Neil Gaiman will read the Cheesecake Factory menu if fans raise $500,000 for refugee charity

Author Neil Gaiman.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Neil Gaiman, the bestselling author of “Sandman,” “Coraline” and “American Gods” will perform a dramatic reading of the entire Cheesecake Factory menu — but only if fans of his books (and/or sweet, sweet cheesecake) raise $500,000 for the United Nations Refugee Agency.

The fundraising challenge originated Friday with comedian and author Sara Benincasa, who tweeted the crazy idea to Gaiman.


Gaiman responded just a few hours later.

Benincasa told Eater that her tweet was inspired in part by watching the television adaptation of one of Gaiman’s most famous books.

“Last week I watched an episode of the sublime TV adaptation of ‘American Gods,’ went on a goddamn elegant date to Cheesecake, woke up, drank coffee, and went into some kind of inspiration blackout. When I came to, I discovered I’d asked Neil if he’d read the entire Cheesecake Factory menu onstage in exchange for a $500,000 donation to a charity of his choice.”

Benincasa then set up a fundraising campaign on the charity crowdfunding site Crowdrise

“If we hit $500K, Neil has kindly agreed to do a live reading of the greatest restaurant menu of all time. It’s about 8000 pages, last time I checked,” Benincasa wrote on the site. “Have you heard Neil’s voice? Mellifluous, I tell you.”

Benincasa praised the work of UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency, saying the charity does “extraordinary work.” She also promised that if Gaiman ends up doing the dramatic reading, she’ll find a way to make it accessible to the public.

“I will make the event available to the general public via live stream or a lovely video you can watch later whilst weeping at the beauty of Neil Gaiman saying ‘avocado egg rolls,’” she wrote.

The Cheesecake Factory is known for its extensive menu, which encompasses not just dessert, but also glamburgers, truffle-bacon grilled cheese sticks and skinnylicious grilled salmon.

Benincasa’s campaign captured the imagination of other notable Twitter users, including author and comedian John Hodgman and NPR host Peter Sagal.

The campaign didn’t escape the attention of the Cheesecake Factory, which tweeted about the campaign, including the hashtag #NeilCake, which Benincasa coined. (“Why? Because it is silly and good,” she explained.)

Benincasa says she wants to meet her goal — $510,000 to cover processing fees — by World Refugee Day on June 20. But she and Gaiman have their work cut out for them: As of Tuesday morning, the fundraising campaign had raised just over $5,500.