Robert Benchley

American writer and actor (1889-1945)

Robert Charles Benchley (September 15, 1889November 21, 1945) was an American humorist, critic and actor.

Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.


  • There may be said to be two classes of people in the world; those who constantly divide the people of the world into two classes, and those who do not. Both classes are extremely unpleasant to meet socially, leaving practically no one in the world whom one cares very much to know.
    • Vanity Fair (February 1920)[1]
  • The way to go to the circus, however, is with someone who has seen perhaps one theatrical performance before in his life and that in the High School hall. … The scales of sophistication are struck from your eyes and you see in the circus a gathering of men and women who are able to do things as a matter of course which you couldn’t do if your life depended on it.
    • LIFE magazine (14 April 1921)
  • The English language may hold a more disagreeable combination of words than "The doctor will see you now." I am willing to concede something to the phrase "Have you anything to say before the current is turned on?" That may be worse for the moment, but it doesn't last so long. For continued, unmitigating depression, I know nothing to equal "The doctor will see you now." But I'm not narrow-minded about it. I'm willing to consider other possibilities.
    • "The Tooth, the Whole Tooth, and Nothing but the Tooth", in Love Conquers All (1922)
  • A baby is shown sitting on the floor. He appears to be about a year and a half old. Incidentally, he is a very plain baby. Strewn about him on the floor are the toys that he has been playing with. There are a ball, a rattle, a ring, a doll, a bell and a pair of roller-skates. Evidently, the candidate is supposed to be aghast at the roller-skates in the possession of such a small child.
    The man who drew that picture had evidently never furnished playthings for a small child. I can imagine nothing that would delight a child of a year and a half more than a pair of roller-skates to chew and spin and hit himself in the face with. They could also be dropped on Daddy when Daddy was lying on the floor in an attempt to be sociable. Of all the toys arranged before the child, the roller-skates are the most logical. … That is my great trouble in taking tests and examinations of any kind. I always want to argue with the examiner, because the examiner is always so obviously wrong.
    • "Measure Your Mind", in Love Conquers All (1922)
  • At fifteen one is first beginning to realize that everything isn’t money and power in this world, and is casting about for joys that do not turn to dross in one’s hands.
    • LIFE magazine (27 November 1924)
  • In America there are two classes of travel — first class, and with children.
    • "Kiddie-Kar Travel", Pluck and Luck (1925)[1]; also in D.A.C. News, September 1923[2]
  • I can’t quite define my aversion to asking questions of strangers. From snatches of family battles which I have heard drifting up from railway stations and street corners, I gather that there are a great many men who share my dislike for it, as well as an equal number of women who … believe it to be the solution to most of this world’s problems.
    • "Ask That Man" in Pluck and Luck (1925)
  • Nine-tenths of the value of a sense of humor in writing is not in the things it makes one write but in the things it keeps one from writing. It is especially valuable in this respect in serious writing, and no one without a sense of humor should ever write seriously. For without knowing what is funny, one is constantly in danger of being funny without knowing it.
    • LIFE magazine (8 March 1929)
  • I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I think that the Younger Generation is up to something.... I base my apprehension on nothing more definite than the fact that they are always coming in and going out of the house, without any apparent reason.
    • "The Children’s Hour" in My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew (1936)
  • The surest way to make a monkey of a man is to quote him. That remark in itself wouldn’t make any sense if quoted as it stands.
    • "Quick Quotations" in My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew (1936)
  • The only cure for a real hangover is death.
    • "Coffee Versus Gin", My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew (1936)
  • There is no such place as Budapest. Perhaps you are thinking of Bucharest, and there is no such place as Bucharest, either.
    • "What — No Budapest", My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew (1936)
  • Anyone will be glad to admit that he knows nothing about beagling, or the Chinese stock market, or ballistics, but there is not a man or woman alive who does not claim to know how to cure hiccoughs.
    • "Stop Those Hiccoughs!", My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew (1936)
  • I am more the inspirational type of speller. I work on hunches rather than mere facts, and the result is sometimes open to criticism by purists.
    • My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew (1936)
  • There seems to be no lengths to which humorless people will not go to analyze humor. It seems to worry them.
    • "What Does It Mean?" in After 1903 — What? (1938)
  • Why don't you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?
  • A great many people have come up to me and asked how I manage to get so much work done and still keep looking so dissipated.
    • "How to Get Things Done", Chips off the old Benchley (1949)
  • The free-lance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.
  • It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.
  • So who's in a hurry?
    • To a friend who had told him that his particular drink was slow poison, as quoted in Robert Benchley (1955) by Nathaniel Benchley, ch. 1.
  • Drinking makes such fools of people, and people are such fools to begin with, that it's compounding a felony.
    • Quoted in The New Speaker's Treasury of Wit and Wisdom‎ (1958) by Herbert Victor Prochnow, p. 129
  • I do most of my work sitting down; that's where I shine.
    • Quoted in The Algonquin Wits, (1968) by R E Drennan, p. 5
  • Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment.
    • Quoted in The Algonquin Wits, (1968) by R E Drennan, p. 5
  • Great literature must spring from an upheaval in the author's soul. If that upheaval is not present then it must come from the works of any other author which happens to be handy and easily adapted.
    • As quoted in The Routledge Dictionary of Quotations : A Dictionary of Quotations (1987) by Robert Andrews, p. 154
  • Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.
    • As quoted in With Truth as Our Sword (2005) by C E Sylvester, p. 205
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