“Bobby Goes A-Bicycling” (E50)

  • Originally printed: Life Magazine, December 23, 1926
  • First reprinted in: Never reprinted
  • Original Byline:  Robert Benchley



A rather lackluster entry in the Benchley family phantasmagoria. Throughout his career, RB showed a decided fondness for the depiction of barbed interactions between grade schoolers and their guardians. This could sometimes generate real hilarity (see “Another Uncle Edith Christmas Yarn” – E18); but, in this case, we get an unfunny filial fizzle.  Purportedly written by young Bobby Benchley Jr. (aged 7 in 1926), the piece announces itself as the chronicle of Benchley père et fils’ efforts to join in the then-current race to the North Pole, with the dubious help of some kibitzing crony called Lieutenant Commander Connelly. From the start, however, the author is more interested in establishing his portrait of Young Mister Benchley as a precocious practitioner of dire dad jokes at his own pop’s expense.

As you might expect from such a trio (or however many people there are in this two-wheeled caravan), they don’t get very far, stalling out somewhere near White Plains, New York. Along the way, the son-persona jabs mercilessly at the patriarch’s pet peeves, triggers, and insecurities, without occasioning much mirth. Benchley deprecating himself is generally a delight – but Benchley delegating that task to a prepubescent print golem of his own flesh and blood forces the author’s sense of guilt over his increasingly absentee parenting a little too palpably onto the page.

Favourite Moment:

Four days out from Scarsdale, the expedition is now somewhere around North White Plains, N.Y. If things go on at this rate, we’ll need a new map before long.