S.J. Perelman

Writer / Humorist

Born: 1 February 1904
Died: 17 October 1979
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Best known as: Humorist for The New Yorker and Marx Bros. writer
S.J. "Sid" Perelman was a writer of short comic pieces, many of which appeared in The New Yorker magazine between the 1930s and 1970s. Perelman was raised in Providence, Rhode Island, where he attended Brown University before starting his career as a humor writer. In the 1920s he drew cartoons and wrote for a variety of publications, and in 1931 he began his long association with The New Yorker. Between 1931 and 1942 Perelman worked sporadically in Hollywood ("for the scratch," he once explained), notably with the Marx Brothers on 1931's Monkey Business (1931) and 1932's Horse Feathers. (He later did some work on the screen adaptation of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days (1956), for which he won an Oscar.) Perelman was a specialist in what he called feuilletons (French for "little leaves"), short comic pieces parodying popular culture and public figures, which he sold in collections from the 1940s on. He also wrote about his misadventures on his farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (Acres and Pains), and his globe-trotting adventures with his wife, Laura (the sister of novelist Nathanael West). Perelman was known for artfully constructed prose, frequent allusions to arcana and the use of Yiddish terms of disparagement, and he was associated with Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker and Ogden Nash (he collaborated with Nash on a successful stage play, One Touch of Venus). For his body of work he was awarded a special National Book Award in 1978.
Extra credit: Most sources list his birth name as Sidney (Sydney) Joseph Perelman, but some say it's Simeon Joseph, with Sidney as a nickname.

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