“Around the World with the Gypsy Jockey” (E21)

  • Originally printed: Liberty Magazine, October 24, 1931
  • First reprinted in: No Poems; Or Around the World Backwards and Sideways
  • Unable to compare reprint with original text – Liberty Historical Archives not available at Toronto Public Library
  • Original Byline: unknown


Well… as you might expect from a piece with the above title, this one is a parody of Orientalist/white supremacist anthropological gawking that nevertheless participates a little too blithely in that unsavoury discourse. RB writes chiefly in the persona of Colonel Michington Mea, a Movietone marauder who makes his living by pointing at things you wouldn’t see at your local church picnic and expressing astonishment. The Colonel is certainly a fair target for ridicule, but the piece quickly lapses into a rehearsal of well-worn tropes that undoubtedly fit (alongside his foot) in the mouth of our guide, but aren’t much fun to read.

Benchley does eventually pull the parody together into something resembling a genuine critique, culminating in the delirious expostulations quoted below…

Favourite Moment:
“The Spell of the East! Will it ever release us from its thralldom? Who knows? Who cares?”

“All Up For ‘Citizenship Day’” (E13)

  • Originally Published: Life Magazine, October 26, 1922
  • First Reprinted: Never reprinted
  • Original Byline: R.C.B.


Even the Apostle of Applesauce had his limits, and RB reaches his in contemplating the proposed advent of yet another Patriotic Holiday. This little Battle Ahem of the Republic suffers greatly from its attempt to confront the abyssal absurdities of American Civic Religion head on. With the gaudy austerities of the roaring twenties in full swing and the tumorous open secret of Jim Crow lynch law pressing heavily upon the nation’s frontal lobe, ol’ Uncle Sam’s huzzah-haunted hypocrisy was just too big to foil at this time (one can only hope the condition isn’t permanent). Benchley’s targets are too self-evident and too painfully unassailable; and his mock allegorical floats of fancy never leave the ground.

On a brighter note, “Citizenship Day” did fail to reach red letter day status on November 4, 1922 – a fizzle RB must have drunk to. However, the concept did eventually gain country-wide traction, metastasizing into Pact With Hell and Covenant With Death (aka Constitution) Day.

Favourite Moment:
“At the other end [of an allegorical float representing the Dignity of the Law] is shown New York City enforcing the Prohibition laws. Someone seems to be accepting money from someone else in this group, but you can’t quite make out who the parties are.”