“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.

“Advice To Investors” (E5)

  • Originally printed: DAC News (unknown date – presumably 1924/1925)
  • First reprinted in: Pluck and Luck
  • Original Byline: Robert C. Benchley


Absolutely inspired nonsense from Benchley, drawing nitrous oxide suffused breath from the basic babblings of the business page. Diligent research has now (and I mean just now!) disclosed that the piece first appeared (under a different title) in an as-yet-unknown issue of that Executive’s Delight, the Detroit Athletic Club News, which just makes me love it all the more. Who said America’s Capitalist Leaders don’t have a sense of humour about their role in the nation’s affairs? We can be pretty sure of our rough date for the article, at least, thanks to its speculative engagement with the true meaning of the 1924 Presidential Election (it had none). Boom and bust a gut economics at its finest!

Favourite moment:
“Europe’s plight has not been without its influence either. Europe’s plight is never without its significance. No matter what you are figuring on doing, you must count on Europe’s plight to furnish at least fifty percent of the significance and ten percent of the gross.”

Reprint Note:

  • Originally appeared in the DAC News under the title “Our Monthly Market Letter”
  • Gordon E. Ernst, Jr.’s Annotated Bibliography lists the essay under the reprinted title, as the original could not be identified using the resources available in 1995