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Ladies and Gentlemen this is Al McGuire presenting another comic artist close up. It ought to be readily apparent to any person who does any thinking at all that humorist cannot be created and writing schools are a class in creative writing. At all. That's why he has to be born in it. Michigan State University radio presents the comic arts and essay in sound on the humor of our times featuring the comic the humorist the joke writer the clown the Dauntless individuals who work in the world of comedy. This speaker is a challenge Smith author of several dozen books of humor. He tells a story or spins a yarn somewhat in the way grandpa used to do is specialty the written word is beginning as a feature writer with a New York
newspaper. Thirty years ago our comic artist closeup of this week Alan Smith Here he discusses the problem of defining humor. I would like to start right off with a viewpoint of a traditional traditionally gloomy humorist and say that any discussion of humor American or otherwise from a fellow us offical point of view usually turns into a lot of foolishness. I can only remember one long dissertation on American humor that was any good at all and that was of one by E.B. White wrote it very long piece as an introduction to. It is a. Wonderful Sub-Treasury of American humor which was published all of my must been 20 years ago at least.
Everything else almost that I've ever read about humor has been a crashing bore that even goes for Max Eastman's famous book called enjoyment of laughter. That book is even mentioned at this late date by professors and academic circles and I can remember one day a long while back when Bob Benchley got it out one day up in his apartment and turned the pages and tellie came to a funny looking little sketch Annie showed it to me and he said hey guess what this is it's a diagram of a joke. And there it was they actually saw the essential humor and the ludicrousness behind almost every saying including Max Eastman's book on humor. Now on my own I have
two favorite definitions of humor. One I frequently was spoken by a man named Homer Macklin in New Albany Indiana. Mr. McLean wrote a letter once to the Saturday Evening Post when they were having a. Oh a big running discussion in their letters column about humor and humor us and Mr. McLean wrote in somewhat indignantly and said Why all this balderdash and poppy cock he says it's all very simple and he quoted his definition of a humorist. Which goes as follows. Humorist is a fellow who realizes first that he is no better than anybody else and second nobody else is either. That sums it up pretty well. But I have encountered since the end one other rather splendid definition of humor it was
spoken by a Turkish journalist who was vesting in the yard. He was a man with a long Turkish name I can remember and he said humor is quote to find something funny about it. I think that's about as close as you can get to it ought to be readily apparent to any person who does any thinking at all and humorist cannot be created. And writing schools are a class in creative writing that all has to be born in. It's like a built in antenna. And if he hasn't got it he hasn't got it any o never have and they can go 92 years to school and never learn any more than he had at the beginning. There is little disagreement over the value of humor. Alan Smith
has some thoughts about the humorists reward. I wish you would give us a thought to the number of times that you've heard people speak in praise of humor great and urgent need for the importance of laughter in the general scheme of things. And then I go look at the lists of literary awards. My goodness you can tape pick up the Publisher's Weekly which is the magazine known as the Bible of the book trade and once a year they list all the major awards that are given to writers. And it just runs for page after page after page there are scores of these things and you can go through them very carefully and once in a great while you'll find somebody who might be stretching things a little called a
humorous but not off. Look at the lists of the people in spring time who get those things that Time magazine calls Q was the honorary degree at the colleges all over the land. You very rarely ever see a humorist getting a degree. Mark Twain I think maybe the only real award that Mark Twain ever got was a degree at Oxford which pleased him immensely and there might be something significant in the fact that it took the English two to honor him as an important man and not a frivolous clown. But. What degrees did I ever get. Well not once in a while you will see humorist humorous name
and the last of people getting honorary degrees. But it's almost always his out his out mater finally giving him some recognition and and I can't even get that because the eighth grade and elementary schools of Huntington Huntington Indiana they don't get any degree honorary degrees so I have had to be content with only one award in the many years that I have been known as a professional humorist. About 30 years back the journalism school of New York University gave me an award as the best newspaper feature writer of the year and New York City. Come to think of it that award didn't come from the journalism school it was the Washington Square branch of the Journalism
School of no York University. No wait a minute it was the junior class of the Washington Square branch of the journalism school. No you are university. Warred was a as I remember was a hand-lettered certificate that had been done by a backward child. And when I gave it to me a young man I think he was president of the class and introducing me quoted quite extensively from Santa Yanna. I didn't understand a word of what he was saying and his whole thang threw me and confused confusion and I kind of recovered myself and was just taking hold of myself and starting off my oration of acceptance. Lana ended that room walked a young man who was cross-eyed and he walked up and took a seat that
apparently had been reserved for him in the front row. And then I spent the rest of the time staring at me cross-eyed. It turned out later that this young man was a new cub reporter on my newspaper and my city editor a guy with wonderful American sense of humor decided it would be very funny. And knowing that I was nervous making my first major address you might say he sent this kid up and told him all I want you to do is to go sit in the front row and stare at him. He didn't say cross-eyed but the kid was as cross-eyed as you can get and you can imagine what that did to me on this glorious day when I got my only award. I still cherish that certificate somewhere as if it were a ribbon of the Legion of Honor the Distinguished Service Cross the Purple Heart. And first
prize in the Madison Square Garden dog show. Alan Smith considers a question asked and by every humor writer. Now let's go back to the white introduction to his book for a moment. One of the things that he complained about I as a start of working humorist himself was this. Every professional humorist hashed face while trying moment. And usually it's repeated over and over again when somebody at a party or anywhere cause I'm off to one side says now Look fella. That stuff you've been doing that. Well that's that's all right. Pretty good but when you got to get around to writing something serious. Now you think that isn't true. Well I let me
tell you a little story. Just last week. In the store in Mt. Kisco where they sell books to the Hilltoppers of Northern Westchester which is one of the last say one of the wealthiest areas in suburban no yard and where a lot of books are sold. The proprietor of that store Herman Fox who knows books read six books a week knows his business called me aside last week and said Listen Alan when are you going to get around to write a serious book you've got a real serious mind you know you could write a real serious important book. And I thank that baby White said flashed into my mind and I know Harmon Fox well enough and I've known him for 20 odd years. I said Harmon you ought to be ashamed of yourself every book I've read was a
serious book at least it was serious to me and I resent your treating me as if I were some kind of a comic book clown and the trouble was and so. There were no hard feelings about it but I'm merely trying to demonstrate that this is the popular attitude and I might add that my own mother out in Indiana before she died she called me aside one day. I know she did know she called a couple of my sisters aside she didn't want to interfere with my affairs so she spoke to a couple of my sisters and I asked them to approach me and see if I wouldn't agree to writing for a change. One of those nice family novels about a big family where there was a lot of good clean fun and so on.
And I know that she was thanking and she was thinking about how rowdy I turned out to be involved here and all that but. And as much as I would have enjoyed doing it just for her I restrain myself and I don't think that I will ever get around to writing that wholesome family type novel. So there you have a humor writers look at the non-funny interior humor writing business. Our comic artist close up featured veteran humor novelist Alan Smith. Portions were prerecorded. This is Alec wire for the comic arts. The comic arts series with wire is produced by Michigan State University Radio in cooperation with the humor societies of America program consultant George Q.. Lewis The music by Gerry Tillman. Your announcer can be charter.
For. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
The comic arts II
H. Allen Smith
Producing Organization
Michigan State University
WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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For series info, see Item 3529. This prog.: H. Allen Smith: Thirty Books on a Totem Pole
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Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-29-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:56
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Chicago: “The comic arts II; H. Allen Smith,” 1968-09-29, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
MLA: “The comic arts II; H. Allen Smith.” 1968-09-29. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 16, 2024. <>.
APA: The comic arts II; H. Allen Smith. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from