“Bunk Banquets” (E65)

  • Originally printed:  Liberty Magazine – issue not identified/year not known
  • First reprinted in: The Best of Robert Benchley (1983)
  • Original Byline: Unknown



Benchley anatomizes and anathematizes the machinations behind the plague of banquets afflicting the American social scene. As in “Accustomed As I Am–” (E3), our hero knows he is a voice crying unheard beneath the din of clinking glasses and cleared throats, but he can’t resist getting up to say a few words. Our intrepid reporter takes us step by step through an exposé outlining the hypothetical conception, promotion, and successful realization of a sham event hosted by the American Academy of Natural and Applied Arts, an organization invented for the sole purpose of giving this very banquet.

Not a single attendee suspects there is anything amiss with the proceedings; and, in fact, Benchley concludes, perhaps there isn’t. As with so much else that transpires at the executive level of American business culture, sheer spuriousness spurs the whole corrupt enterprise along. We can hardly condemn good ol’ H. G. Wamsley for skimming a little profit off the top hats when his marks are so eager to co-sign the grift.

RB is past caring about the ethical implications of such consensual chicanery. In fact, he is far more concerned about the thousands of “good faith” banquets clogging halls across the country. “Cui bono?” our detective asks himself. And comes up with: “no one.” Not the organizers. Not the guests. And certainly not Benchley, who must live with this knowledge. Ultimately, he leaves us with the chilling suggestion that most of these abominations occur for no reason whatsoever.

Favorite Moment:

There are certain banquets which it is probably hopeless to try to forestall. Trade conventions, associated college clubs, visiting conventions, all more or less demand a culminating celebration of some sort, and a banquet is the only thing that our national imagination seems capable of devising. But there are banquets which have not even the justification of camaraderie or the brotherhood of selling the same line of goods.

Reprint Notes:

  • Unable to compare text with original Liberty piece.

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