Bennett Alfred Cerf (May 25, 1898 – August 27, 1971) was a publisher and co-founder of Random House. Cerf was also known for his own compilations of jokes and puns, for regular personal appearances lecturing across the United States, and for his television appearances in the panel game show What's My Line?.
Bennett Cerf was born and brought up in New York City in a Jewish family of Alsatian and German descent. His father, Gustave Cerf, was a lithographer; and his mother, Frederika Wise, was an heiress to a tobacco-distribution fortune.
Cerf attended Townsend Harris High School, the same public school as composer Richard Rodgers, publisher Richard Simon, and playwright Howard Dietz; and he spent his teenage years at 790 Riverside Drive, an apartment building in Washington Heights that was home to two other friends who became prominent as adults, Howard Dietz and the Hearst newspapers financial editor Merryle Rukeyser. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University (1919) and his Litt.B. (1920) from its School of Journalism. On graduating, he worked briefly as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune and for some time in a Wall Street brokerage, before becoming Vice President of the Boni & Liveright publishing house.