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The heritage of American humor. We have many sources of worthwhile laughter all influence our outlook on life from the early days comes a unique heritage more than 20th century American heritage enhanced by being shared. The University of North Dakota broadcasting service presents 15 dramatized essays on the American humor found in newspapers books and anthologies old and new. From these the 20th century American can obtain a perspective on the intelligences attitudes styles and sensibilities of the American outlook as it concerns himself and his world neighbors. The heritage of American humor is produced by the University of North Dakota under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. The writer narrator is Professor Joseph Epps meal of the University of North Dakota Department of English program 15 recapitulation humor
before a bioscope and wireless. At the end of the 19th century 60 years ago. New devices appeared for recording and publishing man's efforts at expression. Among these were the Vita school that was to become the movie news and the wireless that was to become radio. And these new devices changed to where and when of American laughter radically. And that is why we have brought our series of programs to a close with the last years of the 19th century where before the 1890s Americans laughed while reading their newspapers and magazines or while attending their theatres. After the 1890s they laughed while listening to their radios or phonographs or while watching their movie screen. The last years of the 19th century mark then a proper place to close a program
devoted to the heritage of American humor. Our century has seen and heard laughable things in new ways. Yes. Nevertheless the complex city of our heritage of humor is apparent to recapitulate its variety of forms and moods. We can do little more today than to present teachers that will help recall the programmes that have preceded the series began remember in the time of George the Third. 13 year of the reign of George the king whose dominions extended from the island of Britain to the uttermost parts of the earth. That same year the king made a decree to tax the people of the provinces in the land of Colombia for they had paid no tribute to the king. Neither they nor their forefathers
Hts. Moreover there were at that time a company of merchants in the town of London that ancient city who had a navy of ships that went once in three years to a far country of the East to traffic. Well the women of Britain put the tea into fine earthen vessels and they put water into the vessels and they poured out drink offerings thereof into cups of any number work but the merchants who trafficked in the spake before the king. Oh if it pleased me. Let the ships of merchants be laden with tea and let them be sent to the land of Columbia to the people of the provinces that they may buy their out and pay a tribute to the king. Over and above the price of the merchant. And in that time of the stamp tax in the Boston Tea Party clear signs appeared pointing to the birthplace of American humor.
It was born remember in a newspaper office during a dearth of news publication approach with no prospect for the Post writer could possibly come along in time. Timothy walked about very thoughtfully and seemed to cast an eye of vexation at the walk every day to him to say not we but I have nothing to do with the matter say rather what shall I say Timothy type do. However what shall we do here is publication date and not a paragraph of good bad or indifferent provided under foreign heads home heads blockheads craving entertain and to tour. No man woman or child can tell us any news there is a neighbor of mine here neighbor our neighbor what do you have your way. Oh drat. A lot of reading to read at all. I asked you Did you read any trash talk just
catch the consumption and my dog got a real rope you know. Not to make paragraphs. Why to him what to his old man the newspapers shan't stop it in my power to lend to help. I had ventured to go on guess work only and make you a decent sheet of news. Come pluck up courage and let's try again. What can we do. Sure you wouldn't have we can a passion of my to the public that could be detected and brought home the next clear day. I will not to engage to tell them a single lie at least at least not an atom of a lie as my own invention and yet the news shall be eked out to your and their satisfaction. Now then here is a patent and there the composite is that there are cases and do what you can for him. Next our series passed through the years of the early republic and the humor of
democratic reactions to aristocratic learning. As in this new Bellew song advising the closing of all the school. I am who I am I am. Yeah I am I am. When you
think I am. Say OK. No no no no. And from satire of snobbery in learning the series passed on to constructions in the empty American void constructions like this river that flowed so hard you floated a crowbar amid the river is named Connecticut after the great sea Cham. This vast river is 500 miles long and four miles wide at its mouth on the sound. Two hundred miles from the sound is a narrows and five yards only formed by two shelving mountains of solid rock whose tops reach the clouds through this narrows are compelled to pass all the waters which in the time of the floods bury the northern country.
Then the river spreads several miles wide and for five or six weeks ships of war may sail over lands in Massachusetts and afterwards produce the greatest crops of hay and grain in all America. People who can bear the sight the groans the tremblings and their surly motion of the water trees and ice through this awful chasm view with astonishment. One of the greatest benumbed in nature. For here the water is consolidated without frost by pressure and swiftness between the pinching sturdy rocks to such a degree of in duration that an iron curl bar smoothly down the current. Here iron lead and Cork have on one common weight. Here steady as time and harder than marble. The stream passes the passages about four hundred yards in length and of a zigzag form with obtuse corners.
Then the series tried to show how American humorist faced a problem of providing a new country without a past with some kind of a substitute past even if it was only a look at the present when the present had become the past. So the series went into the future to present the Great Southern hardware company. We were talking Franklin Jefferson and Fulton walked in and took seats. And these unexpected arrivals interrupted the chuckles of the little man. One of those buzzes occurred which frequently do upon the appearance of strangers and then then spoke too late to look at the five feet. Fire fire. Why Uncle Ben there are no fireplaces nowadays stoves in hot air furnace as are all the things. Why this building is wanted by a great furnace and two miles of pipe that takes the heat to every
room in it. Wait a moment so. Wait a moment. Furnaces you say. Why such old fashioned trumpery as all piled away among the inventions of years long past and gone. Furnace why such things belong to the age of your dog churn. Gentlemen Haven't you heard of the Great Southern hot air company incorporated in 1960. Whose business it is to furnish hot air from the south to persons in the north and prices to family three dollars a year. What's all done by a gigantic underground tunnel and branches worked with a high pressure air pump. Haven't you heard of this gentleman. Here we get the natural hot air of the south of warmed by the sun. None of your coal and wood gas is to corrupt and darken the atmosphere and reciprocity is kept up for the North sends back cold air in the same system and thus an equilibrium compromise between North and South is maintained. Why gentlemen furnaces require constant care. Oh dear me no. Vernice is to the
Dark Ages. Next a concern of American humorous with women who were crowding onto stage and platform with talk of independence and destiny took up the time of the series. Perhaps you recall the voice of the lady who said I have my mania as someone why does all mankind have and mine is that love of independence in Switzerland by water supplied by your kind old maid and they beat up on whom I know not that I have any claim. I found I had ability and I desired to use them. I came here at my own request here. I am no longer dependent. We want to do this if any would try to. Then there were changes in the public letterbox and specimens of Down-East Yankee dialect devoted to the Mexican War and Jacksonian politics and we'd all been drinking pretty considerable ups with children inside an egg with a little New England in it and we felt good natured and ready so we come plenty near
having a fight right off her. I didn't kind of like that move of Mr Van Berens with the deacon's daughter however thinks I won't spile spite so you know I'm dumb and they all strangers and Old Hickory himself he says to me. Let him alone Major. He'll put everything to rights see and if he don't and sure enough I see the vice president were going round putting folks in a ring so they want no top no bottom and all we're level down is sort of an what kind I hadn't come to table together. And over by the fiddler I hear him say Now folks I'll call the figures. And you never see. That I'm a married man now dancing about and then but now change partners and shuffle the next and then quicker now around Pakistan round possibly with the swing. Again right now wriggled out of time. You never did see such a smile. They want one on em had the same partner he started. Uncle Josh that offered me spray it got youngest doc so I can show it was dancing with the
deacon and the second day pass and said I would bet it was back to back. Shuffling off and no back yet that great event beer and still had the Deacon started and there he went showing it right alongside the fiddler cleanup ahead. And then and which the bow out of the fiddle is heading to give it a draw or a bit of a candle and I put a stop to the pension for the night and day after that you can see that. We have mentioned that before the 1890s Americans laughed most often while they were reading their newspapers and magazines. You should not lead us to assume however that there was only one form of humor. Quite the contrary. The newspapers and magazines were generators of many forms of humor in the periodicals could be found most any form of expression that could be read declamations sermons poems fake news items letters excerpts from histories and reports and from novels fables
dialogues a cog those sketches and there were for example the curious tales of the grotesque which we illustrated with posed tale of the remarkable general ABC Smith. You perceive that I speak with enthusiasm. And those jet whiskers overshadowed a mouth utterly an equal there with the most entirely even and quite of all conceivable T and from behind them issued a voice of surpassing clearness melody and strength. In the matter of AI's also the general was remarkably and either one of his was worth a couple of ordinary ocular Oregon's. It was perceptible that they were crossed just that amount that gives interest to the expression. The General's shoulders would have called up a blush of inferiority on a marble Apollo. The General's arms were admirably modeled. Every kind of so admitted
his legs to be good. I could not imagine a more graceful curve than that of his femur. Next at midpoint our series moved on to the great stream of southwestern humor with certain reflections from mirrors of the old self like this one that led to a fight enjoyed by rancid snuffle. It is known Mr. Longstreet says that 100 Gamecocks will live in perfect harmony. If you do not put him in with them. And so it would have been with million Bob if there'd been no women in the world but there were. And from them each had chosen a wife and each good lady knew the prowess of her husband and each presumed a little upon it and how it came about that most everyone met one spring at the courthouse during sessions and billion Baaba both their and their wives with them and neither knew the others the others lady know where the ladies known to each other and then toward the end of day it happened.
Mrs. stallions and Mrs. Durham stepped at the same moment into Zephaniah store near the courthouse you know. Yes that's what I mean. Well I'm in a great hurry and she is no thank you to help me. And who are you mad at your betters madam. Go on go on it's getting late I've been down I half an hour ago Billy if it hadn't been for the impudent hussy was presumably. After you. Why not then thank you. Now look here woman if you've got a husband here because if you have I'll let him till he learns to teach you better manners you savvy. Then in still another program the same stream of southwestern humor was further explored in terms of Mark Twains reports on humbug like this one from his innocents abroad where American humor takes a swipe at snob aesthetics. It won't Smith use the actor was lauding the ability of the human face to express the
passions and emotions hidden in the breast. Saying that the countenance may disclose what is passing in the heart plainer than the tongue. Now he shaves my face. What does it express despair. But it expresses peaceful resignation. What does this express rage. But it means terror. This imbecility full of it is smothered for often. Now here Joy. Oh no no no. And you can see me in the sand at the end that people coolly pretend to read character and interpret expression in pictures. Then some ladies give us examples of the Urbanite power struggle like there's little point about in ancient Greece that had no police. Eugene Howell daily Columbia University class of 1894 wrote a short leash of verses with a pastoral title Alpheus and era or
ancient Greece had no police. I knew there was an archy who owned a Crystal Spring and there she'd wash Mackintosh but gosh or anything. A youth there was in Arkadi who hunted near the Bronx. He would not told and over a cold but travelled on his looks. Well ancient Greece had no police. The gods did as they taught her to keep them quiet from mortal sight. They change them both to water. And then the eleventh program offered a varieties of American legal humor like this example of a legal opinion sought and obtained in the new settlement of puddle Ford. You ain't lived long here. A new country is a kind of a self-sustaining machine. We've got to go in for ourselves. Now when folks take the Brenda settle in wild land somebody has got to and ought to suffer. Now residents have to pay toll taxes
we can't afford to scare off the wild beasts and bring their property into market for nothing. Why old Sykes who lives down east in Connecticut he pays half the taxes a penalty and he don't own mone four sections of land. The sensors kind of look at the spirit of the law when they lay taxis and the spirit of the law stretches according to circumstances. And it's just so in love as to what is favorable to public audience. Courts lean that way it's kind of secondary to do I'm kind of a set of preservation primary law that you know and therefore I was particular to know who was clean when you land. My theory for an opinion is one dot here. Thank you. Who's a woman. Old Mrs. Bridget and she signed the deed but she claims she was deranged when she did it and I don't even have a dozen defenses and each will blow the case guy first. Nobody can set up insanity in a new country because they make nothing here to make anybody insane. And if there was judges and juries I think it is too much of
themselves that is the Bushies are to allow for you to prove yourself a fool in open court as a bride will be permitted to and that's the law. And from the humor of the law the series passed through the humor of the vote and specifically to female agitations for the vote. Mrs. Horton and Mrs. Polly Baker when you go on this text is called women's rights and in it Mr war reports in this way. I pitched my tent in a small town in Indiana one day last season and while I was standing at the gate taken money and appreciation of babies come up and said they were members of the bunkum Ville female reform and women's rights association and they actually mean so good we can do it without pain. Not exactly but you can pay without insurance. Do you know who we air. Why she shaken that blue cotton umbrella at me for do you know we air. Do you know that my impression was from a cursory view that you air female as we are where we belong to a society which believes women has rights.
Would you believe in raising her to her proper spear which believes she is in doubt with as much intellect as man is which believes she is terrible and of view and who will resist hints for them for ever. The encroachments are proud and domineering men. I hope ma'am that your intentions are honorable and alone. In the two closing programs of our series examples of the fable were given like this one from the tales of Uncle Remus for example with the saddle and bridle on the look in his perch as a circus pony he tried up to dough and standing opponent to Gran and champ and a bit same like a showing of hos and where rabbit he meant he didn't gamble Oh but I can see behind him with the bae and Brad. But by and by if I have bring a rabbit raise one is boots but you know they're already shot and left stirrup breadbox. By and by he feel better rabbit raises to the food you want you to know pulling down my pants leg. But all I have time where I have it was put
on his spurs and when he got close to Miss Meadows where Brad was going to get off and made a motion for it to stand still where rabbit slapped the sparrows in the grass Fox's flanks and you'd better believe he got over the ground and when he got the head to the house Miss Meadows and all to gals was a settin on the piazza instead of stopping at the gate where I would read on by. Didn't then come galloping down the road up to the hoss rack which he hit and then he sauntered into the house he didn't shake the hands with again and set this smoke and see gars same as a town man by and by going a long puff of smoke and then laid it out in a cloud and says ladies you know I don't tell you Brad Fox was a riot in halls for our family. He's sort of losing his gait now but I suspect I can fetch him all right and want to sell and buy a rabbit so what a greenie did and the gals giggling Miss Meadows sheep raise up the pony and our graph ox each fast and he can help is down and on the final program the concerned moral fables there was one from George
read with this bit about the Neverland brought this benevolent Broadwood go into a house numbered eleven thirty five with a paintbrush and after she had sized up the front room through the lorgnette she would say good husbandry. Yes sir that is when he gets a dollar ten. And what does he do with all his money. You play the stock market when the unfortunate man comes home to see you have endured a kind and beautiful lady called and asked him to please stop drinking except a glass of claret and dinner. And to be sure to read eight or ten pages from the Encyclopedia Britannica each night before retiring. Also tell him to be sure and save his money. Is that your child under the bed. Very little William J. How many have you any. There are nine I forget which.
Be sure and dress them in sanitary underwear. You can get it for four dollars a suit. Will you be good enough to have the little boy come from under the bed and spell IBEX with us. Maybe yes we suppose what this series of 15 programs devoted to American Humor has meant to us. And we would mention first that the series has given us a substantial experience of literature as activity. Too often we think of a literature like American literature for example as a static collection of texts or authors forgetting that literature is really an activity they're reading and experiencing up texts but producing 15 programmes devoted to the text of American humor has unmistakably been an activity and an experiencing of those texts. And
secondly we would say that this activity of reading adapting casting recording and editing examples from our heritage of humor and of analyzing constantly the author's intentions and moods and of choosing means to present those intentions and moods as gradually lead us to a sense of the American personality that produced our humor. And we are somewhat excited to find that the American personality behind the humorous texts of our literary heritage is not exactly the personality that we expected to find. It is much more complex its moods are strangely contradictory yet we are forced to admit that they are the moods of a coherent cultural personality. We feel that they are the moods of an American mind unified by the customs and machinery of the publishing world is printed and distributed the original texts that we have adapted here to the new ways of publishing that unify our world today. Third we would mention the more obvious thing is that our attempt to survey the varieties of
American humor has brought to our attention and we hope to yours. There is the idea that American humor started in and was always closely associated with our newspapers and magazines. There is the realisation too that the attack of American humor on the genteel tradition was much broader and deeper and funnier than we had suspected before we began the series. And there is finally the idea that our humor is more complex in its moods and forms and more delicately shaded than our sensitive supercilious literary snobs have been able to realize. We hope that you have enjoyed and gained from the program. Yes thank you as well. You have been listening to the heritage of American humor. This has been the last program in a series of 15 dramatized essays written and
narrated by Professor Joseph F. Smeal of the University of North Dakota Department of English. He has offered you a perspective on the relationship between the American humor found in newspapers books or anthologies and the American outlook from Colonial to recent times. The heritage of American humor was produced and recorded by the University of North Dakota broadcasting service under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center for distribution by the National Association of educational broadcast. This is the NH Radio Network. A.
Heritage of American humor
Producing Organization
University of North Dakota
KFJM (Radio Station : Grand Forks, N.D.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
In this program, "Recapitulation," the dramatic effect that the late-19th century debuts of the vitascope and the wireless had on humor is explored.
Series Description
Dramatic essays on the history and nature of American humor. Written by J.F.S. Smeall, assistant professor of English at the University of North Dakota and editor of the North Dakota Quarterly.
Broadcast Date
Wireless communication systems--History
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Narrator: Smeall, J.F.S.
Producing Organization: University of North Dakota
Producing Organization: KFJM (Radio Station : Grand Forks, N.D.)
Production Manager: Bryce, E. Scott
Writer: Smeall, J. F. S.
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-4-15 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:40
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Chicago: “Heritage of American humor; Recapitulation,” 1961-03-14, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 4, 2023,
MLA: “Heritage of American humor; Recapitulation.” 1961-03-14. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 4, 2023. <>.
APA: Heritage of American humor; Recapitulation. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from