J. Omar Daggy
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Dave Barry Returns - to Judge the 2007 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor Competition
BOSTON, MASS.  --  "We're looking for the next Robert Benchley," said David Trumbull, chairperson of the Robert Benchley Society.  "And Pulitzer Prize winning humorist Dave Barry is going to help us.  Thanks to the efforts of our 2005 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor winner, Horace J. Digby, leading humorist and life-long Robert Benchley fan, Dave Barry, will return as finalist judge for this year's competition," Trumbull said. 
    Dave Barry also served as top judge for the 2006 competition.  "It was a pleasure to see so many fine, funny writers emulating the Great One," Barry said.  "I'm sure if Bob Benchley were alive today, he'd say, 'Whoa! I am 117 years old!'  But I'm also sure he would be pleased, with, and impressed by, these entries. . .  It wasn't easy to narrow it down . . ."

    "If you have a funny bone and can write, you can be a part of it all this year," Trumbull explained.  Entries must be short, original essay (500 words or less) in the style of Robert Benchley and must be e-mail it to the Robert Benchley Society no later than April 1st, 2007.  Entrants must also pay a $10.00 fee through PayPal.  "The fee is to defray costs of the competition and provide awards for the winners," Trumbull said. 


    As with last year's competition, a panel of carefully chosen judges will pick the top ten finalists, then Dave Barry, best-selling author of more than thirty humor books and novels, including Peter and the Shadow Thieves, co written with Ridley Pearson for Disney Hyperion books, Dave Barry's History of The Millennium (So Far), Putnam books, The Shepherd, The Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog, Penguin Books, Dave Barry's Money Secrets, Crown Publishers, will select and rank the top four.  Barry has also promised to write comments for each winner. 


    The Benchley Society Award is, "dedicated to the type of warm and hilarious writing practiced by the man that many of us consider to be one of the great masters of humor," said 2006 Benchley Society Award winner W. Bruce Cameron, most famous for his book, 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter, which inspired the hit John Ritter ABC/Disney television series.  With his second book, How to Remodel a Man, also a best seller, two movies, Fired and Cook-Off, under his belt, a third book deal just signed with Simon and Schuster, and a regular syndicated humor column, Cameron is a busy man. 


    "But you don't have to be W. Bruce Cameron to win," according to Digby, who is also returning as a judge this year.  "Judges read all entries blind," Digby said.  "We don't know who wrote any particular essay until the judging is finished, so the competition is entirely merit based." 

    As if to prove Digby's point, while top honors last year went to already successful professional humor writer W. Bruce Cameron, second place went to neophyte writer Christopher Perdue, a recent college graduate from Eugene, Oregon.  

    "I thought making the finals was a fluke," Perdue said, "but the real shock was that I finished near the top of all these hilarious, accomplished writers." 
    Dave Barry found something special in Perdue's entry, Quitting Coffee: I'd Rather be Eaten by a Raptor
    "Christopher Perdue makes good use of the faux-authoritative tone that Benchley used so often to parody scientific advances," Barry said, noting that Perdue's piece begins with "a marvelously Benchley-esque" line:  "According to a recent study, scientists disagree about when humans, the smartest, most adaptable creatures on earth, will finally be killed by breakfast food."  
    Robert Benchley rose to fame in the 1920s writing for Harvard Lampoon, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair (where he shared an office with Dorothy Parker), Life magazine, and as a humor columnist for the Hearst newspapers.  Along with Parker, Benchley was a charter member of the notorious Algonquin Round Table.  


    Benchley was the first of four generations of writers.  His son Nathaniel wrote the enormously popular novel "Off Islanders" which became the hit movie The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming.  Grandson Peter Benchley wrote Jaws and The Deep which inspired movies of their own.  And great grandson Nat Benchley celebrates his great grandfather's career with a one-man show, Benchley Despite Himself


    Benchley's work inspired scores of other leading humorists, including Woody Allen, Bob Newhart, Russell Baker, Steve Martin and Dave Barry, who all gratefully acknowledge his influence. 


    Dave Barry got his first taste of Benchley as a child.  "My dad had a bunch of Benchley books around the house when I was a boy and I read them voraciously - that's when I realized I wanted to be a humor writer." Barry said in a review of Nathaniel Benchley's book, The Benchley Roundup.  


    Barry ranks Robert Benchley's humor influence second only to his parents, "especially my mom," Barry says.  "I . . . still return to his essays regularly for inspiration," Barry told The Writer Magazine.


    Summing it all up, "The guy who made me laugh the most of all is dead,"  Barry told The Annenberg Media Foundation.  "I always wanted to be like Robert Benchley," he said.  ". . . Um, not in the sense of being dead . . ." Barry added.  "I'd like to be Robert Benchley, but not dead."   


    For the official rules for the 2007 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor competition and for more information about Robert Benchley, visit: 




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