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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: June ::
Re: Humor
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0468.  Saturday, 10 June 1995.
 
(1)     From:   John Owen <
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 >
        Date:   Friday, 9 Jun 1995 13:05:00 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0460  Re: American and British Humor
 
(2)     From:   James Schaefer <SCHAEFEJ@GUVAX.BITNET>
        Date:   Friday, 09 Jun 1995 16:05:59 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0460  Re: American and British Humor
 
(3)     From:   Thomas A. Berson <
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        Date:   Friday, 09 Jun 1995 23:22:11 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0460  Re: American and British Humor
 
(4)     From:   Pam Powell <
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        Date:   Saturday, 10 Jun 1995 10:29:47 GMT +2:00
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0460  Re: American and British Humor
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Owen <
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Date:           Friday, 9 Jun 1995 13:05:00 -0700
Subject: 6.0460  Re: American and British Humor
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0460  Re: American and British Humor
 
This is as good an occasion as any to throw out a pet theory of mine (certainly
not new):  British comedy (performed humour rather than written), seems to be
funniest when it is verbal. American comedy works best visually. Benny Hill was
always funniest when performing one of his songs, monologues or two-person
skits. He was at his weakest during those lamentable silent comedy knockoffs
culminating inevitably in a pointless chase sequence. Monty Python thrived on
verbal mishaps, and with a few notable exceptions (American Terry Gilliam's
animations), was weakest in skits where the humour was primarily visual.
 
The American tradition of comedy was fueled by urban immigrant cultures where
the English language was either unlearned or distorted into a hybrid with the
immigrant's original language. Hence, successful comedy skipped the problem of
language altogether, and American comics developed a vein of sophisticated
nonverbal humour. This trend reached its highest peak with the success of the
American silent film comics, Keaton, Lloyd, et al. As much as this has changed
since the earlier part of the century, I think this represents a vein which
still has influence.
 
Now, to go back on topic -- Is there a tendency in American productions of
Shakespeare to emphasize visual comedy -- pratfalls, prop business, etc., and a
corresponding British facility with the Bard's verbal comedy?
 
John Owen
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Schaefer <SCHAEFEJ@GUVAX.BITNET>
Date:           Friday, 09 Jun 1995 16:05:59 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0460  Re: American and British Humor
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0460  Re: American and British Humor
 
To Robert C. Evans:
 
In your course on humor and satire, you MUST include Brian O'Nolan, AKA Flann
O'Brian, AKA Myles naGopaleen (if I've spelled that correctly).
 
*At Swim Two-Birds* is one of the funniest books in English -- written, of
course, by an Irishman.  My paperback copy has quotes in it (I'm working from
memory here:) from Joyce, calling it a very funny book, and this from Dylan
Thomas:  "This is the sort of book to give your sister if she's a dirty, noisy,
boozy girl."  For those of a post-modern bent, there is a book-within-the-book,
being written as we read, by an author who keeps his characters imprisoned in a
hotel.  They revolt during a cattle raid on Dublin (complete with cowboys with
"shootin' irons").  It is a wild mixture of Irish mythology, American Westerns,
the undergraduate novel, and *Dubliners*
 
*The Third Policeman* is funny the way Beckett is funny.
 
*The Poor Mouth* is funny the way *King Lear* is funny -- the end is outrageous
and devasting all at once.
 
*The Best of Myles* collects O'Nolan's newspaper columns under such headings as
"The Poor People of Ireland, "The Brother" (who knows everything and never pays
retail),  and "The Myles naGapoleen Cathechism of Cliche."
 
His life, alas, was not a funny as his art.
 
Jim Schaefer
Georgetown University

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas A. Berson <
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Date:           Friday, 09 Jun 1995 23:22:11 -0700
Subject: 6.0460  Re: American and British Humor
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0460  Re: American and British Humor
 
In 6.0460 Robert C. Evans <
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>I am specifically interested in non-dramatic works ...
 
Many of my British friends find Jerome K. Jerome's 1889 classic _Three Men in a
Boat_ to be very funny. When I moved to the UK in 1971 I was told that I simply
must read it. I did. But it took several years of living in the UK before I
knew why it was funny, and then several additional years to actually find it
so.
 
There is a Penguin edition. (Mine cost 30p. Was anything ever that
inexpensive?) From the publisher's blurb: "'We agree that we are overworked,
and need a rest - A week on the rolling deep? - George suggests the river -'
And with the co-operation of several hampers of food and a covered boat, the
three men (not forgetting the dog) set out on a hilarious voyage of mishaps up
the Thames. When not falling in the river and getting lost in Hampton Court
Maze, Jerome K. Jerome finds time to express his ideas on the world around -
many of which have acquired a deeper fascination since the day at the end of
the last century when this excursion was so lightly undertaken."
 
Have a look at it.
 
Best,
--T
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pam Powell <
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Date:           Saturday, 10 Jun 1995 10:29:47 GMT +2:00
Subject: 6.0460  Re: American and British Humor
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0460  Re: American and British Humor
 
Dear An Sonjae,
 
I hope I have spelt your name correctly. Who is Wendy Cope and could you give
me the title of any of her publications? Anything that makes me laugh, I'm all
for it and I've never heard of her.
 
Thanks
Pam Powell
South Africa
 

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