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Ladies and gentlemen the this is Al why are reconvening the case for comedy. Sir would you please make an opening statement for the production of humor going to be a very depressing and debilitating business and I mean this quite sincerely. The difficulty is that we're all on different wavelength when it comes to you know. Michigan State University radio presents the comic arts and essay and 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. The majority of Americans and their action for the sound and substance of laughter would concur with a line from as you like it it is meat and drink to me to see a clown. An audience for the comic artists seems ready willing and able. Plenty of people are eager to laugh given the particular flavor they prefer
as a comic humor writer or an entertainer. You stand on the other side of the footlights and your life involves an earnest search for the shifting locale of the funny bone. Thus you really listen and want to humorist indulges in shop talk. You mark well the words of one like HLN Smith master of the humorous book. To all appearances I'm not one of those Laugh clown laugh fellows. Not the gloomy Moros type that you usually are supposed classically supposed to find among humorous and clowns and comedians. I've known some of Ben that way rang Lardner was a good example of that and well he was the gloomiest loving man I think I ever saw in my life. But then maybe I shouldn't say this because he was sake a sick man a good deal of the time and it may just been his inside showing on the outside.
But while I am trying to get at is that the production of humor can be a very depressing and debilitating business and I mean this quite sincerely. The difficulty is that we're all on different wavelengths when it comes to humor. I can remember not too long ago on the late Dorothy kill gala. Shocked most of us by condemning W.C. Fields she said. WC Fields left her call that she had never observed him do a single thing and all his career that amused her. And well some of us want to get up a petition of some kind to have her. Read out of the human race. But nothing ever came of it. Then I also once I told Mack Schulman that he should. As a Midwestern humorist he should go back and read
something more of Mark Twain and just Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and oh a year or so afterwards I got a note from NG from him saying that he had been trying to read Mark Twain. And he said this guy doesn't send me. Well I thought this. Demonstrated clearly to me that I just couldn't ever get anywhere with that sort of an attitude. Because. You may know I consider Mark Twain to be the greatest American humorist who ever not only the greatest American humorist the greatest American period who ever lived. He was a man far ahead of his time. And it makes me unhappy to think that he is remembered largely today as the author of two boys books which in actuality
are not boys books. HL Mencken died saying that that Huckleberry Finn was the greatest book ever produced in the United States and it was not a book for boys it was a very serious piece of work. So make a footnote here on communicating frequency variation or recurring. Let's hear from Robert Orban creator of current company and author of countless games for Arbonne those of wavelengths too and will speak of changing attitudes always wary of questions about a subject like the philosophy of you. Actually there's been a few hundred books written about the philosophy of you and I doubt of many of them were ever written by somebody on the firing line somebody who turns out on a production line basis as a means of making a living. Because when you're involved in the
heat of meeting a publishing schedule a deadline or a television show deadline you're not concerned with philosophy. You're not concerned with the theoretical theories of your home or you're concerned with knocking out 18 junks or whatever is required of you at the moment. I guess I do have a philosophy of you know I feel that sense is a. Is it in advancing ideas I would like to be advancing the ideas that I hold are good ones and right. Sometimes this is rather difficult. I've been writing comedy for 10 years now and a critical eye to the ears would see me wavering on some view such as the Vietnam situation taking a very hawkish viewpoint at times. My resolve has wavered deadened you could see elements of dovish entering the picture
and other and other areas that I've waited on considerably is the attitude toward the teenagers. At first I was appalled at some of the things they were doing and the jokes very clearly reflected this state of astonishment and dismay and were highly critical of teenagers. Now perhaps I'm growing older perhaps they're growing wiser. I was much more tolerant of teenagers and the bite the acid is missing when I do jokes about teenagers. New York comedian Chuck McCann likes the concept of laughter as a variable feels we have a choice. From my smorgasbord table you know I'm talking about Bob whole body talk about Laurel and Hardy. The beautiful thing about comedy is that there's a variety of it. There are different styles
so many different styles and types of comedy. That's why I don't think anyone can get sick of comedy because there are so many different little funny bones that various comedians can touch on. There's no such thing as a bad successful comedians any comedian who's successful is successful because he's been enjoyed and bought and continue to be successful. You might not your taste might not go that way you might lead a Red Skull not like a Jackie Gleason But on the other hand the guy next to you might love a Jackie Gleason not so much like a rich guy. So it's like I said there are different tastes and we have different products and you know. Despite the white selection there are some who don't partake. Alan Smith occurs that perception of humor is not quite universal has a formula by which to test his theory.
We are always hearing. The American people are so proud of their sense of humor and they believe that they have a sense of humor where the British don't have it and the French don't have it. The Germans don't evidence on this. It's been written by various people. Danny's essays about humor that an American is very proud of his sense of humor and if you tell an American that he doesn't have a sense of humor he will belch you right in the chops because that's a terrible insult. And yet I know it to be true that a great many Americans male and female walking around who don't have as much humor in them as a fence post. I have several little tricks by which I can test a person's sense of humor and I'm going to tell you about one of them.
Eventually Robert Benchley once wrote an article in a little essay about how to the art of telling funny stories. And in it he said he made the following statement. The joke must be in a language we can understand. Second it must be spoken loudly enough for us to hear it. And sir it must begin with the letter W.. Well I have have told I have told this to any number of people just with a straight face and I'd say I'd say eventually had a real lowdown on how a joke should be told properly and what he said was as follows and I would would give that recipe and you would be astonished I wish you would
go out and try it on some people. Try it on people you don't like because then you've got something to hold against them. About half the people I pull it on they never crack a smile. And then when I get through and say it must begin with the letter W. they don't. They still don't want to show that they don't that they've missed the point. And I think there must be some hidden meaning there that it's bound to be important otherwise why would I be saying it Benchley. And so they ponder it and you can see their brains the wheels were rolling around in their heads and finally their far edge begin to crease up. And then if they are people who genuinely have no sense of humor they will come right out and say. But why is it that it has to begin with the letter W..
There are a few We must suppose that humor never reaches. Still the working comic keep Santana You know you never know when an incoming transmission might put something into gear. As we learned from comedian Joan Rivers everybody. You listen because you know you never know when something is going to be just marvelous and right. But every now and supply you but people think they're competent not funny offstage. You notice that you know I've had a lot of comedians are growing and I think I owe. I just want a quiet some time. And people automatically think they're in competition with you when they want to show you. I may just be you know I'm a lawyer but I'm funnier. And he will say look truth been funny. He'd find people always doing funny things and wearing lampshades when they come to see you things like that. Except my husband who who it's funny and nice
and bright and rich my age takes money. Bottoms up a white on white suit and a pink shirt. They don't really prove that you have made it when you're age you have to think you mean I haven't seen a penny. What about a guy going to bed. First there are that the ridge agent. And so from the gist of the backstage side there is little room for doubt. Humor thrives in a spectrum that spans a myriad of tastes. Humorous personal perspective is the natural immutable course we're all on different wavelengths here for better or for worse. Many thanks to our good humored guests h Allen Smith Bob Orban Jack McCann and
Joan Rivers. Portions of this program were prerecorded. This is Alex. I'll be back on the next program with a panel on the humorous personality and the comic arts. The comic art series with al the wire is produced by Michigan State University Radio in cooperation with the humor societies of America program consultant George Q. Lewis the music by Jerry Tillman. Your announcer can be charter. For this program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
The comic arts
Episode Number
Episode 2 of 13
Producing Organization
Michigan State University
WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see previous entry. This prog.: H. Allen Smith, Robert Orben, Chuck McCann, Joan Rivers.
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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: 68-12-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:49
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Chicago: “The comic arts; Episode 2 of 13,” 1968-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2023,
MLA: “The comic arts; Episode 2 of 13.” 1968-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2023. <>.
APA: The comic arts; Episode 2 of 13. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from