Literary Humor Society Voices Support for Marquette University Student's Use of "Offensive" Dave Barry Quotation.

David Trumbull

BOSTON, October 18, 2006 -- The Robert Benchley Society today voiced its support of Marquette University Ph.D. student Stuart Ditsler's posting, on his office door of a quotation from Pulitzer Prize winning humorist Dave Barry about the U.S. federal government.

The Barry quotation that started the controversy was:

"As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government."

In early September, a Marquette University administrator removed the Barry quotation calling it "patently offensive." Commenting on this censorship, Robert Benchley Society chairman, David Trumbull said, "This college administrator is precisely the sort Robert Benchley had in mind when he said:

'...they represent the worst element in our civilization--the Brother's Keeper.'

Trumbull continued, "There is a long history, going back at least to the Greek comic playwrights such as Aristophanes, of humor questioning, even attacking, society's most dearly held institutions and conventions, and doing so in profoundly offensive ways."

The Robert Benchley Society is a not-for-profit association of scholars and fans of American print and motion-picture humorist Robert C. Benchley (1889-1945). Mr. Benchley himself was known to take on controversial issues. In the 1920s he meet with Massachusetts Governor Fuller to protest the conviction and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, whom Benchley believed had not received a fair trial from Judge Thayer.

Dave Barry, who has often stated the influence of Mr. Benchley on his own humor, is a member of the Society and judge of the 2006 Annual Robert Benchley Humor Prize Competition.

Gordon Ernst, University of West Virginia librarian and the nation's foremost Benchley scholar said: "Both Jefferson and Thoreau said that the best government rules the least. Couple of old radicals."

RBS director Ed Tasca of Toronto, Ontario, said: "As friends of the brilliant humorist Dave Barry, we are outraged at the idea that humorous political critique can be considered offensive on a college campus, where "offensive" protesting has always been an honored American intellectual pursuit. The tradition goes back to Twain, Will Rogers, Robert Benchley, Lenny Bruce, Bob Hope, Mort Sahl, Art Buchwald, Andy Rooney, Mark Russell, to name just a few of our greatest comic icons."