Alexander Humphreys Woollcott (January 19, 1887 – January 23, 1943) was an American critic and commentator for The New Yorker magazine and a member of the Algonquin Round Table.
He was the inspiration for Sheridan Whiteside, the main character in the play The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939) by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, and for the far less likable character Waldo Lydecker in the 1944 film Laura (1944). He claimed to be the inspiration for Rex Stout's brilliant detective Nero Wolfe, but Stout, although he was friendly to Woollcott, said there was nothing to that idea.
Woollcott was born in an 85-room house, a vast ramshackle building in Colts Neck Township, New Jersey, near Red Bank. Called the North American Phalanx, it had once been a commune where many social experiments were carried on in the mid-19th century, some more successful than others. When the Phalanx fell apart after a fire in 1854, it was taken over by the Bucklin family, Woollcott's maternal grandparents. Woollcott spent large portions of his childhood there among his extended family. His father was a ne'er-do-well Cockney who drifted through various jobs, sometimes spending long periods away from his wife and children. Poverty was always close at hand. The Bucklins and Woollcotts were avid readers, giving young Aleck (his nickname) a lifelong love of literature, especially the works of Charles Dickens.