“Accustomed As I Am–” (E3)

  • Originally printed: Liberty Magazine, October 18, 1930
  • First reprinted in: Benchley Lost and Found
  • Unable to compare reprint with original text – Liberty Historical Archives not available at Toronto Public Library
  • Original Byline: unknown


Here we find RB in the grip of a signature frustration – his inability to get the last word in a confrontation with an appreciative, uncomprehending audience. The piece begins and ends with our narrator exulting in his near escape from the toastmaster racket. Incorporating bits of Benchleyan biographical detail, the speaker chronicles his first taste of after dinner agony as a society reporter forced to witness the witless in their business class habitat. Seeking to put a stake in this appalling rite, RB prepares his own bourgeois burlesques – and finds himself a stakeholder instead. As the nightmare deepens, the author discovers that every hurtful word he hurls only pulls him more inexorably to the next podium on the circuit. Anyone who would attend such a gathering must obviously hate themselves – and to hate them is to be one of them. You can’t mock mock-civility in a banquet hall.

Favourite moment:
“I worked up some after-dinner speeches of my own, built along conventional lines, and wormed my way into banquet programs, where I would deliver them in hopes of offending some of the old boys who had tortured me for so long.”

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