Bennett Cerf Quotes

Bennett Alfred Cerf, 1898 – 1971

Born: 25 May 1898, Manhattan, New York
Died: 27 August 1971, Mount Kisco, New York

Cerf attended Townsend Harris High School, then earned his B.A. from Columbia University in 1919, followed by a Litt. B. from Columbia’s School of Journalism. He was briefly a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune and worked as a stockbroker before joining the publishers Boni & Liveright as vice president. In 1925 he partnered with Donald Klopfer to buy the “Modern Library” imprint from Boni & Liveright, two years later they decided to publish general interest titles “at random”. The business was successful, they later renamed the company Random House. Cerf had great talent at building and maintaining relationships with authors, the Random House stable included such luminaries as William Faulkner, Eugene O’Neill, James Michener, Truman Copote, Ayn Rand (whose philosophy he disliked), and Theodore Seuss Geisel. In 1933 he imported a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses which was seized by U. S. Customs, then prevailed in United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, a landmark censorship case. In 1944 he published his first volume of jokes, Try and Stop Me, the first of half dozen such collections. Cerf was a regular panelist on What’s My Line? from 1951 through the show’s end in 1967.

Bennett Cerf quotes:

A pat on the back, though only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, is miles ahead in results.
    Bennett Cerf

Almost always, there are two shows and appeal the same kind of audience, and they are at the same time.
    Bennett Cerf – The Mike Wallace Interview (30 November 1957)

Banquet: a plate of cold, hairy chicken and artificially coloured green peas completely surrounded by dreary speeches and appeals for donations.
    Bennett Cerf

Censor: a self-appointed snoophound who sticks his nose in other people’s business.
    Bennett Cerf

Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman’s name out of a satire, then wrote the piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer? And if so, why?
    Bennett Cerf

Fame: Anyone who says he doesn’t like it is crazy.
    Bennett Cerf

For me, a hearty “belly laugh” is one of the beautiful sounds in the world.
    Bennett Cerf

Good manners: The noise you don’t make when you’re eating soup.
    Bennett Cerf

Gross ignorance is 144 times worse than ordinary ignorance.
    Bennett Cerf

I think it’s become fashionable for the snobbish egghead today to make fun of television. I’ve heard many people, boast, “I would never have a television set in my house,” well, these people are fools.
    Bennett Cerf – The Mike Wallace Interview (30 November 1957)

I think the right to read, is one of our inherent rights, and I think that people in America today are intelligent enough to decide for themselves what they want to read. Without being told, by self-appointed people, you must not read this, or you cannot read this.
    Bennett Cerf – The Mike Wallace Interview (30 November 1957)

In a notable family called Stein
There were Gertrude, and Ep, and then Ein.
Gert’s writing was hazy,
Ep’s statues were crazy,
And nobody understood Ein.
    Bennett Cerf – Out on a Limerick (1961)

Middle age is when your old classmates are so grey and wrinkled and bald they don’t recognize you.
    Bennett Cerf

Most of the things that are supposed to be so objectionable in books are things that every teenager, in the United States, not only knows, but has talked about at length in school, or on the way home from school.
    Bennett Cerf – The Mike Wallace Interview (30 November 1957)

One of the greatest threats facing book publishing, and the entire country for that matter, is censorship.
    Bennett Cerf

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