent comedy with
early versions of the show, Nat Benchley didn't allow his
own persona to creep in. "For a long time, I wanted
to hide behind Robert and just use his words," he said.
But the words revealed little about the man, whose drinking
and philandering hinted at some unhappiness. "What
screwed me up is he never told the truth about himself,"
said the actor.
Nick Olcott told Benchley he didn't seem to be having any
fun with the material. "He and others convinced me
I had to go onstage as myself and comment about Robert and
be him," said Nat. He created a script that wove his
own observations among the Benchley witticisms.
theory about him is that he knew, inside himself, all these
things he thought he should be doing," Nat Benchley
said. His grandfather, he believes, thought he should have
been writing literature instead of books like "My Ten
Years in a Quandary, and How They Grew" and monologues
such as "The Sex Life of the Polyp."
said the actor, "my grandfather helped this country
and a lot of people abroad get through the Depression and
the Second World War. And he would never give himself even
that much credit."