As usual, Kristy Axelrod arrives first, taking her customary seat at the corner table and ordering a vodka gimlet at 11:20 on Tuesday morning. The star of a popular preteen sitcom and a self-described “party girl,” Ms. Axelrod’s celebrated wit is in evidence as she loudly informs her waiter that it “smells like garbage in here.” Laughing merrily, he leans in to tell her in a hushed aside that he will order the kitchen’s trash taken out immediately.
This is a cue for the next arrival, aspiring musician Michael Langley. The precocious son of a hedge-fund billionaire-turned-lobbyist, Mr. Langley places his guitar case on the table before seating himself next to Ms. Axelrod. He does not remove his sunglasses.
“When they take the trash out, they should start with you,” he quips dryly.
The restaurant’s other patrons, scattered around the dining room in anticipation of this kind of exchange, chuckle in appreciation. It is clear that another meeting of the modern iteration of the famed Algonquin Round Table has begun.
Although the early days of regular luncheon tête-à-têtes between such literary giants as Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley are long past, today’s celebrities, actors and writers have thankfully taken up the reins and are bringing sparkling conversation and humorous asides to a modern world starving for levity and wit.
Indeed, to the fevered delight of intellectuals everywhere, a dazzling collection of the age’s brightest minds has begun meeting every afternoon to match wits at the famed Round Table restaurant in New York’s historic Algonquin Hotel.
This morning the group is fortunate enough to be joined next by legendary television personality Brian Mitchell, who appears to be already quite inebriated. Mr. Mitchell became a household name after his breakout role in the competitive reality program, Six Gross Dudes Locked in a House. He has since become even more famous for his starring role in the blockbuster comedy film Ladies Be Crazy, and for assaulting prostitutes. Today he is wearing a T-shirt, which is cleverly styled to give the appearance of a tuxedo.
“What up, asshats?” he says slyly, evoking general amusement from those already seated around the table.
After offering an urbane high-five to Mr. Langley, Mr. Mitchell surveys the room with reddened eyes.
“Can I smoke a joint in here?” he deadpans, and a smattering of appreciative applause breaks out across the room. The head waiter quickly assures Mr. Mitchell that he can certainly smoke a joint in here.
Mr. Mitchell then seats himself and places his booted feet on the hallowed Round Table, prompting quick-witted rejoinders from the group at large.
“Dude, you are a total pig,” Ms. Axelrod says without looking up from her iPhone. Seeing an opening, Mr. Langley cleverly uses his guitar case to push Mr. Mitchell’s feet off the table.
“What the hell, man?” Mr. Mitchell retorts, with his customary understated charm. “Don’t make me kill you, bro.”
While the original Algonquin Round Table was famous for inspiring an impressive range of collaborative efforts among its members — whose sparkling antics were the subject of countless books and films, and who were credited with influencing authors such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald — today’s version is not without its own achievements. Chief among them is the concept for a short YouTube video of a dog leaping up to press an elevator button, which the group keeps meaning to make but hasn’t yet, and an idea for a co-authored blog post about how the modern political system “has just become really lame,” which, when asked about it, Mr. Langley assures his fans is still “percolating.”
Additionally, a renowned local artist who joins the group on occasion, Alan Dems, has been known to doodle explicit imagery on cocktail napkins with a ballpoint pen while throwing back Jack and cokes. A selection of his Round Table-inspired work is available for sale in the hotel lobby.
After regaling the table with the engrossing tale of an image he’d recently seen on Reddit of a cat in a bow tie peeking out of a toilet, Mr. Langley signals to the waiter and orders crab cakes.
“The crab cakes here are the bomb,” he remarks, provoking jovial laughter throughout the room.
“Bon mot!” cries one patron, removing his spectacles and wiping tears of hilarity from his eyes.
More drinks are ordered, coinciding with the arrival of Janice Knight, a model/actress whose illustrious career was ignited by the leaking of a sex tape featuring herself and an ex-husband. Ms. Knight, speaking on the phone, ignores the others at the table as she seats herself at the head.
“I know, right? She’s a troll,” she says loudly. “Whatever, I’ll call you back.” The table chuckles admiringly. Ms. Knight is well-known in these parts for her charming truisms.
Once the crab cakes arrive, she helps herself to one, rolling her eyes at Mr. Langley, who has genially given her the finger.
“Get in my belly,” he mumbles through a mouthful of crab cake, slyly invoking a scene from the popular 1999 Austin Powers comedy film, The Spy Who Shagged Me.
Ms. Axelrod looks up from her iPhone. “Dude, fat guys are gross,” she says archly, in a clever homage to Dorothy Parker, who was in fact sitting in the exact same spot when she coined the famous phrase: “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”
As we leave our courageous ensemble, the esteemed members of the modern-day “Vicious Circle,” we see Mr. Mitchell showing Ms. Knight an app on his smartphone which overlays a cartoon moustache on the Instagram portrait of your choice.
“Moustaches are awesome,” she opines drolly. And a time-honoured tradition carries on.
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