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Film / How to Sleep

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How to Sleep is a 1935 comedy short film (12 minutes), directed by Nick Grinde, written by and starring Robert Benchley.

It is a parody of instructional films. Benchley is the narrator, telling the audience about four different aspects of sleep: causes of sleep, methods of sleep, avoiding sleep, and waking up. As Benchley's narration plays out a test subject, also played by Benchley, tries and fails at various different methods of getting to sleep.

Inspired by a real Carnegie Mellon study on sleeping. The first of a series of "How to..." shorts made by Benchley for MGM over the next few years. Not to be confused with the Disney cartoon How to Sleep starring Goofy, which does cover similar topics.


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  • Counting Sheep: Benchley says that counting sheep isn't very effective because he worries too much about a sheep not clearing the fence. Sure enough, one of the sheep in his dream crashes into the fence.
  • Faux to Guide: A satirical guide on how to sleep. Proved popular enough that Benchley spent the rest of the decade making more "How to" films.
  • Insomnia Episode: Benchley trying, and failing, to get to sleep. The short ends with narrator Benchley dozing off at his desk as the camera cuts back to him.
  • Instructional Film: A parody of instructional films about banal topics.
  • Interactive Narrator: One scene has Benchley-the-narrator remarking that alcoholism can cause insomnia. The Benchley being filmed then looks up and barks "Oh shut up and mind your business!"
  • Medium Blending: Mostly live action, but with some cartoon bits, like when Benchley's talk about counting sheep is illustrated with animation of sheep jumping over a fence.
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  • Time Lapse: Parodied. What is supposedly a time lapse film of Benchley tossing and turning in bed is obviously Benchley just rolling around as a sped-up fake clock twirls.
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