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Is Neil Gaiman really doing a live reading of the Cheesecake Factory menu?

Neil Gaiman in Cannes, France, for the 70th Cannes Film Festival. Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

Author, comedian, and former Emerson student Sara Benincasa had an idea after a recent visit to the Cheesecake Factory.

What if “American Gods” novelist Neil Gaiman did a live reading of the lengthy Cheesecake Factory menu? What if he did it for charity?

“I thought, well gosh, this would combine three of my favorite things,” said Benincasa, author of “Agorafabulous!,” “Real Artists Have Day Jobs,” and the young adult novels “Great” and “DC Trip.”

Benincasa said she tweeted her idea as a “half-joke,” asking Gaiman if he’d read the menu if she raised $500,000 for his charity of choice. Gaiman agreed, saying he’d like the money to go to UNHCR, the United Nations’s agency for refugees.


Benincasa launched her CrowdRise fund-raising page Monday afternoon. Already she’s raised more than $30,000 with a deadline of June 20, World Refugee Day. Even if she doesn’t make her goal, all of the money will go to the cause, she said.

“It just keeps going up, which is really awesome,” she said, of the donation total. “Twenty-five dollars is a really popular number I’ve seen a lot. There’s always the chance that some really wealthy person will say, ‘Here’s $100,000.’ ”

Already, Benincasa has been boosted by Gaiman, who continues to retweet messages about her mission, and both the UNHCR and the Cheesecake Factory. The restaurant chain, known for its massive menu, presented to patrons as a thick spiral book, tweeted “Let’s make this happen!” with the hashtag #neilcake.

Benincasa says the menu, which includes items such as avocado egg rolls and seared tuna tataki salad, “is a piece of literature that deserves a place in the canon, along with ‘Beowulf.’ ”

She added that although the Cheesecake Factory isn’t a donor at the moment, she would be pleased if they became one.


“I’d be delighted. To me, it seems like a great integration of their vision of bringing joy to the world.”

Benincasa is already figuring out how the reading would work if her goal is met. She’d like the event to be live streamed or taped for donors who can’t attend. She believes the reading would be the “greatest literary performance of all time. I think we can all agree that it would be life-changing to hear Neil say things like . . . glamburgers.”

She also said she might invite some special guests to help read, just in case Gaiman can’t get through every item.

“I don’t want to overburden him. It is a 15 million page menu,” Benincasa said. “If he insists on doing it all himself, he may need breaks. We may need to provide him with water. A towel. Some people online have expressed genuine concern.”